Turlock Irrigation District holds off on next step toward treatment plant

04/01/2014 5:23 PM

04/01/2014 6:25 PM

The board of the Turlock Irrigation District will take another week to consider the next small step toward a water treatment plant that would serve three cities.

Directors on Tuesday were scheduled to vote on designating General Manager Casey Hashimoto as their negotiator for the transfer of some of TID’s Tuolumne River water to Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto.

The board agreed to wait until next week so it could further discuss whether TID should own and operate the plant, which had been the plan until 2009, or sell raw water to a plant owned and run by the cities.

The delay is one more wrinkle in a discussion that has taken place off and on since the 1980s. Officials said then that treated river water could reduce their reliance on wells, which can be prone to overpumping and pollution. The project has been stymied by concerns about greatly increased water bills for consumers, and TID cited financial reasons for pulling back from a central role in 2009.

Meanwhile, just across the river, the rest of Modesto has received treated Tuolumne water from the Modesto Irrigation District for nearly 20 years. That plant has been credited with boosting aquifers, and major expansion will add even more river water.

At first, Tuesday’s vote was to involve the amount, price and duration for the sale of raw water for treatment by the cities. District board member Rob Santos said Hashimoto’s instructions as the negotiator should include the possibility of TID ownership of the proposed plant.

That would not pose a problem, said Steve Stroud, general manager of the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, formed by the three cities to pursue the project.

He said the plant could be running as soon as 2020. The cost was roughly estimated at $150 million in 2011, but Stroud said that needs to be updated.

The plant would be built on a TID-owned site close to where Geer Road crosses the Tuolumne. Large pipelines would run to Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto, all of them within the district boundary. The project had involved Hughson, Denair, Keyes, Hilmar and Delhi, but they are not part of the current plan.

Stroud said the plant could benefit the river’s struggling salmon because some of the water now diverted upstream at La Grange for farming would flow all the way to Geer.

The board will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the district office, 333 E. Canal Drive, Turlock.

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