The South Laguna Civic Assn. surveyed the six South Coast Water District candidates about issues pertinent to Laguna Beach, such as Aliso Creek, water recycling and the five-year Tunnel Stabilization and Sewer Pipeline Replacement Project.
Laguna Beach residents don't vote in candidates due to a 1998 agreement when The Local Agency Formation Commissions consolidated water districts. Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and San Clemente residents do get to vote for the candidates, who serve a four-year term.
However, Laguna Beach ratepayers can voice their concerns about the water district at a committee meeting at 10 a.m. Nov. 5 in South Laguna, 31592 West St.
Candidates Wayne Rayfield, Joel Bishop, Dick Dietmeier and Rick Erkeneff all supported the Aliso Creek Runoff, Recover and Reuse Project, which aims to recycle water, reduce dependence on imported water and reduce polluted runoff. Rayfield said he'd like to get it operational as soon as possible and Bishop said summer seemed like an acceptable goal, according to the survey. Candidate Richard Gardner said he did not have the information to decide.
"I support the concept but need to be better informed concerning the feasibility, both operational and financial," candidate Gary Langdale said.
In response to sewage discharge and recycled water usage, Rayfield suggested capturing gray water — used water from a home that can be reused in irrigation — in Laguna and Dana Point. He also said the district plans to expand the production and delivery of recycled water. Bishop and Erkeneff are also in support of capturing gray water as well. Langdale said he's been a proponent of recycling water and water conservation in San Clemente. He said without the required additional piping for the water, it won't take root until demand is high.
The association asked in what ways would the candidates be willing to mitigate South Laguna residents for the impacts of the five-year Tunnel Stabilization and Sewer Pipeline Replacement Project.
Rayfield and Bishop felt many concerns have been addressed and that the plan has been thoughtful to residents. Langdale admitted traffic and noise will be an issue but that district has its customers as top priority. Dietmeier said the project will allow easier access to the pipeline, which would minimize maintenance issues.
"The fact of the matter is we all have to share the burden of temporary inconvenience for the long term goal of addressing aging infrastructure, ensuring clean water and eliminating the threat of an environmental disaster," Erkeneff said in his response.
South Laguna will have long term benefits from the tunnel, Gardner said, whereas Dana Point, Capistrano Beach and San Clemente ratepayers are paying for a tunnel they will never use.
Candidates were asked how they planned to reach out to South Lagunans and involve them in decision making, since they can't vote in board elections. Dietmeier and Gardner brought up The Local Agency Formation Commissions, LAFCO, in regards to Laguna's absence on the board. Gardner said he's contacted the commission, urging a review.
"This is classic 'taxation without representation' and should be corrected," Langdale said. "LAFCO could attach the rate-paying area to the SCWD and alleviate this injustice."
Laguna Beach Director of Water Quality David Shissler said when the agreement was made in 1998 and LAFCO consolidated water districts, it was decided there would be two representatives of the city on an advisory committee, where they could voice city concerns.
"To tell you the truth I think its unconstitutional that we in South Laguna don't get to vote on water district candidates nor do we have the option to run for South Coast Water District board," association President Bill Rihn said.
All the candidates said they'd like to hear from Laguna Beach ratepayers. More information about the candidates can be found at smartvoter.org, which is run by the League of Women's Voters.
Lagunans can attend South Coast Water District board and committee meetings to learn more about the issues and address the district. For more information, visit scwd.org.
The survey results are available on the association's website at southlaguna.org.