In the past, Modesto Irrigation District was known for its arrogance and secrecy. That all started to change with the elections of Larry Byrd and Nick Blom. Unfortunately, sinister secrecy from staff is starting to rise again. Last fall, MID wrote checks to individuals totaling $540,000 for 2,700 acre feet of water ($200 per acre foot) and refuses to say who received the money. Recent public record requests have been denied or so heavily redacted that they are worthless.
MID has a “special” contract with Bill Lyons, allowing him to pump all the all water that reaches his farm for free. MID Director John Mensinger stated in an MID meeting he was aware of the contract. In another “drought” program MID allowed farmers to sell unused water to other farmers without any restrictions against pumping groundwater to replace the surface water they sold. Lyons was a major player in this program, selling 3,300 acre feet.
MID refers to water as a public resource but then refuses to tell the public who is the beneficiary of their programs. It’s time for openness, not business as usual.
Emerson Drake, Modesto