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SSJID ponders irrigation season’s start

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POSTED March 21, 2016 1:38 a.m.

An extremely dry winter in 2012 prompted the South San Joaquin irrigation District to make a rare early January water run to prevent irreversible damage from happening to orchards and vineyards.

Now four years later the SSJID board could feasibly go to the other extreme — delaying the start of the irrigation season until April — thanks to March rain.

The SSJID board meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the district office, 11001 East Highway 120, to revisit a decision made earlier this month to delay the start of the irrigation season until March 25.

Originally the board had set the start date for March 16. At the March 8 meeting, the SJJID board pushed back the original start date by 16 days to March 24 based on a recent storm at the time and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s prediction there was a high probability for significant rain in the ensuing week.

From March 1-13, the Stockton Airport gauge has recorded 3.51 inches of rain. The NOAA indicated last week there was a 40 percent chance of rain of between 0.1 and 0.2 inches from the system currently passing through the South County. The NOAA also anticipates a 40 percent chance of rain around March 28.

It is possible if various ground moisture readings throughout the district are high enough, the board could push the start of the irrigation back further.

Even though there has been strong snowfall in the Sierra and decent rain in the valley, the Stanislaus River watershed that feeds reservoirs operated by SSJID in conjunction with Oakdale Irrigation District as well as New Melones hasn’t benefitted as much as is the case with the rest of the central and southern Sierra watersheds. Last week Shasta was at 80 percent capacity while New Melones was at 22 percent.

The districts also need to refill their conservation account at New Melones in order to have adequate water for roll over if this year ends up being simply a pause in the drought.

The SSJID is also facing state efforts to significantly increase unimpaired flows on the Stanislaus that could have an impact on available water.

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