In an effort to curb water theft, which includes taking irrigation water out of rotation without permission from the ditchtender, the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors voted 4-1 to increase the district’s fines to offenders. The fine had previously been $250 per occurrence. Now, the fines will be $500 for first offense, $750 for second offense, $1,250 for third offense. Plus, the offending party will be billed for all water that was potentially withdrawn at the out-of-district rate of $40 per acre foot. If the fine is not paid after 15 days of written notification, the offender’s irrigation gate will be locked until paid.
Director Jack Alpers was the dissenting vote, as he felt the penalty should be stiffer with a $1,000 fine for first offense, and irrigation water turned off at the second offense.
Director Frank Clark expressed concern that OID is acting as policeman, judge, jury, and executioner and asked if OID had the authority to level fines. He suggested asking the district attorney for clarification. OID General Manager Steve Knell read part of the state water code and said that the district is within its rights.
In other business, the board unanimously decided to make 5,000 acre feet of water available at this point to fringe parcel users in groups 2, 3, 4, and 5 and also out-of-district water users for this irrigation season with certain conditions. Those fringe parcel owners that have made annexation applications and deposits with OID will get the water at the in-district rate. Those that don’t have applications and/or deposits will get out-of-district rate. There are some additional caveats. There will be no 10-day rotations this season.
Knell said that with the recent storm, the water for the district is looking pretty good. The agenda showed that recent snow runoff data from the Department of Water Resources and recent series of storms, OID’s water allocation has improved. With 80 percent reliability, it shows that OID’s water allocation will be near 263,000 acre feet this year. More water may become available after the April 1 snow report.
“I think we’re going to be alright this year… Much better than the last time we talked,” Knell said.
In discussion items, Knell reported on the Knights Ferry water rights case. The agenda showed that the Supreme Court of California denied the petition for review filed in Piccinini v. Oakdale Irrigation District and that OID has successfully defended its position on the lengthy water rights dispute with the Knights Ferry plaintiffs.
“It’s done…It’s over. There’s nothing else to do,” Knell said. “We are moving forward with the separation of our waters.”
He added that no one from Knights Ferry has contacted him since the judgment.
In public comments at the start of the meeting Rita Ford told the board of her disappointment in them hiring teachers to fill a couple of summer positions, adding that teachers already have jobs and there are other people who need jobs. She suggested the board hire high school or college students for the jobs. Board members and Knell thanked her for her comments and responded that training takes approximately one year, the teachers are mature and interface well with others, and that the district also won’t then have to worry about paying unemployment for up to two years to someone who’d be laid off at the end of summer. Ford argued the board’s position and said they were “not doing right” by the community. Also in comments, farmers Raegan Amerine and Bill Hummer commented about unusually heavy debris in the main canal and problems with it clogging pipelines on the Gray Lateral. The board directed the matter to staff.
The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 3 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.