Turlock area takes key step to protect groundwater

A new agency is starting to fall into place with the mission of protecting groundwater in the Turlock Irrigation District.

The district’s board voted Tuesday to take part in an effort that also would include cities and other public entities that pump wells within TID’s boundaries.

The agency, serving an area from south Modesto to Hilmar, would carry out a 2014 state law that mandates sustainable groundwater use within a quarter-century.

“This is a milestone in getting all of these entities to work together,” TID spokesman Calvin Curtin said.

TID and the city of Turlock each would cover 40 percent of the cost of the agency, Tou Her, assistant general manager for water resources, said before the vote.

Much smaller portions would fall to the cities of Ceres, Modesto and Hughson; to water suppliers serving the unincorporated towns of Denair, Delhi and Hilmar; and to Stanislaus and Merced county governments.

The agency also would have four “associate” members with $2,000 annual fees but no voting rights – Hickman, Keyes, Stevinson and the Monterey Park Tract, west of Turlock.

The partners plan to meet Dec. 16 to vote on forming the new entity, to be called the West Turlock Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Agency. It would hold a public hearing in March and undergo a three-month review by the California Department of Water Resources.

The agency could get final approval in June, then would work over three to five years on a detailed plan for sustainable groundwater use. The plan would look at current pumping levels, recharge from storms and irrigation, and possible projects that help ensure healthy aquifers.

The plan would be done in cooperation with the East Turlock Subbasin Groundwater Sustaianability Agency, which includes an area generally east of Ballico.

Other such agencies would do plans for the West Side, the part of Modesto north of the Tuolumne River, and other parts of Northern San Joaquin Valley.

John Holland: 209-578-2385