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Weary eye cast on water bond

SSJID board discussing impacts on Tuesday

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POSTED November 9, 2009 3:00 a.m.

The $11.1 billion water bond rolled out last week by the California Legislature will have a major impact on South San Joaquin Irrigation District and the rest of the county.

That’s why the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board during Tuesday’s 9 a.m. meeting at district offices at 11011 East Highway 120 will be discussing the water bond legislation.

South County concerns range from the formation of a seven-member Delta Commission that would essentially answer to no one such as the Air Resources Board and the California Coastal Commission to what will happen to water rights on the Stanislaus River where water is secured for farms in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon as well as urban uses in Manteca, Tracy, Lathrop and eventually Ripon and Escalon. Then there is the issue of what will become of water users – and farmers within the Delta. More than 70 percent of the state’s water supply passes through the Delta. Past solutions have run the gamut from flooding many of the manmade islands to bypassing the Delta with a peripheral canal. Any one of those solutions will drastically reduce agriculture which not only serves as San Joaquin County’s No. 1 industry but also its No. 1 source of jobs.

“I’ve heard the proposed Delta Commission referred to as the Coastal Commission on steroids,” noted SSJID board chairman Dave Kamper.

The potential for Coastal Commission style edicts controlling local agriculture and even urban development in San Joaquin County could have long-range ramifications.

The SSJID is concerned about protecting its historical rights to Stanislaus River water that are considered superior along with those of the Oakdale Irrigation District.

It all revolves around who gets how much water from New Melones Reservoir. In order to build new Melones, SSJID and OID agreed to allow the federal government to replace Melones Dam that the two agencies completed in 1926. The new reservoir was completed in 1979.

When New Melones was completed, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation overcommitted its storage capacity. There is a concern that the new water plan could cut into SSJID and OID supplies plus commit even more water that isn’t in New Melones to other areas of the state.

The bond includes $3 billion for new storage including reservoirs and groundwater banking, $2 billion to restore the Delta ecosystem, a conservation requirement to reduce urban water use 20 percent by 2020, creating a seven-member commission to oversee the Delta, and putting in place new regulations to measure groundwater levels.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail dwyatt@mantecabulelltin.com

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