A discussion about the start of the 2012 water season held at the Feb. 21 regular meeting of the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors resulted in the board unanimously voting to hold off on starting the first irrigation until at least March 6. Director Steve Webb moved that the district get the OID water system ready to deliver water now and then to decide at the March 6 board meeting when to start the irrigation rotations.
General Manager Steve Knell had requested in the agenda item that the start of the season be on March 5. He said that the first rotation of the season will be 20 days. Then, depending on the weather, the next rotation could be 18 days. He added that there may be stress seen in the pasture lands.
Director Herman Doornenbal was vocal about wanting to see the start of the irrigation season be later, possibly in April, because he felt the OID constituents would need the water more later on in the season.
Knell responded that it’s OID policy to irrigate when there is 2.4 inches of water depletion in the soil, noting that it’s actually beyond that now.
Director Jack Alpers also commented, saying it wasn’t plausible to start in April because people at the end of the rotation wouldn’t get the water until two months from now.
Doornenbal added that he knows it’ll hurt some pasture owners to irrigate later, but also said that’s because of topography and they have a lot of runoff. He also said that if they’re worried about not having enough water, then maybe they should rent pumps.
“Our first goal is to irrigate the whole season,” Knell said, adding that OID will start with following the Level I drought policy, and if need be, will go to Level II, which restricts rotations.
Knell also said that the OID tries to “make whole” the tree and specialty crop farmers because of the value of the crops and also noted that pasture irrigation is less efficient.
He stated that if he had pasture, he’d short the end or bottom side of the pasture to make sure at least the top ends were irrigated well.
Director Al Bairos stated that if the OID spreads the rotations out so far, it may keep the pasture alive but it won’t be growing, so he said irrigation should start later to keep rotations closer and in that respect he agreed with Doornenbal.
Cattle rancher Ken Krause commented from the audience that he didn’t like hearing that people who have rangeland don’t irrigate as efficiently as those who have crops because the inference is that pasture owners waste water. He said everyone should be equal and that trying to compare pastureland to crops is like comparing apples and oranges.
Knell offered that OID is still fair in how it offers water to its constituents.
With this item, there was also some discussion about having a “water cop” this season and possibly increasing fines for taking water without permission, which is expected as a future agenda action item.
In other business, the board also passed an action in a 3-2 vote to confirm that surplus water is not available for the 2012 water season and to refund all current application fees. The exception was for the out-of-district agreement with the Army Corp of Engineers to provide water for the Orange Blossom Park recreation area. Directors Webb and Bairos were the dissenting votes.
The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 6 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.