This is in response to Dick Hagerty's Nov. 27 column, "Irrigation districts must focus efforts on helping farmers." I couldn't agree more with the tenets of Hagerty's column, but let us be clear on the category of farmlands in this discussion. There are three types: there are those farmlands within the service area boundaries of an irrigation district; farmlands outside that service area; and farmlands that are outside and want in, the ones represented by Hagerty.
Irrigation districts have an obligation to serve the former and only the latter if no impacts.
If you are familiar with LAFCO (Local Area Formation Commission), you know that it is the county approval agency on annexations. You also would know that before they would consider, much less approve, a service area expansion, the applicant agency would have to demonstrate no harm to existing customers from that annexation. Hence, if an agency seeking to expand its service area boundaries cannot demonstrate to LAFCO that services to existing constituents are not going to be impacted, then there can be no annexation.
In Hagerty's case, he was looking at lands for clients that were at the end of a long OID pipeline and outside the OID service area. Unfortunately, this pipeline has a flow limitation during most of the irrigation season for existing OID irrigators. The pipeline simply cannot serve additional lands without impacting in-district customers, making it an easy dead-on-arrival annexation request.
Regarding selling water: the prelude to the OID mission statement sums up our commitment to our constituents "To protect and develop Oakdale Irrigation District water resources for the maximum benefit of the Oakdale Irrigation District community
OID will not share the benefits of any resources under its control until it meets all the needs of its community first and can do so without impacts.
OID invested $1.5 million in the development of a Water Resources Plan from 2005 to 2007 that lays out its water future, to insure there is "no harm" in its actions. Rather than folks continuing to criticize the actions of our district without full knowledge of how ag expansion and water transfers play into OID's future, we suggest going to our Web page and reading the plan.
From that planning effort, OID knows what it has to do, can do and needs to do to keep its district strong to protect its water rights, address state and federal challenges (SBx7-7, Water Code §10608.48), to modernize and rebuild the district, and do so with fiscal responsibility.
We have chosen a balance of ag expansion and municipal transfers to get us there. To that end, OID will be adding 7,200 acres of high value ag lands in its Trinitas annexation and an additional 1,000 acres of fringe parcels and new land additions over the next year. To say OID is not ag friendly is just more horse manure than a rodeo clown should have to consume.
Knell is general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District.
Proposed next steps for a one-year sale of water:
Today OID board meeting to schedule a special meeting for Dec. 11
Wednesday More negotiations with San Francisco, during the Association of California Water Agencies conference in San Diego
Dec. 11 Special board meeting seeking OK to prepare contract and CEQA documents
Jan. 15 Public hearing on proposed sale, close of CEQA comment period
Feb. 5 Likely board vote to approve deal