Oakdale Irrigation District agrees to help neighbor districts if needed

jholland@modbee.comJuly 2, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    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

— Should the water situation worsen for the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, they have a neighbor willing to help out.

The board of the Oakdale Irrigation District agreed Tuesday to offer some of its Stanislaus River water for sale to the MID and the TID, which share Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River.

The offer also went to San Francisco, which draws from higher on the Tuolumne and already was talking with the OID about a possible supplement for next year.

The water could help these agencies get through a drought that threatens to go into a third year in 2014. The offer, conveyed in a letter approved unanimously by the OID board, does not specify amounts or prices.

Michael Frantz, the Turlock board president, said he appreciated the offer.

"I think that our farmers are best served by having options," he said.

The TID already is buying up to 7,000 acre-feet of water from the MID to help it through this summer — 4 percent of the Modesto district's usual supply. The price of $100 per acre-foot is about 10 times what MID farmers pay.

MID board President Nick Blom said his district will get through this year with enough water, but a longer drought could create a need for OID water.

Conservation projects have left the Oakdale district with water to sell, an enviable position during a drought that has many San Joaquin Valley districts scrambling for supplies.

The water could be delivered via an existing connection across the OID-MID boundary near Claribel Road. If it is being sold to the TID, then the MID simply could allow the Turlock district to take an equal amount out of Don Pedro.

The offer letter was proposed by OID board Chairman Frank Clark.

"This situation presents a potential opportunity to maximize the supply and storage of water in our regionally interconnected systems," it reads.

The OID has marketed water in recent years to pay for major upgrades to its canal system while keeping its farmers' rates low.

It sold about 40,000 acre-feet this spring to parts of the West Side where shortages are especially severe, at $100 per acre-foot.

The district recently reached the end of multi-year sales that provided domestic water to the Stockton area and fishery flows in the lower Stanislaus.

The OID is negotiating a long-term sale to Brisbane, a tiny town just south of San Francisco, along with the one-year sale to the larger city.

The MID had proposed its own long-term sales to San Francisco. The idea withered last year in the face of protests from people claiming that it would leave Modesto-area farmers and domestic users short in dry years. The price would have been $700 per acre-foot in the first sale.

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

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