MODESTO — The letter wasn't worded quite this informally, but basically it said:
Dear Neighbors, We didn't realize you might be in trouble. We have enough water for our own needs this year and actually some to spare. If you need some water this year, we'd be happy to talk to you about it. And ditto for next year if the rainfall is again low.
This is the substance of the message that the Oakdale Irrigation District is sending the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts and it is a most welcome gesture. It's also interesting to note that the same letter also is going to the president of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission because the city is not just a far-off urban entity to be disdained but a partner with the MID and TID in the Tuolumne River system.
The OID has been transferring aka selling water for more than a dozen years as a way to finance improvements in its canal system. The OID board developed a broad policy about such transfers and then entertained proposals in a businesslike way. The OID isn't offering the water for free, but has a generous offer that has no appearance of gouging. This sentence, verbatim from the letter, reads: "OID is not looking for payment for the water. Rather OID is proposing to move the water now and if any of the entities on the Tuolumne River Basin are able to use the water this year or next, OID and that entity would arrive at mutually agreeable payment terms at that time. If the water spills or is otherwise not used, OID would not be reimbursed."
What a classy and prudent move by the OID board.
On the subject of water, an opportunity to learn
There's a lot of heated rhetoric about fracking and whether it presents a great economic opportunity or a great environmental threat to California. For those who want to learn more and to hear the pros and cons from a recognized expert, the Modesto Area Partners in Science has lined up a presentation by Mark Nechodom, director of the California Department of Conservation and the so-called fracking "czar" of California.
His agency will have a key role in crafting California's regulations governing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, an energy extraction process that involves blasting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into the ground.
So this is a mark-your-calendar alert: Nechodom will speak at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 in the Mary Stuart Rogers Student Center on the Modesto Junior College West Campus. For a bio on Nechodom, go to http://is.gd/pat4ia.
And then an opportunity to help others learn
The Stanislaus Literacy Center has put out a call for volunteers to help people learn to read and write. Forty students are on a waiting list for a tutor. Training will be offered Wednesday from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ReadingWorks Learning Center. There is a $10 cost for training materials. The fee can be waived if requested. To sign up for the orientation and training session, call (209) 558-4505. Tutors are asked to meet for a minimum of 90 minutes, twice a week in a public location. More information regarding the programs offered, volunteering and donating can be found at www.readingworks.net.
Useful training about ethanol
Local fire chiefs have been concerned about the possibility of a fire at the ethanol plant in Keyes and frustrated that the company hasn't done more to train and equip local fire agencies.
We doubt it's a full answer, but we're pleased to see that the Renewable Fuels Association is co-hosting several ethanol safety seminars in California this month, including a session July 12 and 13 at the Modesto Junior College Fire Training Center in Modesto. The free seminars are designed for people who respond to ethanol-related emergencies as well as those who work at fixed facilities and transport fuel. But the sessions are open to the public. To register for this seminar, go to www.rfa.traincaster.com.
The challenges in fighting an ethanol mishap include the fact that the fuel burns blue, rather than red, making it harder to detect than a typical fire, and that it requires specialized equipment and foam.
Most ethanol is shipped by rail, which is why the railroads are so interested. The Keyes plant is right along Highway 99 and the Union Pacific tracks.
Odds and ends ...
Say it isn't so: Now that the Fourth of July is behind us, it's time to ... get ready for school again. As of Monday, it will be just one month until classes resume for students in the Modesto City Schools, Oakdale and some other districts. But maybe that's good news for some parents, or even youngsters eager to get out of the house and back with their friends.
But there is time for a little more fun, and we think some of it can be found at the Stanislaus County Fair, which opens its 10-day run Friday.