The Oakdale Irrigation District is in line to get a $3 million grant courtesy of the State Water Resources Control Board, which the district anticipates applying toward automation and improvements of over 17 miles of lateral canals.
The announcement came during OID’s board of directors meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
According to General Manager Steve Knell, the project will reduce over 4,000 acre feet of water spillage a year and the automation, patterned after a successful Australia project, should cut personnel overtime and the need for consistent monitoring.
“In Australia, where this is used, everybody goes home at 5 p.m.,” Knell said, stating the Australia project was looked at for its long drought years on the continent. “We anticipate a 30 percent savings by automation and being one of the first districts in the state to have this technology.”
OID Operations Manager Eric Thorburn said the grant was “a sure thing at this point” and the announcement was needed for a required 30-day public comment process.
“This project will result in a sophisticated automated system,” Thorburn said.
The SWRCB grant is due to Proposition 1 that authorized $7.545 billion in general obligation bonds for water projects including surface and groundwater storage, ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration, and drinking water protection.
The grant requires the district to match the $3 million.
Other than the grant announcement, the Linda Santos recall effort was the other talking point of the meeting, with members of the general public speaking in support of and against the first-term director.
On Aug. 17, during the directors’ last meeting, Santos was served with a recall petition.
“When people try to change the will of the voters, they have a duty to make sure the accusations are accurate,” said Santos supporter Robert Frobose. “Their information is false.”
Another speaker who did not provide their name stated they held Santos to the highest esteem and her ethics were unsurpassed.
In opposition, local farmer Evan Longstreth pointed to a February item what would have given superior water rights to Louis Brichetto with no annex fee.
Longstreth said that earlier this year, when the item was up for discussion, staff had advised not to enter into any agreement with outside-district customers, yet the same meeting Santos and Gail Altieri voted to enter into negotiations with Brichetto.
He also said when it came to the Farm Conservation Program, which had benefitted many constituents, Santos and Altieri voted it down, yet they voted to support one man not in the district – Brichetto.
Deanne Dalrymple, who originally served Santos the petition at the last meeting, said that a director was mandated to support decisions made by the board, despite personal opinions.
Dalrymple referred to listed director duties, identifying that a director had to represent all constituents and support policies once they were adopted. She also accused Santos and Altieri of not meeting with Knell to stay updated and get information.
“The two refuse to do so and learn the goings on of the district,” Dalrymple said between called out jeers by Ken Frias. “Where are they taking their questions? Maybe it’s Bob Frobose or Louis Brichetto.”
Frobose and Brichetto acting as the “Oakdale Groundwater Alliance” are suing to stop the On-Farm Conservation Program and Santos and Altieri have provided sworn statements in support of their cause in court.
Frias followed, taking the podium and defended the two women and criticized those speaking for using names of individuals.
Ken Kraus also spoke in support of Santos, stating that some don’t understand how a water district is supposed to work in his opinion.
“Things have changed,” Kraus said. “Instead of the board telling the GM, the GM is telling the board (what to do).”
The matter picked back up at the end of the meeting when Altieri read a prepared statement.
“A recall is a tactic and in some ways a bullying tactic,” Altieri said, advising the public to get to know who was behind the recall effort. “This recall is politics at its worst.”
She went on to cite various legal sections for libel and slander.
Santos followed stating there were friends she had known for years now calling for her recall.
She urged the public to call her and ask her about the issues directly.
Last week Santos responded to the petition, calling the accusations “outright lies, malicious rumors and unfounded accusations” in an official response.