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River flow plan may put SSJID water in jeopardy

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POSTED February 3, 2016 12:05 a.m.

The steady string of storms — should they continue into early March — appears to be putting South San Joaquin Irrigation District in a position to have water to match last year’s deliveries.

SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk noted current modeling on the Stanislaus River watershed has 600,000 to 800,000 acre feet of water flowing into New Melones Reservoir this water year.

The adjudicated senior water rights that SSJID holds along with the Oakdale Irrigation District provides the two agencies with the first 600,000 acre feet of run-off each year into New Melones.

While on paper the modeling puts SSJID in good shape since they get half of the 600,000 acre feet, the weather pattern can change. But even more pressing is a proposal by the State Water Resources Control Board to increase unimpaired flows from 30 percent on the Stanislaus River between January and June to 40 or 50 percent.

Given that New Melones now only 396,090 acre feet in the reservoir that has a capacity to hold 2.4 million acre feet of water and that water is still needed for river flows after July 1 as well as to meet state ordered releases for fish, attempts are likely to commander water.

Such a move could threaten SSJID and OID water deliveries.

Rietklerk stressed, however, that the SSJID intends to do what is needed to protect their legally adjudicated senior water rights.

The SSJID irrigation season historically starts in mid-March. In recent years due to the drought it has been earlier including one year when there was s rare January run.

Reitkerk said if the rains continue for the next month or so that may allow the board to push back the start of the irrigation season which in turn will conserve water for use in September and October and/or to carry over into 2017.

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