Farmers in the Turlock Irrigation District could see water prices more than double under a proposal going before its board Tuesday morning.
Directors will consider launching the process for rate hikes that would result in a typical bill of $17.50 per acre-foot in a normal year, up from $8.25 now. The typical dry-year charge would be $36.50 per acre-foot, up from $15.50.
Under state law, the proposal could not go through if more than half of the affected customers protest before or at a public hearing, which the staff would like to hold Jan. 13. Successful protests have been rare around the state since the law was enacted.
The increase is needed to cover the cost of operating and upgrading the canal system, said a memo to the board from Brad Koehn, civil engineering department manager.
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“A survey of our neighboring irrigation districts shows that many agencies are increasing, or planning to increase, their irrigation rates,” he wrote. “Even with the proposed increases, TID’s rates are below average when compared with local irrigation district rates.”
TID and the Modesto Irrigation District, which share Don Pedro Reservoir on the Tuolumne River, have long had some of the lowest rates in the state. The differences were even more pronounced this year, when some farmers in the San Joaquin Valley paid several hundred dollars per acre-foot for outside water because of drastic cutbacks by federal and state systems.
TID’s proposed normal-year charge assumes 4 acre-feet of water per acre over the irrigation season, which is plenty for the vast majority of farmers. The dry-year charge assumes 2 acre-feet per acre, a little more than the district delivered from the river and wells in the very dry 2014 season.
The actual allotment is set each spring, based on rain, snow and reservoir storage. An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre a foot deep.
TID supplies about 4,900 farmers on about 150,000 acres stretching from south Modesto to north Merced County and from the lower Sierra Nevada foothills to the San Joaquin River.
The district also has proposed a 5 percent average rate increase for its electricity customers, the subject of a Dec. 2 hearing. Those 98,000 customers are within the TID boundaries and also the Patterson and Diablo Grande areas. Power rates are not subject to the protest process used for irrigators.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2385.
WANT TO ATTEND?
WHAT: Turlock Irrigation District board
WHEN: 9 a.m. Tuesday
WHERE: District office, 333 E. Canal Drive, Turlock