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OID Raises Out Of District Rates

POSTED January 15, 2013 8:54 p.m.

In keeping with a plan to raise out-of-district water rates incrementally until a rate of $100 per acre foot is met by water year 2016, the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors unanimously approved to increase 2013 out-of-district water deliveries to $55 per acre foot for all measurable deliveries in an action at the Jan. 15 regular meeting.

The board agenda stated that for deliveries that are not yet measurable and don’t have approved measurement devices, those deliveries will be subject to a crop water duty. The 2013 crop water duty will be as follows: Pasture will be 5.5 acre feet of water per acre for a cost of $302.50 per acre; Trees will be 4.5 acre feet per acre for $247.50 per acre; Rice will also be 4.5 acre feet per acre for $247.50 per acre; and Corn will be 3.5 acre feet per acre for $192.50 per acre.

Those figures were based on the rate of $55 per acre foot at an estimated crop water duty using crop evapotranspiration (ET) plus the policy allowance of 70 percent application efficiency. OID General Manager Steve Knell said that pasture application efficiency is probably more like 50 percent and corn application efficiency, if there isn’t tailwater recovery, is probably about 50 percent to 60 percent.

The item summary also stated that the full service cost of water at OID without the benefit of hydro power or water sales is $79 per acre foot, or $331 per acre.

In discussion items, the OID’s water attorney Tim O’Laughlin spoke to the board about the ins and outs of the Substitute Environmental Document (SED) released by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) that supports changes to the water quality control plan for the San Francisco Bay – Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta estuary by making changes to San Joaquin River flows and in the south Delta.

O’Laughlin stated that the SED calls for a 35 percent “unimpaired” flow every day from Feb. 1 through June 30 to benefit fish needs and other Delta issues. That means the SED plans to take 35 percent of the water volume in the river from February to June. The OID plans to take legal action on this matter.

O’Laughlin stated that the modeling used by the SWRCB is wrong because it would mean that New Melones would go dry at times. He added that the baseline numbers used were wrong as well because those were based on a river flow manipulation program called VAMP that has ended.

Some highlights, or lowlights if you prefer, of O’Laughlin’s talk about the SED included huge impacts to OID, South San Joaquin (SSJID), Modesto (MID) and Turlock (TID) irrigation districts, and others that depend on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers. He said that Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Merced counties will have devastating, ripple-effect financial impacts. He stated that the fallowing of farmland is estimated at about 11 percent or over 100,000 acres and the annual Ag production losses are estimated at over $30 million per year in the three counties.

O’Laughlin said that 80 percent of the time, Stockton East Water District would not get any water. He also said OID’s and SSJID’s water allotment from New Melones would be cut about 60 percent of the time, and only about 40 percent of the time would get the full allotment. OID would go from 85 percent water reliability to about 40 percent reliability. The Tuolumne River water deliveries for MID and TID would be reduced by 300,000 acre feet per year.

Other impacts he covered had to do with continuous depletion of ground water supply through the need for pumping and further related impacts, also driving down hydro power costs in the early part of the year, then later increasing power needs in the summer in the local area without the ability to service the needs because of the unavailability of water, and more.

The agenda item summary included several other impacts including numbers on job loss, household cost burdens for electricity, loss of recreational visitors to the area, and more.

O’Laughlin said the state deemed all this as “significant and unavoidable and then moved on.”

He added that the three upstream senior water rights holders, including OID, are responsible for meeting all of the numbers while junior water rights holders downstream won’t have to contribute and would even benefit at times. Areas that benefit and suffer no impacts whatsoever are Los Angeles, which will be able to pick up a third of the water and pump it south at no cost or reimbursement; the San Joaquin River south of its confluence with the Merced River (Friant water users) has been given a “hall pass” for any water contributions to the Delta’s issues. Other beneficiaries included San Francisco and others, according to O’Laughlin.

He said that this is taking from the poorest counties in the state and giving to the wealthiest counties in the state.

“It’s just like the federal government. It’s redistribution of the wealth,” said OID director Frank Clark. “It’s take what we have and give it to somebody else… Their objective is to destroy the water rights system in California.”

The “wealth” he referred to is the water.

O’Laughlin said he wouldn’t go as far as what Clark said but then said nearly the same thing; that the state is “pushing an aggressive agenda to do away with water rights in California.”

O’Laughlin said that the plan is to do a public relations campaign, set up meetings with legislators, and other legal strategies aside from suing. In an odd twist, he noted that the environmentalists are the only ones more angry with the SED because the environmentalist movement views the irrigation districts as having “won” by only having to give up 35 percent of water volume in the river.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5 in the OID boardroom, 1205 East F St., Oakdale. The next regular joint board meeting of the Tri-Dam Project is 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 17 in the SSJID boardroom, 11011 East Hwy 120, Manteca.

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