Tuolumne Utilities District OKs deal for SSJID water

jholland@modbee.comMarch 11, 2014 

  • SSJID POSTPONES START

    The somewhat wet March has prompted the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to delay the start of farm water deliveries to Monday. It had been set to begin March 3 but has been postponed twice. The district board approved the latest date Tuesday.

Final approval came Tuesday for a water sale aimed at keeping a Sonora-area supplier from running out this year.

The board of the Tuolumne Utilities District voted 5-0 for an agreement under which the South San Joaquin Irrigation District will provide 2,400 acre-feet of water through September.

The cost of $200 per acre-foot will be borne by the Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California, which owns a casino in Jamestown. The SSJID board approved the agreement last week.

“Our tribal council was in a position to arrange for this purchase and to help the people and communities of Tuolumne County,” Chairwoman Melissa Powell said in a news release. “We’re just glad we could help the people who are our friends, family and neighbors.”

The water is just 1 percent of SSJID’s expected supply this year for its farmers and domestic users in southern San Joaquin County. The district, which draws from the Stanislaus River, is faring better in the extreme drought than most other areas.

TUD, which serves about 44,000 people, expects to run short of its usual supply from Pinecrest Lake and Lyons Reservoir on the Stanislaus’ south fork. It has ordered customers to limit landscape watering to “life maintenance” as part of an effort to cut demand in half. It usually is about 17,000 acre-feet per year.

TUD will pump the water from New Melones Reservoir to the Columbia-area portion of its system. It also serves Jamestown, Sonora, East Sonora, Phoenix Lake, Tuolumne and several other communities.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted in the news release that the TUD customers include 22 employees of the Tri-Dam Project, a hydropower system his district owns jointly with the Oakdale Irrigation District.

“This drought is serious,” he said. “We’ve been blessed with securing and adjudicating water rights and being able to invest in facilities and conservation projects needed over the years to secure a good source of water. That’s not the case for the upper end of our watershed. Our board believes helping the people of Tuolumne County is a moral obligation.”

Shields said his agency is forgoing water sales to other parts of the Valley this year, a market where prices range from $400 to $1,350 per acre-foot because of short supplies.

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

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