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OID Approves Draft Terms With Brisbane
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The draft term sheet with the City of Brisbane for a water transfer agreement was approved 4-1 by the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors at the Oct. 2 regular meeting. Director Al Bairos was the dissenting vote.

While the draft term sheet is a non-binding document and does not obligate OID to provide water to Brisbane, the draft term sheet does set the framework to proceed with the CEQA (environmental) process.

The municipal water transfer calls for 2,400 acre feet of “uninterruptible” supply to Brisbane for the 684-acre Baylands development, which lies between Candlestick Park and the San Francisco airport, east of Highway 101. The water sale would be about $1.2 million in revenue for OID.

Several public comments were heard at the meeting. Tom Orvis of the Stanislaus County Farm Bureau stated that the Farm Bureau encourages the public to participate in the CEQA process. He also made note of some of the draft terms and asked that OID be a co-lead in the CEQA process because if OID constituents don’t get water it would have a greater environmental impact than if Brisbane didn’t get the water. He added that the Farm Bureau also hopes OID will hold one to two public hearings in Oakdale, as opposed to all the hearings being in the Bay Area.

OID General Manager Steve Knell agreed that OID needs to have a couple of the impact meetings in Oakdale.

Another commenter asked that the public meetings be held in the evenings so more people can attend and also that there be a Spanish-language interpreter at these meetings so that the Hispanic population in Oakdale may participate.

Oakdale rancher Ken Kraus expressed his concern about the Bay Area’s general need for water and if the water sale was to take place and if there were an increased demand for water for human use would OID be able to say no and keep it for its agricultural use.

Director Steve Webb said he shares the same concern and noted that the board is proceeding slowly.

There were also some comments from others in the audience about some of the terms in the draft document that they felt OID needs to revisit and revise. Director Jack Alpers noted that he also disagreed with some of the draft terms.

Director Bairos asked why the OID and Brisbane can’t just “hammer out” the terms now before it goes through the CEQA process to see if the two can even come to an agreement in the first place. Knell said that the law doesn’t allow that. The CEQA process is required first. Brisbane will absorb the costs associated with the CEQA.

In other business, OID also held a public hearing as part of the CEQA process for the Trinitas Partners annexation to the district. The agricultural annexation represents a total of about 7,234 acres at a cost of $2,600 per acre to join the district, plus $60 per acre foot in water fees with a 25,000 acre feet annual allocation of “interruptible” supply. It will generate $2.5 million to $2.75 million in revenue to OID.

“This development is happening with or without OID,” said OID engineer John Davids who gave a PowerPoint presentation about the annexation.

He added that Trinitas has an extensive system of deep wells. Also, there are no new OID conveyance structures required. Davids also said that deliveries to Trinitas will be curtailed during peak months of July and August and also during seasons of “diminished capacity.”

It was pointed out that it is of benefit for Trinitas to be annexed to the district because it costs them about $100 per acre foot to pump water, said Director Frank Clark.

Orvis commented for the Farm Bureau that it’s “good it’s staying in agriculture” and that hopefully the annexation won’t affect irrigation rotations because farmers with pasture need the water when they need it.

Rancher Carla Schwoerer also asked what’s going to happen to people with clover pasture during the summer because they rely on that clover to feed their cattle and pay their bills.

Clark replied that OID is meeting its commitment to existing customers and that Trinitas will have to pump during July and August because their water from OID will be 100 percent curtailed.

Schwoerer also commented that too much pumping will drain the underground aquifer. Director Herman Doornenbal replied that by OID supplying Trinitas with surface water, that will help replenish the ground water supply.

Farmer John Brichetto commented that this is a significant annexation to OID and that he has an issue with the 3 percent terms offered by OID to Trinitas. He mentioned OID’s cost of funds being at five-and-a-half percent and that 3 percent is “way off the charts.” He noted that interest is depreciation to farmers. Director Jack Alpers said that things change in the money market and didn’t feel that Brichetto’s statements were a fair criticism.

The public comment period on the Trinitas matter will end Oct. 22. The CEQA document is expected to be finished in November, it will potentially be approved by the OID board in December and then it will go before the LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) board in February or March 2013.