Santa Clarita City Hall is hosting a hearing Thursday to discuss the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s recent proposed rate change.
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“This is the monopolization of the public’s water,” said Newhall County Water District board President Maria Gutzeit. “When any organization has a monopoly, the customer loses. This simply isn’t right and we believe the law is on the side of the ratepayers.”
A CLWA official called the move “sour grapes” on the part of the Newhall district, citing the fact that Newhall County Water District officials tried on their own to acquire the district.
“They’re upset because they weren’t able to acquire Valencia Water Co.,” said Dan Masnada, general manager for the CLWA, and a board member for the VWC.
“The CPUC is taking interest in the acquisition,” said Maria Gutzeit, president of the Newhall County Water District. “(The CPUC) is going to use that hearing, and the input the people provide, to determine whether or not this acquisition will be beneficial for ratepayers.”
The district has two concerns, Gutzeit said.
“It’s contrary to legislation we’ve supported before, and the second part is, that we feel it’s going to not only affect VWC customers, but the whole valley,” she said. “(CLWA officials) are using funds for water infrastructure to buy a water company that they’re not supposed to buy.”
Stipulations in the contract that CLWA agreed to when they purchased the VWC, noted that previous owner Newhall Land would only sell to the CLWA.
Part of the Newhall County Water District’s contention has to do with the legal precedent behind the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which was created to be a water wholesaler from the State Water Project, retailing water in the Santa Clarita Valley.
A law was set up to limit the scope of the CLWA’s ability to retail water under a 2001 piece of legislation that was authored in response to the CLWA’s purchase of the Santa Clarita Water District.
Previously, the CLWA wasn’t allowed to retail water due to state law, and then after the legislation was enacted, it was granted within the boundaries of the Santa Clarita Water District.
CLWA officials have challenged this contention, though, noting that the law does not apply to public entities that retail water, and the CLWA is run by elected officials.
Masnada also questioned the verbiage of calling the sale a “monopolization,” since, if the Newhall County Water District owned the VWC, it would then constitute the same monopoly.
“It’s a shame that they’re looking to try this case in the court of public opinion, as opposed to in Los Angeles Superior Court,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that they’re out there trying to disparage the agency, because they are our customer,” Masnada added. “They’re taking pot shots and saying they’re taking care of the ratepayers, but they’re making these challenges with ratepayers’ money.”
The Newhall County Water District also filed lawsuit challenging the new rate adopted Feb. 27 by the CLWA, a wholesale agency responsible for selling imported water to Santa Clarita Valley’s four retail water agencies, including NCWD.
NCWD officials’ lawsuit alleges a violation of Proposition 26, enacted by California voters in November 2010, which requires governmental charges to bear a fair or reasonable relationship to benefits provided.
“The main issue that we have with the rate is that it doesn’t recognize our ability to produce groundwater,” said NCWD General Manager Steve Cole. “The rate is based on total demand, which is inclusive of both state water, project water and groundwater, the groundwater we provide for ourselves and our customers. We proportionally utilize more groundwater, and it doesn’t recognize that usage.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News