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OID Vents Delta, Tri-Dam Concerns

POSTED July 6, 2010 6:35 p.m.
The Oakdale Irrigation District’s water counsel Tim O’Laughlin spoke to the Board of Directors at the regular July 6 meeting about the status of Delta issues regarding water rights and uncontrolled, unregulated, and possibly illegal diversions there. O’Laughlin’s talk was part of an agenda item about possibly responding to a June 2010 editorial about “Delta attacks” in the San Joaquin Farm Bureau News penned by its Executive Director Bruce Blodgett.

The OID directors voiced their displeasure with the editorial.

O’Laughlin spoke about current litigations and investigations related to water rights in the Delta, flow requirements, and how that affects those “upstream.”

San Joaquin County Farm Bureau President and OID constituent Phil Brumley was in attendance at the meeting and commented that while Delta farmers don’t pay for water, they do pay for levee maintenance and that contributes to Ag viability in the Delta. He said that litigation is a slippery slope because it pits farmers against farmers, which is of benefit to environmentalists and the state. O’Laughlin responded that the south Delta farmers have launched lawsuits against other farming interests and further countered that Delta farmers only do some levee maintenance and that it is heavily subsidized by the state.

Director Jack Alpers said that the district must defend its water rights and that he thinks the district should pursue it. Director Frank Clark added, “if they don’t have water rights, they shouldn’t be taking the water.” Director Herman Doornenbal stated that the district is “bound and obligated” to protect its water rights because no one else will.

In other business, the board held discussion about Tri-Dam issues regarding change orders and a lack of reporting about a coffer dam construction as part of the Tulloch Project, which is a contract to build a third generator at Tulloch Dam.

According to the OID board agenda, the project began in September 2009 and the original engineer’s estimate was $18.24 million. A recent update shown to the OID board at the June 8 special Tri-Dam meeting was that the project costs had escalated to a revised estimate of $25.63 million, a $7.39 million change in cost, which equates to a 40 percent increase.

In the midst of the OID meeting discussion, it was stated that OID’s construction and maintenance manager Gary Jernigan needs to go up to Tri-Dam and find out what’s going on. The agenda stated that Jernigan and OID General Manager Steve Knell have been evaluating the submitted material. It was stated that Jernigan should review the contracts and their administration.

Director Herman Doornenbal said that it seems that part of the costs were omitted. Director Al Bairos then stated that the board should discuss the rest of the issue in closed session and to let the record reflect that the issue was discussed in open session.

Director Steve Webb added that they have not received any information “from March forward.”

Jernigan stated that in his review, one page said there were no change orders, while another page showed a list of change orders. He also said that change orders were being worked on now that were not approved.

The board then decided to discuss the issue further in closed session.

The next regular meeting for the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 20 in the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.

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