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Gain of 23,058 urban residents is challenge
The South San Joaquin Irrigation District is governed by five board members who are elected from divisions reapportioned every 10 years based on population.

South San Joaquin Irrigation District is months away from a key public hearing that could make it a household name to more than 28,000 urban households in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon as a provider of retail electricity.

And also in the coming months the SSJID board will be redrawing division lines to reflect 23,058 new residents in those three cities as the 72,000-acre district continues its 102-year trend of population moving from a rural base to urbanized centers.

The SSJID board on Tuesday will discuss the possible retention of a consultant to help the district reapportion the five divisions when they meet at 9 a.m. at the district office, 11011 East Highway 120.

Census tract figures reflect minimum gains in rural portions of the district but big gains in urban areas.

From the 2000 to 2010 census:

•Manteca went from 49,258 to 67,096 residents.

•Ripon went from 10,146 to 14,297 residents.

•Escalon went from 5,963 to 7,132 residents.

Manteca’s net gain of 17,738 residents was three times that of Ripon and Escalon combined. Ripon gained 4,151 residents and Escalon added 1,169 residents.

The trick is to distribute the population gain to keep each division with a healthy mix of urban and rural residents.

Should the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission give the green light for SSJID to pursue its quest to take over the retail system and reduce power rates by 15 percent, each division director will become the ear for thousands of urban and rural power costumers who may have concerns and complaints. Right now, the five directors field calls routinely from farmers with concerns about irrigation water deliveries the district provides

Four of the current five directors - John Holbrook, Dave Kamper, Dave Kuil, and Ralph Roos - all represent existing parts of the City of Manteca. If all the district had to contend with were those four districts, boundaries would be fairly close to what they are today as the population gain of Manteca and Ripon combined of 21,889 would translate into 5,472 per district. That would mean Ripon’s gain of 4,151 residents could allow a reconfigured maps with Roos still representing all of Ripon and a bit less of Manteca.

The big wild card is the Division 1 seat now held by Robert Holmes. The gain in Escalon was only 1,169. In dividing the total population gain by five board seats, Division 1 would need to add 5,472 more residents or 4,303 people. That in all likelihood would almost cannibalize large swaths of the western portion of the divisions east of Manteca that Kamper and Roos represent that is now predominately in farm use.

About the only way to keep farmland balanced as well as the attention of directors divided proportionately between urban and rural customers especially as the district enters the retail power business, the Escalon division would have to include part of urbanized Manteca. In doing so, that would force major movements in rural boundaries for the other four remaining districts.

If the board opted not to try to keep a balance between urban and rural farm interests in all five districts, they could create two - or even three - completely urban districts for the City of Manteca. That however would severely shift the primary focus of at least two if not three board members to primarily urban issues. That scenario is highly unlikely since none of the five board members that includes four farmers reside within the City of Manteca.

The SSJID board takes an active role in working with its current customers who are primarily farmers. That would still be the case when retail power is added to the district’s repertoire of services although the intensity of the interaction isn’t expected to be the same.