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Santa Clarita Area Water Plan Rejected

Times Staff Writer

Amid concerns about development projects exceeding water supplies, the Newhall County Water District board rejected a planning document that estimates water availability in the Santa Clarita Valley.

In a split decision, the board voted 3 to 2 Thursday night to approve a resolution expressing a “lack of confidence” in the area’s main water plan, which was produced in 2000 by consultants under the supervision of four of the valley’s water agencies, including the Newhall district.

The decision could hinder pending commercial, residential and municipal construction projects in this rapidly growing area of north Los Angeles County when the board measures the projects against water availability.

Chairwoman Lynne Plambeck, who supported the resolution, said Friday that the planning document offered optimistic projections of future water availability that could have disastrous results during sustained droughts.

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Plambeck also said that the document counted area wells polluted with ammonium perchlorate as viable water sources.

“We want the planning department, the county and the city to realize that the water in the Urban Water Management Plan is not really here -- it’s paper water,” she said.

Opponents contend that the tiny water district, which supplies water to about 8,500 customers, is premature in attempting to reassess the regional water plan before its review date in 2005. The Newhall County Water District should wait a year and work cooperatively with other water agencies rather than striking out on its own, they said.

Board members of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, one of the other districts that supervised the planning document, approved a resolution earlier this week supporting the projections in the current Urban Water Management Plan.

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“We believe the numbers are good,” said Mary Lou Cotton, the agency’s spokeswoman. “It has been found to be an adequate and useful plan.”

The Santa Clarita City Council also supported a resolution condemning the Newhall water district’s decision to reject the plan.

Even so, a leading environmental group praised the Newhall County Water District for its water-management practices.

“We commend the district for accurate water reporting,” said Johanna Zetterberg, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter. “Water that is polluted should not be considered available.”


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