July 1, 2004 - From the June, 2001 issue

Newhall Land Claims It Will Have Enough Water For New Suburb

Newhall Land and Farming Co. is again assuring L.A. County officials that they have plenty of water to supply 21,600-home Newhall Ranch, the largest development in the County's history. Last June, a judge stalled the planned 2000-groundbreaking, requiring Newhall to do further analysis of water availability and traffic and wildlife impacts. Testifying before the L.A. County Regional Planning Commission at a recent hearing, Newhall reps identified existing supplies as: drinking water from Newhall's alluvial aquifer (traditionally used for crops), non-potable water from the Castaic Lake Water Agency, and a new water-reclamation plant. Together, they say sources would meet the anticipated demand for 17,680 acre-feet of water annually. In addition, the developer proposed tapping 7,000 acre-feet per year from Castaic Creek to store for future use, as well as purchasing up to 9,066 acre-feet annually from Kern County and the Castaic Lake Water Agency's share of the State Water Project. Two groundwater banks would be used for storage-the Semitropic Groundwater Storage District in the Central Valley, and the Saugus aquifer in the Santa Clarita Valley-sparking concern that the latter is already contaminated with sewage and naturally occurring minerals. Newhall claims these additional supplies will meet twice the expected demand of 70,000 residents. The hearing will resume July 16. If the revised environmental plans are approved by the Planning Commission, they will head back to L.A. County Supervisors for more hearings and a vote, and then to the judge who ordered the further review.

Located in the Santa Clarita Valley, the development borders Ventura County, where officials have long expressed concern over the water issue, saying Newhall's testing of available groundwater is incomplete and that lawsuits recently filed by Ventura County and several environmental groups, alleging that various local water agencies have overstated supply and understated demand, could complicate the project's plans. Los Angeles County planners first approved the project in 1998, with L.A. Supervisors following suit in 1999. If there are no further delays, construction could begin in 2003.

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