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'Super' Water Agency Bill Clears Legislature


SACRAMENTO — Both houses of the Legislature last week passed a bill that would create a regional "super" water agency designed to oversee the cleanup of the severe underground water pollution that for decades has plagued the San Gabriel Valley.

The legislation passed the Senate on Thursday, 23-10. Two days earlier, it had passed the Assembly, 59-6. The bill now goes to the governor.

The bill would permit the agency to levy a fee to finance cleanup activities. This fee probably will be passed on to consumers; proponents have said it would translate to about $2 per month per customer.

Generally, it would affect water customers throughout the San Gabriel Valley except for those in the Pasadena and Pomona areas.

"It was hard fight," said one of the bill's authors, Sen. Newton Russell (R-Glendale).

But he said he was able to bring many different factions "under one big umbrella."

Two who didn't get under the umbrella were Senators Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) and Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier). Both of their districts include portions of the San Gabriel Valley, and they have advocated different cleanup approaches than Russell's.

The legislation, known as the Russell bill, calls for the creation of a five-member Main San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority. This would replaced the existing agency by the same name, which has 11 members but cannot levy assessments.

The legislation, Russell said, "will lead to a beginning, the start of cleaning the (San Gabriel) basin."

One difficulty in solving the pollution has been that no single governmental agency has the authority to oversee and finance the cleanup. The Russell bill was designed to remedy that problem.

Last year, Torres and Assemblywoman Sally Tanner (D-Baldwin Park) wrote proposals to create a regional water agency but those were defeated.

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