OAKDALE -- One of the hottest topics in the past year whether to sell water to San Francisco shifts this morning to the Oakdale Irrigation District boardroom.
The discussion comes two months and two days after the Modesto Irrigation District dropped a proposal to sell some of its water to the city by the bay.
Is it déjà vu all over again? Not quite.
One detail remains the same: San Francisco seeks an initial sale of 2,240 acre-feet as insurance against drought.
Other details differ. The OID has Stanislaus River water to sell because of conservation projects and the fact that part of its service area has urbanized and switched to wells.
The MID, by contrast, provides much of the city of Modesto's supply with Tuolumne River water. The San Francisco proposal fell through, in part, because Modesto threatened to sue the MID, and because of concerns among city officials about dry-year shortages.
The MID would have received $700 per acre-foot to start, about 70 times what its farmers paid for water this year. The price for the OID has not been set, but a San Francisco official last week said the $700 figure shows that the city will "pay a premium" for backup water.
The OID has rights to up to 300,000 acre-feet from the Stanislaus River each year, but actual use depends on the weather. A recent staff report says all of the supply is available 79 percent of the time and 190,000 acre-feet is available 99 percent of the time.
The district recently reached the end of two water transfers totaling 41,000 acre-feet per year. One was to domestic users in the Stockton area, the other for releases into the lower Stanislaus to benefit fish.
The OID plans to provide 25,000 acre-feet of this freed-up water to new almond orchards in an area near Knights Ferry proposed for annexation to the district. The owners would have to switch to their own wells in dry years.
An additional 2,400 acre-feet could be sold to the small city of Brisbane, which gets its current supply from San Francisco, just to the north.
OID General Manager Steve Knell said such transfers make sense because the district's water rights do not allow carry-over of excess supplies from one year to the next.
The OID has been putting water sale income toward improvements to its canal system. About $124 million in projects remain over the next 18 years, the staff report says.
The MID sale drew protest from many people who argued that the Tuolumne River water should instead be sold to farmers or used to recharge groundwater basins.
Some of these critics have praised the OID's proposed annexation because it would boost the region's farm-based economy while not sacrificing Stanislaus River water during drought.
San Francisco would not actually get Stanislaus River water from the OID. Instead, the Oakdale district would deliver a certain amount to the MID, freeing an equal amount of Tuolumne water that would be carried to the Bay Area via the Hetch Hetchy system.
The OID board will meet at 9 a.m. today at the district office, 1205 E. F St., Oakdale.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.