Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Sagehorn to retire from CLWA

By Leon Worden
Signal City Editor

Thursday, September 27, 2001

Robert Sagehorn
R
obert C. Sagehorn, general manager of the Castaic Lake Water Agency, announced Wednesday that he will retire in February from the position he has held for more than 20 years.
    "We will truly miss Bob and the tremendous dedication he has shown to the agency and the directors," CLWA board President Don Froelich said in a statement.
    Sagehorn said it "seems like a good time at 64, with the years of service that I've had, to reduce the night meetings and spend more time with my wife."
    His retirement, though expected, comes at a challenging time for the agency, which provides about half of the Santa Clarita Valley's water supply. CLWA battled a lawsuit and lobbied Sacramento all year so it could continue operating both as a wholesaler of State Project water and as a retailer, having spent $63 million in 1999 to acquire the Santa Clarita Water Co.
    The lobbying effort was successful, though CLWA must now develop a formal groundwater management plan; and CLWA overcame the bulk of the lawsuit, though issues remain unresolved.
    And last month, soaring energy prices drove up the cost of imported state water and forced the agency board to raise taxes for the first time in years.
    Sagehorn said the biggest challenge for the agency will be to grasp its increased role in the planning process.
    "The (Sen. Sheila) Kuehl bill and the (Sen. Jim) Costa bill put the water industry more out front. We can't stand behind the planning department anymore," he said.
    The new legislation requires cities and counties to demonstrate an ample water supply before approving new development, giving water utilities added responsibilities. Previously, water agencies were charged with simply providing enough water for whatever growth the local government approved.
    Sagehorn, only the second general manager in the agency's 39-year history, is credited with overseeing construction of the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant and its Conservatory Garden, along with other infrastructure to serve the area's population, which doubled during his tenure. He was instrumental, the agency said, in negotiating the purchase of a San Joaquin Valley water district and of additional water rights in Kern County, to boost CLWA's allotment.
    Sagehorn and the CLWA board did some suing of their own after the earthquake of Jan. 17, 1994, fending off an attempt by the city of Santa Clarita to put most areas of the city under redevelopment.
    The two entities later found agreement in creating the city's Central Park, located on CLWA's property and leased by the city for a token $100 a year.
    "He has created an agency that is recognized as successful (and a water treatment) facility that is state-of-the-art," said Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste. "He was extremely supportive of working with the city in making that facility fit another need, a park."
    Sagehorn joined CLWA in 1980 after serving 12 years as general manager of the Stockton East Water District.
    "I'm really excited about it," Joyce Sagehorn said of her husband's announcement. "I've been trying to get him to retire for a couple of years now."
    She said she is looking forward to doing more traveling and visiting with their five children and nine grandchildren, and Bob will be able to spend more time on his fishing boat, she said. They will continue to live in Valencia after his retirement, which takes effect Feb. 28.
    No successor has been named.
    "We hope to utilize his experience and expertise to assist us in finding someone to replace him," said Froelich, opening the door to consulting possibilities.
    "After his retirement, we will ask him to assist the agency in following the activities in the State Water Project."
    Sagehorn, a director of State Water Contractors Inc., the oversight body for the state project, said he will stay on as a consultant for 16 months after retiring. State Water Contractors Inc. represents the 29 wholesaling agencies throughout California in their dealings with the Department of Water Resources.


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