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March 30, 2014

TID might take step on Tuolumne river water plant

A proposed treatment plant for Tuolumne River water could reduce reliance on wells in Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto.

The Turlock Irrigation District board could take a small step Tuesday toward a proposed Tuolumne River treatment plant serving three cities.

The board will consider appointing General Manager Casey Hashimoto to negotiate the possible transfer of some of TID’s farm water for use in Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto.

The four parties have revived the decades-old idea of using treated river water to reduce reliance on wells, which are prone in some places to overpumping and contaminants. This has been done for nearly 20 years in the part of Modesto north of the Tuolumne, via a treatment plant supplied by the Modesto Irrigation District.

Hashimoto would represent TID at the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, created by the cities to pursue the treatment plant. The terms would include the amount of water, the price and the duration of the transfer, as well as the price for the TID-owned land where the plant would be built.

The plant, proposed near the Geer Road bridge over the river, has been discussed off and on since the 1980s. A rough estimate in 2011 put the cost at $141 million to $150 million, which would be covered by customer rates and possibly grant money.

“TID believes it is in the best interest of the region and our mutual customers to build a surface water treatment facility to supply drinking water to the cities of Ceres, Turlock and Modesto and any neighboring communities who wish to participate,” Hashimoto said in a memo to the board.

TID also is looking into getting highly treated wastewater from Turlock in exchange for giving up some of its river supply. The city in January was close to selling some of the wastewater to the Del Puerto Water District, a stretch of farmland along Interstate 5 that is especially hard-hit by the drought. The City Council has agreed to delay the sale, over Del Puerto’s objection, so TID’s request could be discussed.

The TID board Tuesday also will get its weekly update on watershed conditions, which have improved slightly with the recent rain and snow. As of Sunday, the snowpack in the central Sierra Nevada stood at 35 percent of average, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

The board last month capped 2014 water deliveries at 20 inches per acre, about 40 percent of the accustomed amount, although farmers can add up to 4 inches if needed to complete their last irrigation in October. The canals had been set to start flowing March 27, but that was postponed to Thursday of this week because of recent storms.

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