One of the most important choices voters will consider in the November 2 election are representatives to the local water board. Castaic Lake Water Agency has four seats up for grabs and a full slate of qualified candidates eager to get your vote.
We asked them a short series of questions to give you an idea of what they stand for and how they might approach a couple of issues near to everyone’s heart and mind – rate increases and the current sanitation/salination problems posed by enforcement of the Clean Water Act by the L.A. County Sanitation Board.
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For the next few days, we will present the views, unedited, of the candidates for each office. Today, we present the two candidates running for the Division 3 seat on the CLWA board, Carole Lutness and Jacquelyn McMillan.
1. Why are you running for this office?
Carole Lutness - I am a Candidate for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, District 3, because I want the citizens of Santa Clarita to always have clean, abundant and affordable water. I want to protect our environmental resources, preserve our quality of life and make sure there will always be ample reserves for Santa Clarita residents.
I am running for the CLWA Div. 3 seat because for too long our Water Boards have been dominated by developer- backed water insiders who have made decisions that are not in the best interest of our taxpayers, ratepayers and the environment. I want to make sure that our water resources are managed for long term sustainability and that the needs of existing residents that have already paid for capital improvements are considered first. I want to ensure that:
• There is enough water for our current residents and available water supply is accurately reported.
• That CLWA address the chloride salt problem without putting the burden on the taxpayers and that the Ammonium Perchlorate Treatment facility must be completed and delivering water approved by the Health Dept. before that water will be counted.
• That no borrowed money is approved without a public vote and that CLWA will exercise restraint in salaries and the cost of consultants.
Jacquelyn McMillan - The quality of life for Santa Clarita Valley residents and businesses is extremely important to me. I have proudly served on the CLWA board for the past eight years and look forward to serving another four years. Ensuring that we have a safe, reliable and low cost supply of drinking water available during wet and dry years is critical. Not unlike other communities, we face grave challenges from special interests that seek to impede the very water supplies we need for existing and future users. My goal is to find solutions that find balances that will protect our precious environmental resources while supplying essentially needed water, to store in wet years and to deliver in times of drought.
2. What do you consider your unique qualifications?
CL - As a Master's level Health Care professional and 11 year resident of the Santa Clarita Valley, I am fully qualified to oversee our water resources. I will be a watchdog to make sure that our water supply is clean, available and well-managed. I am a committed public citizen who takes the responsibility of living in this country seriously.
The Greeks taught us that, "Whether or not you pay attention to politics, it is likely that politics is going to pay attention to you." I pay attention to what is going on in our community, our State and our Nation. I am actively involved in our political process. I cannot sit by and let someone else do it.
When I am elected on November 2, 2010 to represent Santa Clarita residents on the Castaic Lake Water Agency, District 3, rest assured that I will always represent them, not the Special Interests that have so long controlled our local politics and future. I pay attention and will not be manipulated or swayed by slick messaging. I will do my homework so that I am prepared to act in our community’s best interest. Our water costs are going up because of unnecessary expansion. We all must work together to make sure that there is enough water for our community and that the public, not Special Interests, guide out water policy.
JM - I'm uniquely qualified on several fronts. For nearly twenty years I have been employed by the largest water wholesaler in the country. During my tenure, I've developed a robust knowledge of real estate, public outreach and legislative issues at the federal, state and local levels. I have also served as an officer, committee chair or board member for sixteen organizations throughout Los Angeles and Ventura counties helping these groups develop water policies for their members to follow. Over the past eight years, I've been able to transfer that knowledge and expertise to CLWA in the development of its rate, tax and fee structure; its numerous outreach programs to our educational institutions and adult training programs; and its legislative outreach to key elected officials. I believe these are unique and desirable qualifications that have served CLWA well and will continue to be of great benefit to the agency and community at large.
3. What would you suggest to address the chloride/wastewater dilemma facing your customers?
CL - Every time a new development is approved we must import more water from the Delta. Our water boards, which have been packed with people elected by developer money, have allowed this to happen and have passed on the real cost of this new development onto the taxpayer.
Our chloride/wastewater dilemma is a prime example of this. Developers must be required to pay for the actual cost of development which means they must shoulder the major burden of paying for the reverse osmosis plant and any further costs for cleaning up the highly salinated water that comes from the Delta. They should be required to also pay for infrastructure expansions such as roads, pipelines to their properties, schools, etc. that are necessary to support the additional population. But here, because our politics have for so long been controlled by developer money, that cost is passed onto the taxpayer while the developers stuff their pockets with profits!
Buying our politicians is a bargain considering what they get in return! The best solution to resolving the chloride problem is to reduce our use of imported state water which is high in salts. Since state water is also the most expensive water suuply source, such a reduction should also help keep water rates low.
This can be accomplished by incorporating new innovative ideas into how we utilize local resources. We must protect our local water re charge areas and treat stormwater runoff and recycled water as a vital component of our water supply. By working with City and County planning agencies to accomplish these goals we can save stormwater fee charges and enhance our local water supply.
JM - This extremely complex issue has been in existence since 1972 when mandates were put in place that limited the chloride concentration our Valley could send downstream to neighboring communities in Ventura County. While the responsibility to find a solution to this dilemma falls squarely on the Sanitation District and not CLWA, I as a board member feel compelled to help find a viable solution that will reduce wastewater impacts downstream while protecting our agency's water recycle plans in order to reduce our dependence on imported water supplies. It is imperative to note that the mandate the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (LARWQCB) has imposed on the Valley is backed by two powerful pieces of legislation -- the Federal Clean Water Act and the State Porter Cologne Act. And the LARWQCB has given us only six years to protect downstream chloride sensitive crops in Ventura County (strawberries and avocadoes) by building facilities that ensure the water we discharge into the Santa Clara River does not exceed a maximum load of 117 mg/l over a three month average. Consequently, we have little time to meet that requirement. However, I and other board members are currently looking at an alternative, which could possibly reduce the currently proposed investment cost by another 60% -- a huge savings to Valley ratepayers. As such, I would appreciate the voters giving me another four years to put this plan in place and thereby cut unnecessary financial impacts to our communities.
4. If higher rates or fines are inevitable, in what other areas would you make cutbacks to mitigate the impact on the consumer?
CL - I believe if developers paid their fair share, then the burden on the current residents would be greatly reduced. Electing me will mean that there is a public watchdog on the Board. The public will be served when there is openness and transparency on the Board. We need to have any Bonds come before the people for a vote. We need to look into the amount of money that is spent on "consultants" and review the general manager's salary (which is now more than the Governor's salary.)
JM - It is important to understand that the higher rates or fines on wastewater will not be imposed on CLWA but the Sanitation District which has responsibility for mitigating any rate or fine impacts. Again, my promise is to work with the Sanitation District and community leaders to find an alternative means to help reduce those impacts. As far as rates and fees go for drinking water, I promise to provide tough oversight of CLWA’s finances to ensure that expenses are kept in check so that critical facilities can move forward with minimum impacts to water ratepayers.