Don Pedro dam upgrade, solar rebates on MID board agenda

08/04/2014 4:57 PM

08/04/2014 6:22 PM

A proposed $87 million upgrade of the 43-year-old power plant at Don Pedro Reservoir will headline Tuesday morning’s Modesto Irrigation District board meeting.

MID and its larger partner, the Turlock Irrigation District, own the power plant and reservoir, which serves as primary storage for mountain snowmelt feeding crops of a combined 8,000 growers who farm 208,000 acres across much of Stanislaus County.

The districts have applied for a new hydropower license from the federal government, a multi-year process costing at least $50 million that could result in more Tuolumne River water benefiting fish at the expense of farmers. A decision is expected in 2019.

A separate engineering assessment suggests that the districts spend up to $87 million improving tunnels, gates and spillways. MID would be responsible for $27 million, or 32 percent, representing its share of the water and power.

The districts would issue bonds to cover the cost, repaying investors over 30 years with a portion of customers’ electricity bills.

MID gets about 10 percent of the power it sells to 113,000 customers from Don Pedro, and TID, about twice that. They burn natural gas and rely on wind and solar power for the rest.

The upgrade could extend the power plant’s life by three to five decades.

The sister districts were formed in 1887 to secure river rights. They built the first Don Pedro Reservoir in 1923 with help from San Francisco, which has some storage interest. A new dam capable of holding 2 million acre-feet of water followed in 1971, although it’s less than half full because of a three-year drought.

The MID board also is expected to discuss solar rebates to be offered in 2015.

Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the board chamber at 1231 11th St., Modesto. For more information, see www.mid.org/about/board/agenda.

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