Oakdale Irrigation District to weigh selling water to MID, TID

jholland@modbee.comJuly 1, 2013 

    alternate textJohn Holland
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Agriculture, Turlock; local news editor on Sundays
    Bio: John Holland has been a reporter at The Bee for 12 years. He has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked at the Union Democrat in Sonora and the Visalia Times-Delta.
    Recent stories written by John
    E-mail: jholland@modbee.com

— The board of the Oakdale Irrigation District, an active player in the water transfer market, will talk this morning about selling to the nearby Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts.

The board will consider sending a letter that asks generally whether the MID and the TID might buy some of the OID's Stanislaus River supply.

The Oakdale district has water to sell, even during a drought, thanks to past conservation projects. It also has a canal connection to the MID, which shares Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River with the TID.

The letter does not mention the price, volume or duration of possible sales, said OID board Chairman Frank Clark, who will bring the proposal to his colleagues.

It does promote the general idea that water should stay close to home for agriculture.

"It is a community asset, and we need to make sure the community takes care of it," Clark said.

Water transfers have drawn vigorous debate in Stanislaus County over the past two years. The MID last year dropped the idea of selling to San Francisco, another Tuolumne user, after hearing claims that the long-term deals would put Modesto-area farmers and domestic users at risk in dry years.

San Francisco would have paid $700 per acre-foot — about 70 times the price for MID farmers — for up to 2,200 acre-feet in the first small sale. That is about 1 percent of the district's usual supply.

Critics preferred that the water be sold within the region for farming, even if it is at a much lower price. Last month, the MID board won praise for doing just that — a one-year sale of up to 7,000 acre-feet to the TID for $100 per acre-foot, to help it get through the dry 2013.

The OID sold water this spring to parts of the West Side where drought has hit even harder, also at $100 per acre-foot. It has discussed a one-year sale to San Francisco for next year and is negotiating a long-term sale to Brisbane, which is south of San Francisco.

The OID recently finished multiyear transfers to Stockton-area domestic users and a federal agency that used the water to boost fishery flows in the lower Stanislaus.

The income has paid for upgrades to the Oakdale district's canal system, some of which make more conserved water available for sale.

The board will meet at 9 a.m. today at the Oakdale Irrigation District office, 1205 E. F St.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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