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SSJID plans to join organization PG&E belongs to for mutual aid

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POSTED September 14, 2009 2:12 a.m.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District – should they enter the retail power distribution business – has a contingency plan if a major winter storm or some other disaster plays havoc with the power system.

The Manteca-based agency plans to join the California Utilities Emergency Association as outlined in their application to enter retail power service being made to the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission.

At least one speaker from PG&E raised questions about the SSJID being too small to handle a major emergency should they enter the retail power business.

SSJID will be in good company as a CUEA  member. Nearby members include the City of Lodi, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Modesto Irrigation District, Turlock Irrigation District and PG&E itself.

The CUEA was charted in 1952 as part of the state’s Civil Defense Plan. Members basically offer mutual assistance to each other during emergency periods.

The application to LAFCO is also being reviewed by the Manteca City Council on Tuesday when they meet to take a position on whether to support SSJID in their bid to enter the retail power business. The council meets at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

PG&E has criticized the staffing component of the SSJID application specifically the fact they are planning on hiring only 11 linemen – two four-person line crews and three journeymen troublemen.

Actually, the document reads “SSJID expects to initially hire 68 fulltime experienced eclectic utility staff to supplement its existing staff including an operations manager, two full-time four-person line crews, and three journeyman troublemen. Additional personnel required for start-up operations will be hired, on a contract basis, as needed.

It is similar to what PG&E does. For example, two of the local natural gas division workers they have that check and turn on pilot lights are contracted retired PG&E workers.

SSJID board member John Holbrook responded to concerns voiced at the Sept. 3 district meeting that 11 linemen weren’t enough based on the professional judgment of PG&E workers who do the same work by noting the board will simply hire more linemen if that is the case.

The performa the SSJID has put in place can easily accommodate additional employees without straying from their goal of reducing power rates by 15 percent across the board.

Not initially over hiring is part of a strategy over the first full year of operations that SSJID is planning. The district intends to adjust its actual organization based on actual operational experiences with the goal of optimizing economic and operational efficiencies, improving response time, reducing the number and duration of outages, and improving overall customer satisfaction levels people now have with PG&E.

Some of the persistent outage problems may go away with the investment SSJID will make upfront to modernize aging segments of the existing PG&E system that services Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon.

SSJID also will initially contract with some nearby districts to make sure various components are running full speed when they hit the ground. As an example, they may have Modesto Irrigation District initially administer the Public Benefits Program to ensure implementation of important and renewable investments. Ultimately, SSJID will assume full control of such operations in house.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

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