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OID Talks Water Shortage Plan
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The Oakdale Irrigation District’s policy on dealing with surface water shortage was the discussion topic at the Jan. 21 Board of Directors regular meeting.

OID General Manager Steve Knell talked about how OID will manage this year and offered information on the best, medium, and worst case scenarios on the level of drought in the district and the district’s water rights in the drought.

“You have a right to use water but you don’t have a right to water. That’s how the state views it,” Knell said.

He said that in the state there is a water right priority system. OID is an adjudicated senior water rights holder, which is better than being a senior holder. He noted that the federal government also has a permit with the state but the Feds are junior to OID. At the meeting, a letter from the State Water Resources Control Board was also shared regarding the “notice of surface water shortage and potential for curtailment of water right diversions.” Knell referred to the letter and said it was good that it spelled out the water rights priorities.

Knell explained the details of OID’s “formula water” and what it’s entitled to do in banking up water in New Melones when inflow levels are below a certain amount – which is expected this year. He reviewed the district’s water inventory and accounting, including total annual water demand at different water year levels, water generation abilities, and hydrology.

“I think we can make it this year,” Knell said, noting that he thinks this will be a “level II” year but later added that the board may have to make some tough decisions if the drought continues.

He asked what the board wants to do this year in terms of using OID’s conservation (banked) water and said if they decide to use it all this year, there’d be no backfill in the reservoir for next year and could leave the district in trouble if the drought still exists.

Knell said that in 2015, the district could see a burning up of 10,000 acres or more of pasture – one third of the district’s pasture land – if the district requires a no runoff program. He suggested that an idling (fallowing) program could address potential shortages this year and next year. He said that there are entities interested in having OID constituents do that and are willing to pay. He added that if OID plays its cards right, they may not impact anyone in the system.

“I think under a ‘level II,’ we’d be in good shape… We’ll have to run the system pretty hard, rely on landowners…,” Knell said.

Stanislaus Farm Bureau representative Tom Orvis said that OID was in better shape than some neighboring districts, in part because OID has a plan, and now those districts are looking at OID’s plan and trying to put their own together. He spoke about how many acres could be idled in those other Stanislaus County districts.

“We all know, the skies could open up and this conversation would be over in a short amount of time in California,” Orvis said. “…In a bad situation, you guys are in a good situation.”

The next meeting agenda is expected to have an item or items having to do with how OID’s surface water will be treated from farm gate to farm gate.

In other business, the board nominated and unanimously approved director Al Bairos as the primary and director Herman Doornenbal as the alternate to represent OID as a candidate for appointment to serve on the Stanislaus County Water Advisory Committee.

Also in business, the board unanimously approved a partnership with the City of Oakdale to investigate a water conservation project. OID and the city have talked for a number of years about a project to recycle treatment plant water into OID canals as a way to conserve water. These types of projects exist around the state in various types of communities. CH2M Hill, an OID consultant on contract, will develop a scope of work and cost for the study. OID and the city will then look at the cost of a feasibility study before deciding if they wish to move forward.

The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb.4 in the OID boardroom, 1205 East F. The next regular joint board meeting for the Tri-Dam Project will be at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20, also at the OID boardroom.