MODESTO — Farmers should learn this morning whether they'll pay more this year for less Modesto Irrigation District canal water.
A staff proposal to reduce deliveries and raise water rates 10 percent drew 13 landowner protests in the seven weeks after it was pitched in early February. That's about 1,388 fewer than is needed to kill the idea.
The MID board today could opt for an increase of less than 10 percent, but the law prevents it from going higher than the advertised amount.
The district's 2,800 landowners would pay $10.83 per acre-foot, or $32.50 for 36 inches of water on each acre about what's needed to sustain nut trees common to this area, a report says. The base allotment was 42 inches in 11 of the past 13 years.
Board members in February discussed a rate boost of more than 10 percent because farmers for years have been subsidized by the district's power customers. If the rate proposal is adopted, the average subsidy this year for the district's 113,000 power customers would come to about $116.
Electricity rates won't change this year, the board has said. Also, the district supplies water to Modesto tap customers whose rates aren't directly affected by today's vote.
The 10 percent irrigation rise is considered a compromise because other board members sympathize with farmers. Despite the subsidy which could be illegal, according to a recent law change irrigation bills have doubled in the past dec-ade.
The minimum charge is the equivalent of five acre-feet. People reserving a future right to water without taking any, called standby accounts, pay half.
A 10 percent hike would bring an extra $240,000 this year to the MID, for a total of $2.6 million. That's far less than the district spends $16.7 million to maintain its aging distribution system. A volunteer committee is expected in coming weeks to make formal recommendations on improvements and how to pay for them.
The committee formed after the September death of an idea to sell water to San Francisco, which was willing to pay $700 per acre-foot. By comparison, Oakdale Irrigation District leaders last week agreed to sell thirsty West Side farmers extra water this year at $100 per acre-foot.
During last year's heated debates, some MID farmers acknowledged paying bargain prices.
Today's MID board meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the district office, 1231 11th St., Modesto.
On the Net: www.mid.org/about/board/agenda/default.html.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.