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Feds grant $1M toward state-of-art SSJID system
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Ripon-Manteca farmer Bob Brocchini tells U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan the value of timely irrigation water with the federally backed project in his almond orchards is a win-win-win project for his farm on the west end of Doak Road in Ripon. Brocchini made seven acres of orchard available for a water reservoir for the project. - photo by GLENN KAHL

RIPON - A state-of-the art pressured agricultural irrigation system serving farmland west of Ripon and south of Manteca that is expected to cost almost $13 million is receiving a $1 million federal grant.

Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan made the announcement Wednesday morning to a group of farmers gathered in an orchard of Manteca-Ripon almond grower Bob Brocchini at his property at the end of Doak Road in Ripon.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District SSJID has been working on the engineering phase of the project for the last three years. The SSJID has signed on 100 percent of its growers in the Division 9 area after it became known they could have water when their crops are in need either by computer – or by calling their ditch tender as they have done since 1909.

SSJID staffers said they have spent a considerable amount of time meeting with their growers in the area explaining the values in the new pressurized irrigation system.  

“This will allow us to get water to the crops when they need it – a new concept,” said board member Dave Kamper.

Salinity in the ground waters has plagued farmers especially in the more sandy soil west of Ripon that edges into Manteca’s South Manteca Road.  The multi-million  ollar project is expected to reduce the demand for groundwater and will reduce the need for flood irrigation to those farmers within the boundaries of Division 9.

As the event was being set up in Brocchini’s Ripon orchard location, contractors were filling the SSJID board room for a pre-bid meeting that promises to put numerous  workers  on the job to install on the 24-inch pressurized pipeline.  By 11 a.m. the contractors made their way into the project area and had a walking tour through the orchards where the pipes will be laid underground alongside existing ditches and pipes.

The nine-month construction effort is scheduled to begin July 1 with a completion date of March of 2012 to serve 3,800 acres from Mohler Road on the east to South Manteca Road on the west.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields said the project will dramatically reduce agricultural water use by some 50 percent within the 3,800 acres of project area and hopefully will establish a benchmark for similar projects throughout the district’s service territory.

The Division 9 project consists of two seven acre storage basins, pump stations and about 30 miles of pipeline.  Shields said the new system will capture irrigation runoff and divert water into the reservoirs for future added irrigation.  Brocchini made one of those seven acre parcels available in his orchard.

“It also incorporates automated control and metering technology allowing for precise measurement and counting of water use,” he said.  “The projects anticipated results include reduced costs for farmers from reduced groundwater pumping; more flexibility and efficiency in water delivery for growers using flood or sprinkler applications.”

Shield promised enhanced crop production, improved water quality and a net reduction in water use.  

SSJID has a standing water use allocation of 300,000 acre feet for area farmers annually, but that is controlled by the amount of wet weather in the valley during the winter and spring months.