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BOARDS POSTPONE WATER-PLAN VOTE.

Byline: Eugene Tong Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA - The Castaic Lake Water Agency and Newhall County Water District boards postponed a vote on a regional water-plan update projecting supply and how much growth the Santa Clarita Valley can accommodate over the next 25 years.

Newhall water board President Maria Gutzeit requested a delay Wednesday because board member Randall Pfiester was absent, and the document should be voted on by the full board. Also, several CLWA directors wanted additional time to review last-minute comments submitted by critics and supporters alike.

Both panels closed the public hearing to lock the document, then scheduled a final vote for Nov. 9.

``I think we made the right decision,'' CLWA board President William Pecsi said after the meeting. ``There (was) some information that members of the board needed to look at.''

But Pecsi also urged swift passage.

``It's only a planning document. To what level do you have to have a planning document before you can vote in favor of it?''

Still, critics who found the figures presented suspect urged officials to take their time.

``To me, that just indicates that, Everything is fine, folks. We're going to pass this plan tonight,'' said Ed Dunn, a former board member at both agencies who is currently running for the Newhall water board. ``Don't just brush it aside and say everything is fine. ... We have to admit honesty in numbers.''

Required by state law to be updated every five years, the document predicts that regional water demand could spike by 2030 to 138,300 acre-feet per year as the Santa Clarita Valley's population jumps from 250,000 currently to more than 428,000.

Meanwhile, local water supply from all current sources - including allocations from the State Water Project, groundwater and recycled sources - is projected at 125,680 acre-feet for 2030. Proposed transfer deals, water-banking programs and decontamination of polluted wells could add about 86,700 acre-feet.

An acre-foot is the amount of water required to cover one acre one foot deep, or 325,851 gallons.

Groups ranging from the Sierra Club, the California Water Impact Network and the Santa Clarita Valley Well Owners Association said officials misstated supply in the water plan; it included figures from draft state reports and water transfers disputed in court.

But CLWA officials said the plan is legally valid.

``This will be the most reviewed water management plan in California,'' CLWA director William Cooper said. ``There are small things in the plan that everybody (has) little differences on. As new information becomes available, we should be able to sit down and make those changes.''

Judy Reinsmar of the well owners group said usage from rural private wells remains underreported. She cited a May 2005 water report that estimated they accounted for 500 acre-feet, but an informal survey the association conducted along Bouquet and San Francisquito canyons totaled more than 1,000 acre-feet.

``We're not against the growth, but we don't want to dry up our wells,'' Reinsmar said after the meeting.

Officials said the discrepancy lies in separate tallies between residential, business and agricultural uses, and would consider offering assistance on future surveys.

``We have to accommodate the private users,'' said Newhall Water board member Lynne Plambeck, a longtime critic of local water numbers. ``I think not to do so is just hiding your head in the sand.''

She also urged a deeper discussion on the possible impact of global warming, a section included for the first time this year under a state mandate.

``We should include some scenarios of how it will occur,'' Plambeck said.

``It will be addressed by the (state) Department of Water Resources, which is much more capable than we are to address global warming,'' said Dan Masnada, CLWA general manager.

Activist Henry Schultz praised the water plan, but urged caution in relying too much on water from the Sacramento River Delta - it feeds the California Aqueduct, which supplies more than half of the region's water. A recent state appellate court decision questioned the practice of exporting water to thirsty Southern California at the expense of area wildlife.

``The Urban Water Management Plan is really cool,'' said Schultz, a leader in the local Sierra Club chapter. ``All these years we haven't had anything (that states), here's the water we can get, here's the water we'll have (to) deliver.''

``But people are starting to get upset. The capability that we have of getting more water from the north is going to be suspect. ... Right now, it looks like it adds up. The efforts used to get the water back is good, but we have to work to get the water.''

Larry Mankin, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, was bullish about the plan. Other supporters include the Building Industry Association's Los Angeles/Ventura chapter.

``This plan is about the user,'' Mankin said. ``It's about providing water to the Santa Clarita Valley at a reasonable cost. We do have water now. We will have water tomorrow.''

Eugene Tong, (661) 257-5253

eugene.tong(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 28, 2005
Words:837
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