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OID Report: Enough Water This Year

POSTED March 2, 2011 2:12 a.m.

The Oakdale Irrigation District is expecting its full allocation of water this year and also expects to have water available that has previously been transferred (sold) to Stockton East Water District (SEWD).

The OID Board of Directors approved the availability of surplus water for out-of-district lands and also approved leaving the rates alone for 2011 for irrigation of lands outside the district boundaries in an action taken at the March 1 regular meeting. The board had already voted in November 2010 to keep the 2011 water delivery fees for in-district lands at the same rate as 2010.

Also in business, the board decided to postpone a decision on the start of the 2011 water season until the March 15 regular meeting. OID General Manager Steve Knell said that unsettled weather makes figuring out when to start the water season difficult.

“Soil conditions are good, we’re pretty much where we were last year (at this time),” said Knell, adding that Evapotranspiration (ET) is trending below normal so far this year. ET plays a role in water use or savings.

If there’s very little rainfall, the water season may start around March 21.

“The watershed year looks good, we’ll get our full entitlement,” Knell added.

Of note, it was also stated that if the water season starts around the beginning of April, it would be a savings of approximately 14,000 acre feet.

At the meeting, Knell said that OID has a contractual obligation to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) this year for 26,000 acre feet and this will be the last year of that agreement. He also said that although the district has previously sold 15,000 acre feet of water to SEWD, that will not materialize this year because SEWD is getting water from the Bureau. Knell said OID may sue the BOR over this matter because OCAP (Operations Criteria and Plan Consultation for the Central Valley Project and State Water Project) doesn’t call for those types of allocations to SEWD. Regardless, 15,000 acre feet of water is freed up this year, Knell said.

He also reviewed the 2011 out-of-district service agreement, which listed the various water users outside district boundaries, their acreage, and water use. The total came to 22,809 acre feet of requests.

“We have more out-of-district requests than we have water to fill requests,” Knell said, adding that the board needs to look at all the various ways to manage this water because there’s a trend of a growing number of out-of-district applicants.

He also said that it’s important for the district to use its full entitlement of water each year.

“If you’re not using your water and it sits idle, somebody’s going to take it,” he said.

The district had a significant amount of water “left over” last year in New Melones because of less water use and was unable to sell it, but the BOR wouldn’t grant OID a Warren Act contract allowing the district to store any of it. Between OID and its sister district South San Joaquin (SSJID), they turned back 150,000 acre feet at the end of the season. The two have an annual allocation of 300,000 acre feet each.

Knell also reported to the board about the “true cost” of water in the district and the value to OID constituents. He said that assuming there is no income from water transfers or power revenue, the 2011 operating costs are $12.7 million to irrigate the district’s 55,824 acres. That equates to $228 per acre, or a cost of $55 per acre foot. Also, capital improvements/bond payment costs for 2011 are nearly $5.76 million, divided by the number of irrigable acres (55,824) equals a cost of $103 per acre or $25 per acre foot. In total, Knell said it’s a true cost of $331 per acre or $79 per acre foot. Knell summarized that $19.50 per acre is the current rate that constituents pay per acre, when the actual cost per acre is $331.

“That’s a significant benefit of being in this district,” Knell said. “…We have some of the cheapest water in California.”

Director Steve Webb later commented that even though it’s been a tough past year, he’s glad that OID is still financially sound and can offer the same water rates as last year for its constituents and out-of-district users.

In other business, the board voted 4-1 with Webb being the dissenting vote, to reject all annexation requests on file for this year via letter.

In discussion, Knell reported on the district’s improvement in its safety rating from CAL/OSHA over the past few years, and more recently a confined space safety consultation conducted by Derek Davis from OSHA to identify and improve hazard risks. This results in less injuries and money savings for the district.

In closed session, the board was going to discuss potential sites for the relocation of district facilities.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 15 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.

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