The start of the 2012 irrigation season will be today, Wednesday, March 7, which was decided in a unanimous action by the Oakdale Irrigation District Board of Directors at the March 6 regular meeting.
OID General Manager Steve Knell told the board that the Stanislaus Basin is at 25 percent of “normal” for this time of year. He added that OID, at this point, will follow the Level 1 drought plan and that the district will know more about how much water is in the snow pack once the snow survey is done at the end of March.
“I think it’s just going to be a very tight year,” Knell said. “…I feel comfortable starting (the season) now. It’ll just be a slim year.”
OID staffers believe that the district has carryover water from last year available to the district in New Melones reservoir but is waiting for a response from the Bureau of Reclamation to come to an agreement on the matter. This water could result in an additional 20,000 acre feet – enough to cover another rotation.
In other business, the board unanimously approved hiring a couple of people for the summer in order to have staff to serve as “water police.” Knell reported that last year OID hired a couple of teachers who were off work for the summer to cover shifts for DSOs (ditch tenders). This worked well for OID because it minimized overtime expenses.
For this year, Knell said they’d like to bring the teachers back again as summer employee(s). The employee(s) will do surveillance on “hot spots” for water spills, out-of-rotation use and the like, and then report to the DSO. OID envisions these summer employees to fill in on a DSO shift while the DSO finds the root of the issue, OID would investigate, and if necessary, file a Sheriff’s report for water theft. Another benefit to the district, Knell said, is that since the teachers return to work at the end of summer, OID doesn’t have to worry about paying unemployment, which would be the case if they laid off a new employee.
Also, in other related business, the board discussed increasing the fine for unauthorized taking of water such as theft and out-of-rotation water use. The fine is currently $250 per occurrence but some board members expressed interest in increasing the amount to be a better deterrent.
“It should be increased to a thousand (dollars),” said director Al Bairos.
“I agree… $250 for stealing water is not very much,” added director Frank Clark.
The board decided to bring the issue back before the board at the next regular meeting in order to give Knell time to look into the statute to see if there is a restriction on how high the fine can be.
The next regular meeting of the OID Board of Directors will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 20 at the OID boardroom, 1205 East F.