GENERAL MANAGER’S STATEMENT
A Message from the General Manager
OID was back in Washington D.C. in late December when the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) was introduced to the House of Representatives for a vote. Being there and working the “Hill” with our neighbor SSJID was to say the least, memorable. The eventual signage of the Bill on December 16th by President Obama was a significant step forward for both the nation, California agriculture and OID and SSJID. This Bill’s passage may seem inconsequential to most but the language in the Bill contained a decade’s worth of work by OID and SSJID in getting some much needed changes that can benefit our region’s water supply.
A portion of that legislation directs actions by the federal government to improve fisheries on the Stanislaus River through a native fish improvement program. The details of the program will be worked out by July of 2017 and hopefully OID and SSJID will have permits in hand by December 2017 to introduce a predator control program on our river. There is other language in the Act that allows the districts to work with our federal partners, the Bureau of Reclamation, in discussing opening the door to storage opportunities in New Melones Dam.
Many thanks to our Congressman Jeff Denham and his Washington staff and their diligence over the last 10 years in shepherding this legislation to its eventual passage.
Unfortunately, while efforts in D.C. proved advantageous to our two districts, the home-front war with our own State Water Resources Control Board continues. The State’s plan to take 40% of all the flow in the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers to improve San Joaquin River and Delta water quality has escalated to the next level. By October 2017 the revised Plan will be out for a quick 30-day comment period with anticipated adoption before the end of the year. This water grab by the state will significantly impact our community. A summary of those impacts from this water grab are as follows;
- Currently, OID’s normal water allocation in most years is 300,000 acre feet. Under the State’s Plan that would be reduced to 240,000 acre feet annually. In addition, in 1 out of every 10 years OID’s water supply would be just 100,000 acre feet.
- A loss of 60,000 acre feet in average water years would mean OID’s ability to sell surplus water would be lost and the $5 million these sales generate annually would also be lost.
- That cost burden would be borne by our farmers. A $5 million assessment spread over our 69,000 acre district would amount to a $72 per acre increase to the current fixed rate charge of $27 per acre. That cost could potentially bring your fixed rate acreage charge to almost $100 per acre. That increase would just about eliminate pasture as an economically viable crop in our area.
- The water impact is not your total impact. That doesn’t include the devaluation of OID’s hydro-electric assets. Under the State’s flow mandate OID would be running water down through its hydro-electric plants in the winter and spring when prices are lower. OID’s hydro-plants were designed to ramp up power production in the summer when both demand and prices are higher. That lost value in generation will also be an impact to OID that will likely be passed on to its constituents.
OID is being vigilant in its efforts in keeping the pressure up on the State to rethink this water grab. Unfortunately, time is running out. It’s hard to talk to Sacramento when they don’t listen. OID’s final position on this has been, when reasonable people can’t come to reasonable solutions, that’s what courts are for. We may be heading in that direction.
Steve Knell , P.E.
(Updated August 14, 2017)