Why the Oakdale Irrigation District water deal should go ahead

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Oakdale Irrigation District Canal to Two-Mile Bar Recreation Area

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State water officials are set to approve a plan to sell up to 100,000 acre-feet of water from the Stanislaus River to thirsty buyers on the west side of the valley and south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta .

The $ 40 million deal could collapse if the US Bureau of Reclamation succeeds in blocking it. The California State Water Resources Control Board should reject the bureau’s interference for several solid reasons.

First, this drought-fighting proposal would rightly bring in $ 20 million to each of the Oakdale Irrigation District and the Southern San Joaquin Irrigation District. The proceeds would help water agencies continue to modernize canals and equipment, allowing them to conserve more water in the future.

Second, this water is desperately needed by farmers in areas where water sources are less reliable. Some are our own people in the Del Puerto Water District and the Stanislas West Irrigation District.

“They are our friends, and these guys are suffering,” said Tom Orvis, president of OID, in an interview. Other buyers are also members of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority, extending towards Fresno and Bakersfield.

Third, water is not needed by clients of OID and SSJID, an area comprising Riverbank, Oakdale, Escalon, Ripon, Manteca, and Tracy. Although drought is crippling farms from top to bottom in California, OID and SSJID producers will have enough for their needs, thanks to years of vigilant stewardship.

Fourth, the water for sale cannot be set aside in the New Melones reservoir for use in future years, due to the way the water rights are structured for the OID and SSJID ( it is different for the irrigation districts of Modesto and Turlock and their Don Pedro reservoir on the Tuolumne river). “Use it or lose it” is the mantra often cited by the OID and SSJID, and selling water elsewhere is “using it”.

Fifth, the water that OID and SSJID can sell is water that parched farms do not have to pump from aquifers to keep their orchards and crops alive. Preserving valuable groundwater is a top priority for all agencies.

Sixth, at least some water leaders with irrigation districts near Modesto and Turlock have told The Modesto Bee that they are not opposed to the OID and SSJID benefiting from this. transfer.

While MID and TID aren’t as water rich as their neighbors to the north, they’re still better off than many others in California. MID and TID customers expect to receive 36 and 34 inches of water from the Tuolumne, respectively, while those hoping to buy from OID and SSJID get nothing this year from the Central Valley federal project.

Modesto and Turlock provide moral support

“If the reasonable water needs of our basin are met, it is in the minds of the public to sell to others,” said John Mensinger of the MID board of directors of the proposed sale.

Michael Frantz, TID Board of Directors, said: “In the future, I hope there will also be opportunities to make excess water available between local agencies. It is an excellent idea.

Seventh, the water transfer allows a similar amount of cold water to be held in other reservoirs like Oroville and Shasta to be released in the fall, helping spawning salmon return to rivers from there. ‘ocean.

The OID and SSJID must keep their public promises not to harm local producers’ wells and their access to aquifers by over-pumping district wells to keep canals loaded.

Unfortunately, the Bureau – which operates New dam of Melones and controls the exits – is a formidable opponent. Over the past five years, the Bureau’s interpretation of a 1988 agreement setting out water rights over the Stanislas has called into question the impact of these transfers on federal water projects, and SSJID chief executive Peter Rietkirk said it was not known whether the Bureau had enough leverage to end the proposed sale.

The Water Resources Control Board should recognize the public value of moving water from places that have it to places that do not, especially during a deadly drought. This is good policy, it benefits all parties involved and it makes sense.

This story was originally published June 23, 2021 4:00 a.m.

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