Oakdale Irrigation District to sell more water to Westlands

05/07/2013 1:03 PM

05/02/2014 3:52 PM

The Oakdale Irrigation District board agreed Tuesday to sell more water to drought-wracked farms west of Fresno, as long as its customers are not left short.

The board voted 5-0 to sell up to 40,000 acre-feet from the Stanislaus River to the Westlands Water District, which is dealing with severe cutbacks in federal deliveries.

The price is $175 per acre-foot, up from the $100 discussed earlier and far more than what OID farmers pay. The district could make as much as $7 million in the one-year deal for use on canal upgrades and other work.

The water will be delivered in summer at a volume that depends on watershed conditions and OID customer needs.

"I just want to be really careful that we have plenty for our own constituents," board member Steve Webb said.

The OID has water for a possible sale despite the dry conditions, thanks to strong river rights and conservation.

The district already is selling up to 40,000 acre-feet this spring to Westlands and other districts from the Tracy area south. This sale, at $100 per acre-foot, is matched by an equal amount from the neighboring South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

The water is being delivered via the Stanislaus River, timed to help young salmon get out to sea. The summer sale also would be via the river, ending in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where huge state and federal pumps draw water for the west valley.

The OID has been an active player in California's water market, which emerged in the 1980s to allow flush agencies to meet the needs of those running short.

The district recently reached the end of one transfer to Stockton-area domestic users and another to boost lower Stanislaus fish flows.

The OID is negotiating to sell San Francisco a dry-year backup for 2014 and to sell long-term water to the small Bay Area city of Brisbane.

The Modesto Irrigation District last year dropped plans to sell water to San Francisco, after critics raised concerns about shortages during drought.

OID General Manager Steve Knell said the district likely can get its full supply of 300,000 acre-feet on the Stanislaus this year despite the drought, under the agreement that governs operation of the federal New Melones Reservoir.

Westlands has a contract for up to 1.15 million acre-feet per year from the federal Delta-Mendota Canal. It has received 100 percent of that amount only three times in the past 20 years because of drought and efforts to protect delta fish from pumping.

This year, Westlands is getting just 20 percent, or 230,000 acre-feet. It has turned to water sellers, such as the OID, and increased groundwater use.

OID board member Jack Al-pers said the Westlands sale is ideal for his district.

"We don't have to deliver it unless we have the water left over," he said.

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

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