TID candidates debate water, power issues

jholland@modbee.comOctober 10, 2013 

Candidates for the Turlock Irrigation District board talked Thursday night about assuring the future water supply – and about a break in the power supply one weekend last year that still is controversial.

The Latino Community Roundtable held a forum in Turlock for the four candidates running for two seats in the Nov.5 election.

Incumbent Ron Macedo faces Darrel Monroe in an area from south Turlock to the Merced River. Incumbent Joe Alamo is challenged by Dan Agundez in the northwest part of the district.

The blackout affected only about 50 customers, but it went on for 45 hours as TID management tried without success to reach its line crews. Some people speculated that a still-going contract dispute had something to do with it.

Monroe, a retired TID ditch tender, said wives of the linemen long had complained about their long hours.

“I believe these guys were just overworked,” he said. “It was getting unsafe.”

Monroe said the private company later hired to back up the TID crews is costing the district too much money.

Macedo and Alamo defended the contractor as a way to assure that the power stays on.

Agundez, who worked for 40 years in the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. power system, also opposes using the contractor.

“We have a local work force that’s really qualified to do the job,” he said.

The rest of the forum, which drew about 75 people to the Turlock Chamber of Commerce office, dealt mostly with water issues.

Alamo, a dairy farmer, said he would fight a state proposal to boost flows in the Tuolumne River at the expense of irrigators.

“It’s going to affect our citizens and our community,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can as a board member to stop that water grab they’re trying to have.”

Macedo, an almond grower, agreed. “We’re getting our message out,” he said. “We’re showing how sustainable we are and how important water is to this area.”

Agundez said the water “belongs to the citizens of this valley, the farmers, yourselves.”

He also said the district needs to take a deeper look into whether its use of groundwater is depleting private wells.

Monroe said the TID needs to reduce the amount of pumping it does early in the irrigation season, when more river water is available.

Alamo said the district has monitored groundwater for about 90 years, and some parts of it have a water table so high that it has to be pumped so crops can be grown.

Macedo also defended the groundwater management.

“With our current flood irrigation system, we recharge more water than we take out,” he said.

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