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OID Talks Lack Of Warren Contract
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The Oakdale Irrigation District has still not been granted a Warren Act contract and it doesn’t look favorable, according to the district’s General Manager Steve Knell, delivering the news at the regular meeting of the Board of Directors on Oct. 5.
Knell said that OID turned in a request to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in August for a Warren Act contract, where the federal agency would grant permission to the district to store water because excess capacity exists in New Melones reservoir. OID’s sister district, South San Joaquin Irrigation District filed a request as well.
Knell reported that because of less water use this past irrigation season, due to cooler temperatures and late rains, the two districts combined turned back 150,000 acre feet of water. They want to store at least some of that water in New Melones.
Knell said that to obtain a Warren Act contract, there are three requirements: the federal facility (i.e. New Melones) must have surplus storage, it must not “harm” anyone, and it must be non-project water.
Knell said the districts meet those requirements but that the BOR said they will be “harmed.” Knell added that any “harm” to the BOR would be minimal, especially in a single year, but they are unwilling to negotiate with OID and SSJID, even though there are advantages to BOR to do so. Knell said the BOR is “living by the new Bio Opinion.”
With a note of sarcasm, director Jack Alpers said that if it’s OID’s water, it harms the BOR, but if it’s BOR’s water, it doesn’t.
“They’re gonna spill it anyway if they have to,” he said.
Percentage-wise, New Melones is currently among the lowest/worst in the state for amount of water stored.
In business items, the board unanimously approved donating $2,800 for the purchase of eight redwood picnic tables for the Valley Home Community Center restoration project. The historic clubhouse that had been in place in the area was decayed beyond restoration, so the property is now being developed into a community park area located on Minnesota, across the street from the school.
Also in other discussion, OID engineer John Davids updated the board on the most recent information regarding state senate bill X7-7 that focuses on water conservation requirements. It defines water measurement, efficiency of water use and pricing based on the amount of water delivered. Davids said ag water measurement was the focus of a recent meeting about the bill. He added that meeting the requirements of the bill is impractical and incredibly expensive. He said the Department of Water Resources (DWR) wants measurements for water at the farm gate level. He also said the DWR wants the accuracy to be plus or minus six percent at every diversion, of which there are a few thousand diversions in the district at the farm level. Davids said that the costs would include installing the gates and other infrastructure, calibration, a person to read it, and so on.
“We’re a big target on the map (for the state),” Davids said.
OID water counsel Tim O’Laughlin agreed and chimed in, stating that the state agency wants to tell the irrigation districts they’re using too much water, they’re using too much per acre foot, and that the state wants the water. He said that though nothing has gone through yet, the state is talking about taxes in the neighborhood of $3 to $5 per acre foot, but he’s not sure if that is pursuant to the district’s water right. If it is, that could mean $1 million to $1.5 million in taxes due to the state for the OID to use its own water.
O’Laughlin also said that this is because the state needs the money to fund the numerous regulatory agencies that have been created to save the delta. He added that the state needs the money to pay for the agencies, which it doesn’t have, and the money will only pay for the bureaucracies (i.e. personnel, etc.) to operate with none of it going “into the ground” to make progress.
The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 19 in the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.