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OID Vote - Westlands Water Sale Cleared

POSTED May 7, 2013 10:29 p.m.

A one-year water transfer contract with the Westlands Water District (WWD) was unanimously approved at the May 7 regular meeting of the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors. There are some conditions on the contract that first protect OID water users before any transfer.

In early April, OID approved 40,000 acre feet of water in the form of pulse flows to be released for “fish outmigration enhancement,” i.e. fish flows, on the Stanislaus River in April and May. The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) and State Water Contractors (SWC) agreed to pay OID $100 per acre foot to pick up the water at the state’s Water Project pumps.

WWD is looking to get the water from July through September of this year to backfill shortages. The amount of water would include any of the water committed and not moved by the SLDMWA and SWC during the April-May period and also any additional water OID or sister South San Joaquin Irrigation District may have available after fulfillment of their water commitments to constituents. WWD belongs to the SLDMWA and the price to WWD is also $100 per acre foot.

Director Steve Webb noted that this water year is changing at a rapid pace and he wants to make sure that OID’s people are covered first and that OID needs to be careful that there’s plenty for its own constituents.

OID General Manager Steve Knell said WWD had an interest earlier in the year and said that right now it’s pretty “iffy” if OID will be able to fulfill any of WWD’s needs.

Director Jack Alpers said that he really likes this water sale and sees it as a win-win because it also fulfills OID’s beneficial water use requirements with the state. He said it should be kept as “an ace in the hole.”

OID did a similar transfer to WWD in 2009.

The board also unanimously approved to start the preparation of the necessary CEQA environmental document to be done by Provost and Pritchard at an estimated cost of up to $15,000 for the WWD water transfer.

In discussion items, OID heard a presentation from CoSol commercial real estate partner Tim Bettencourt regarding their desire to be the sales agent and marketing team for OID on its property on F Street and to advise OID in figuring out the highest and best use of the property. He said the market for available commercial buildings has decreased and the market is improving. He said he sees a retailer being interested in the OID property and that it’s a “mature” site with decent frontage and a signalized intersection.

There was discussion amongst the board members and Knell about what to do and when to bring the matter before the board for a vote. OID first has to determine the costs of building a new facility on the land it purchased, Knell said, but that while it’s probably too early for an appraisal on the value of the property, it’s not too soon to sign with someone. Bettencourt said these types of transactions take a long time and there are other options that can be built in on timelines. This matter will come before the board at an undetermined future date.

In Knell’s report to the board, he said that May 13-17, he and OID attorney Tim O’Laughlin will be in Washington, D.C. pushing for a finalized New Melones operating plan. Knell said that from 1986 to now, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has been unable to produce a final operating plan. They’ll also be discussing with policy makers 1988 agreement issues and Warren Act contract access issues, which have to do with storage and transportation of water for irrigation districts, all in relation to New Melones Dam. Knell noted that it’s hard to have a Warren Act contract when there’s no operating plan.

In public comments, Tom Orvis of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau said the deadline to join the Irrigated Lands Coalition is Monday, May 13 (see related story).

As a reminder, OID’s office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and the OID office will be closed every other Friday. Upcoming closed Fridays are May 17 and May 31.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors is at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F St. The next joint meeting for the Tri-Dam project is at 9 a.m. on Thursday, May 23 in the Tri-Dam Project boardroom, 31885 Old Strawberry Road, Strawberry.

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