The Oakdale Irrigation District plans to talk with Paulsell Valley landowners to discuss water options and opportunities, as the Board of Directors authorized General Manager Steve Knell to proceed with arranging a meeting in an action at the April 1 regular meeting.
“It’s been an option for us to bring water into Paulsell for a number of years now,” Knell told the board.
Bringing water into and through the Paulsell Valley would meet a number of service needs and OID feels that this is a good time to plan and evaluate post-drought options. The meeting is to determine if the farmers there have genuine interest. OID would not pay any project costs or provide capital; costs would have to be funded 100 percent by those landowners. The landowners would also have to pay for surface water when it’s available, as it’s available, Knell added. The agenda stated that these projects are not cheap.
Currently, the Paulsell Valley is outside the OID service area and farmers pump groundwater for their crops. Knell commented that any project nowadays has to have multiple beneficiaries, not just Ag, such as environmental benefits and so on.
He said there are various options in servicing the Paulsell Valley. According to the agenda, one of the options is the enlargement of the Paulsell Canal to a 150-180 cubic feet per second (cfs) conveyance system with discharge into Dry Creek; backing water up for three to four miles by putting an impounding facility in the flat-terrain Dry Creek system; and installing pumping stations along Dry Creek to service participant landowners.
The agenda showed what OID sees as potential benefits for bringing water into the Paulsell Valley, especially in light of current concerns. They are listed below.
* Servicing an expanding agricultural base in that area.
* Protection of the underground aquifer by supplying intermittent surface water during the irrigation season, to reduce or eliminate groundwater pumping.
* The impoundment facility could serve as a winter recharge zone for the re-direction of winter runoff water that accumulates in OID’s South Main Canal. Also, the diversion and movement of winter flood releases out of the Stanislaus River for impoundment and recharge purposes.
* The open surface water could benefit Pacific Flyway birds by providing a winter resting area where currently none exists.
* Most importantly, keeping water resources local as opposed to transfers out of the area.
The agenda stated that this option and all its costs may be more than local Ag producers can afford, and it will test the capacity of local Ag producers to keep water local as opposed to OID doing water transfers to Westside farmers, who grow the same crops and are willing to pay a market rate for the water.
Knell noted that Modesto Irrigation District, has been briefed regarding options with Paulsell and will also be contacted to see if there’s additional interest.
In his General Manager’s report, Knell said that it looks like the district will have about 37,000 acre feet of water left in its “conservation account” in New Melones. The end of September will have about 300,000 acre feet of water behind New Melones, which he said will probably be a little bit shy of seeing the remnants of old Melones Dam peek out from the surface. He also noted that Stanislaus River flows will be down because of the below normal year and will run at about 150 cfs, which is quite slow. He also reported that at the upcoming Tri Dam Project meeting, they are conducting interviews for a Tri Dam general manager.
In director’s comments, Steve Web said that he found it interesting that President Obama came to California for drought relief, shook hands and kissed babies, but that there hasn’t been anything done and there’s been no relief provided. He said that with the recent rains, it will show if anyone is really serious about drought relief. He added that there are a lot of water savings that could be made up and down the state if the government will loosen some of its regulations.
The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 15 in the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.