Bill to Strengthen Water Panel Gets Deukmejian's OK

Times Staff Writer

A bill broadening the powers of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, which provides water to the fast-growing Santa Clarita Valley, was signed Wednesday by Gov. George Deukmejian, despite last-minute lobbying asking the governor to veto the measure.

The bill, written by Assemblywoman Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), gives the agency the authority to buy surplus state water, levy water connection fees on new housing units and add non-elected representatives from water companies to its seven-member elected board.

Residents and members of the water agency board were divided over the measure.

Supporters maintained that the bill will enable the agency to raise at least $12 million needed to provide water to accommodate a population that is expected to double to 200,000 by the year 2010.

"We believe this is the best possible package of enabling legislation to bring more good quality water into the valley at an equitable cost to all," said Mary Spring, board president.

Objections to Additions

Opponents objected mainly to the addition to the board of representatives of companies that buy agency water for resale to the public.

Board member Charles J. Brogan said he believes that allowing water companies to appoint board representatives represents a conflict of interest.

"It doesn't sound right to me to have directors who are not directly accountable to voters," Brogan said. "These directors could even live outside the district boundaries."

Two private water companies, the Santa Clarita Water Agency and the Valencia Water Co., a subsidiary of the Newhall Land and Farming Co., will get representatives on the board, as will two public agencies, the Newhall County Water District and the Los Angeles County Waterworks District No. 36. The companies and the agencies agreed to relinquish some of their control over the area's ground-water supplies in exchange for the seats on the board.

Sent Petitions, Telegrams

The attempt to persuade Deukmejian to veto the bill was mounted last week by a group of Canyon Country homeowners, who last week gathered 870 signatures on petitions opposing the bill that were sent to the governor along with telegrams in opposition.

"We asked the governor to veto the bill because we just don't feel it is in the best interests of the people," said Addie King, one of the leaders of the petition drive. "We didn't even know about this until it already has passed the Legislature. There were no public hearings. The people didn't know what was happening."

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