Water Agency Answers Criticism by Planning Citizens Committee

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After being accused by some Santa Clarita Valley residents of being insufficiently concerned about the public, the Castaic Lake Water Agency is creating a 20-member citizens advisory group.

The water agency, a state body that provides water to the Santa Clarita Valley, says it will use the group as a sounding board on issues like water quality, conservation and costs.

"This is in response to members of the community who have stated that we need to involve the public more," said Kiza Stratton, spokeswoman for the agency. "The CLWA is embarking on water planning and it's helpful to have input from community leaders. It initiates the public involvement process."

Last month, the agency involved itself in a fight between the Santa Clarita Water Co. and the Public Utilities Commission.

The PUC's Office of Ratepayers Advocates recommended a 20% price cut after alleging that the water company had squandered money on luxury cars, high salaries and phantom employees.

The agency jumped into the fight on the side of Santa Clarita Water, one of four valley companies for who it supplies water. The agency said the price cut would force it to increase prices to the other companies, who would have to raise the bills of consumers throughout the valley.

Robert Sagehorn, agency general manager, denied that the idea for the citizens committee had anything to do with any of those issues. He said the board wants public feedback, and committee members will come from all walks of life.

"This is a way the public can gain better understanding of what we do here and we can better understand their concerns," he said.

The agency's board of directors is in the process of selecting members for the committee, which will have no decision-making powers but will study the agency's plans and report back to the board after three months.

Stratton said the committee is scheduled to begin work in March.

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