Oakdale Irrigation District to revisit idle-pasture plan

jholland@modbee.comJanuary 27, 2014 

  • 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.
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— The Oakdale Irrigation District has called a special board meeting this morning to reconsider a pasture-idling proposal that would free up water for sale to the south.

The board voted 3-2 last week to mail fliers to landowners to gauge their interest in voluntarily forgoing water deliveries for this year. The water could be sold to the Westlands Water District, west of Fresno, which is scrambling for supplies because of drastic reductions from the federal Central Valley Project.

Board president Steve Webb, who voted against the proposal, said Monday that he asked for the second look in light of the controversy it has generated in recent days.

Westlands has offered $400 per acre-foot of water, vastly more than what OID farmers pay but possibly typical of the water market in this time of severe drought. The volume of water has not been decided, nor has the number of acres that would lie fallow.

OID would give pasture owners 90 percent of the sale proceeds. The district would keep 10 percent as an administrative fee. The program would not involve farmland planted with trees or vines, which need water to survive.

Critics said OID should not sell water during a drought, especially because the district plans to rely heavily on its wells to supplement reduced flows from the Stanislaus River.

Board members Al Bairos, Jack Alpers and Herman Doornenbal voted to send out the fliers. Frank Clark joined Webb in dissenting.

Clark said Monday that he objected for a few reasons — the drought, the large size of the proposed payment to farmers, and the possible loss of irrigated pasture that could be made available to cattle ranchers dealing with dry conditions in nonirrigated rangeland.

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

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

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