Stanislaus County leaders appoint groundwater committee

kcarlson@modbee.comFebruary 4, 2014 


    Stanislaus County supervisors took the following action Tuesday:

    •  Approved agreements giving salary increases to certain county employees; in exchange, employees will pick up their share of contributions for pension benefits. The agreement affects custodial deputies, sheriff’s supervisors, district attorney’s investigators and probation officers. Supervisor Dick Monteith dissented in the 4-1 vote because the deal will increase the county’s costs for payroll taxes and pensions by $1.4 million annually.

    •  Approved creation of a city-county liaison committee to maintain good relations with Turlock.

A 21-member Water Advisory Committee was appointed Tuesday and will start to work later this month on Stanislaus County’s groundwater problems.

County supervisors approved the 15 nominees whose names were released Friday and added two members to the community-at-large seats: Alfred Bairos, an Oakdale Irrigation District board member; and Cooper Rossiter, who works in sales and operations for Don Pedro Pump. Farm Bureau Executive Director Wayne Zipser and Tom Orvis of the Agricultural Advisory Board were given two permanent seats on the panel; Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim DeMartini and Water Resources Manager Walter Ward are nonvoting members.

DeMartini deferred to Supervisors Bill O’Brien and Vito Chiesa to nominate applicants for the two final seats because they represent districts considered hot spots for groundwater overdrafting.

Bairos, who was nominated by O’Brien, brings another irrigation district representative to the panel. The appointees included Larry Byrd of the Modesto Irrigation District board and Rob Santos, a board member for Turlock Irrigation District.

Other appointees are: Mike Lynch, a political consultant; Modesto Councilman Bill Zoslocki; Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra; Oakdale Councilman Don Peterson; Turlock Councilman Forrest White; Thomas Smith of E.&J. Gallo Winery; Richard Gemperle, a partner in Gemperle Farms; Jim Mortensen, who served on the MID water advisory committee; Sean Roddy, a well driller; Raynold Kablanow, a hydrogeologist; Francisco Canela of West Coast Grape Farming; Oakdale farmer Louis Brichetto; and Neil Hudson of Stanislaus Water Coalition.

John Duarte, who opposed MID’s proposed water sale to San Francisco two years ago, suggested that Lynch’s appointment would undermine public trust in the committee. Duarte said Lynch worked as a consultant for MID as potential surface water transfers were negotiated with San Francisco. MID dropped the proposal in 2012.

Duarte, president of Duarte Nursery, said he was uniquely qualified to serve on the committee. But he was among the 26 applicants who didn’t receive a nomination from supervisors. Some of those applicants will participate on a technical advisory panel.

Later Tuesday, Lynch replied that his work for MID has been misunderstood. “My contract with MID started well before the water sale,” Lynch said, explaining he initially was hired to rally opinion makers for the relicensing hearings for Don Pedro Reservoir.

Lynch said he serves on the Turlock Chamber of Commerce’s government affairs committee, which shares that city’s concern about groundwater. “My total stake in this is as a resident of Turlock who pays his utility bill and TID bill. We need to pull together because our agricultural economy is at risk,” Lynch said.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at or (209) 578-2321.

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