South San Joaquin Irrigation District names new general manager

Peter Rietkerk, general manager of the Patterson Irrigation District, was named Tuesday to the same post at the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

Rietkerk, 32, will succeed the retiring Jeff Shields at SSJID, which serves about 55,000 acres of farmland around Escalon, Ripon and Manteca with water from the Stanislaus River. The district also treats water for residents of Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy and aims to become the electricity retailer within its boundaries.

The SSJID board voted 5-0 to hire Rietkerk, who will start Sept. 21 at an annual salary of $175,000. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rietkirk has led the Patterson district since 2010. It serves about 12,600 acres of farmland between Highway 33 and the San Joaquin River, where it pumps out most of its water. The district also gets water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via the Delta-Mendota Canal.

Rietkerk’s work in Patterson included a $13 million set of screens that keep salmon and steelhead from being sucked into the pumps. He was an intern for the district in 2005, while working toward a bachelor’s degree in engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He also has a master’s from UC Davis and worked for West Yost Associates in Roseville.

Shields will remain with SSJID to help with the transition through Oct. 16. He has been with the district since 2004, serving as utility systems director before his 2007 promotion to general manager. He spent a total of 17 years as general manager of two electricity providers – the Emerald People’s Utility District in Oregon and the Trinity Public Utilities District in Weaverville.

Shields has been at the forefront of SSJID’s campaign to be a power retailer, an idea vigorously opposed by the current provider, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. The district and the Oakdale Irrigation District sell wholesale hydropower from four plants in the Stanislaus watershed.

SSJID has fared relatively well during the four-year drought, but this year the board imposed its first cap on farm water. It’s still much more than many California farmers are getting, but the district has raised concerns about a dry 2016 and the state curtailing long-held water rights.

The board also voted Tuesday to promote Bere Lindley, the finance and administration manager, to assistant general manager at a salary of $166,250.

John Holland: 209-578-2385