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Hearing Addresses Water, Development

May 24, 2000|TRACY WILSON

A four-day hearing on water availability in the Santa Clarita Valley is underway this week in Los Angeles, and its outcome could affect plans to develop a massive housing project just east of the Ventura County line.

Earlier this year, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed to hold hearings on whether Valencia Water Co. has identified adequate water sources to meet the demands of future development in the area.

The company is a subsidiary of Newhall Land & Farming Co., which plans to build a 21,000-home suburb in the hills between Magic Mountain and the Santa Clara River.

The project won approval by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November 1998, but it has been tied up in litigation filed by environmental groups and neighboring Ventura County for the past year.

Among the key issues in the lawsuit is whether adequate water is available to supply the housing project, which would be home to nearly 70,000 people. The matter is now pending before a Kern County judge, who is expected to issue a written ruling in the coming days or weeks.

Opponents of the project also protested to the state Public Utilities Commission, which in February agreed to hold hearings on Valencia Water Co.'s proposed water management plan.

The hearing before Administrative Law Judge Bertram D. Patrick got underway Monday. It is expected to conclude by Thursday. A proposed decision is expected by December with a final ruling by the full commission a few weeks later.

"Something like this usually takes about 12 months," said PUC spokeswoman Kyle DeVine.

If the commission finds that Valencia Water Co. cannot provide the water service it maintains it can, a moratorium could be imposed on new water hookups, DeVine said. Such a moratorium would potentially halt new development in the area. A ban on new water hookups was imposed on Ojai a decade ago in response to water shortage concerns, but later was lifted.

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