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Special Meeting Slated For Water Talks

POSTED December 5, 2012 12:29 a.m.

The Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors passed an item on the Dec. 4 regular meeting agenda to schedule a special meeting to take place at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11. There, they will discuss the outcome of a meeting that OID General Manager Steve Knell and attorney Michael O’Laughlin have with City and County of San Francisco (CCSF) officials at a water conference on Dec. 5, as well as the associated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) steps and timeline for a potential one-year water transfer (sale) to CCSF. The Dec. 11 meeting is open to the public.

OID director Steve Webb was absent and director Frank Clark was absent due to attendance at a water conference in San Diego, so Tuesday’s vote was 3-0 in favor of setting the special session.

Rancher Ken Kraus commented that he is against dealing with San Francisco and said that CCSF is not Stockton East Water District – a district that has previously purchased water from OID. Kraus said he thinks if CCSF gets its foot in the door, then it’ll be hard to get rid of them. He added that he thinks it will create potential legal issues and other “bull manure.”

At the Dec. 11 special meeting, if the board decides to move forward, the next step would be OID forwarding a contract and preparing necessary CEQA documents, as well as a letter to Modesto Irrigation District for a “wheeling agreement,” which would allow for OID to transfer the water through MID’s system to CCSF’s system.

Knell suggested that the board may have on open workshop sometime between the Dec. 18 regular board meeting where a final contract would be presented to the board for consideration and the Jan. 15, 2013 regular meeting where a public hearing would take place. If every step for the water sale to move forward were approved, adoption of the CEQA and direction to file a Notice Of Determination (NOD) for the one-year transfer would be on the agenda for the Feb. 5 regular meeting.

In other business, a public hearing was held on the district’s Ag Water Management Plan (AWMP) that covered the process, water balance, management, and the plan. OID Water Operations Manager Eric Thorburn reported to the board that the AWMP is mandatory due to California Water Conservation Act SBx7-7 and non-compliance with it would mean ineligibility for state water grants, loans, and possibly bonding issues. There was also discussion of implementing the program, which Knell said would cost OID about $20 million to be compliant because of the cost of expensive monitoring equipment and installation. He added that the board will have to develop policy to determine how to divide up the costs. Director Jack Alpers noted that it doesn’t seem fair to those with small acreage parcels. Adoption of the AWMP will be proposed on the Dec. 18 board agenda.

Representatives from Davids Engineering provided details about the water balance to the board, which is a complete account of all water flowing into and out of the district over a specified time period. It noted OID’s three primary structures: the district distribution system, farm systems, and the drainage system. Also covered were details on the district’s drainage outflow of 48,000-49,000 acre feet per year and where that water goes. Knell noted that drain flows out of OID are decreasing due to better on-farm management. Efficient Water Management Practices (EWMP) were also discussed. Two practices are critical, or mandatory, through SBx7-7, which are delivery measurement and volumetric pricing, and 14 are additional, or conditional. Knell said that because private deep wells would not be monitored, it was a disincentive to use surface water but that groundwater regulation will be next. Director Herman Doornenbal noted that OID’s problem is topography and it’s virtually impossible to control flood irrigation on pasture. Knell added that the conservation bill is either overtly or covertly a way to drive high water-use crops out of business.

In discussion, Thorburn provided an update on “fringe” parcels. He said that nine out of 33 fringe parcels filed applications and deposits by the Oct. 1 deadline to annex the out-of-district acreage to OID. The nine parcels represent 330 out-of-district acres. He added that a total of 20 additional applications, totaling more than 4,800 out-of-district acres, were also received prior to the Oct. 1 deadline requesting consideration for annexation under similar terms as the Trinitas annexation.

In private session, the board was to discuss the negotiation of the potential water sale with CCSF.

The next meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be the special session at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F. The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 18, also at the OID boardroom. The next joint board meeting for the Tri-Dam Project is at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 20 at the OID boardroom. The Jan. 1, 2013 OID board meeting has been cancelled.

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