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Hearing may lead to eminent domain for PG&E system
POWER2 12-31-11 copy
Wholesale power has been flowing in these high power lines for more than 60 years from the Tri-Dam Project SSJID operates jointly with Oakdale Irirgation District. - photo by HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

Some 107 years after South County residents embraced the then bold move to form the South San Joaquin Irrigation District, secure what are now senior water rights on the Stanislaus River watershed, and build the first in a series of reservoirs that powered economy growth and prosperity for over a century, the current SSJID board is posed to make another milestone decision.
The SSJID board is meeting Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the Ripon City Hall council chambers, 259 N. Wilma Ave., for a pubic hearing to consider a resolution of necessity.
An affirmative vote will set in motion eminent domain proceedings as allowed under California law for SSJID acquiring all of PG&E’s distribution facilities within the 72,000-acre district for the expressed purpose of reduceing electrical rates by at least 15 percent in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon and in the surrounding countryside. The hearing comes on the heels of PG&E refusing to negotiate a sales price with SSJID.
SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk noted an affirmative vote by the board would set in motion a court case that first determines whether SSJID under California law can acquire the PG&E system of which the state constitution is clear and then the court hammering out a price.
Rietkerk stressed that once a price is reached, the board has made it clear they will follow their repeated commitments as well as the wishes of the San Joaquin County Local Area Formation Commission board to do one final financial analysis to make sure that the 15 percent reduction is do-able along with upgrading the system and retaining all commitments PG&E has in place to assist low-income households, energy savings programs, and franchise fees paid to the three cities.
“It (the vote Tuesday) is definitely a milestone decision,” Rietkerk said.
During the next three years  that it is expected for  the case to wind through the courts — if the endeavor moves forward —and SSJID starts physically gearing up to take over and enhancing the PG&E distribution system, PG&E is seeking rate increases of 16 percent.
A number of existing  public power agencies in the PG&E territory currently sell retail power significantly below PG&E. They are able to do so by not having to make an 11.5 percent profit regardless of economic conditions that the California Public utilities Commission essentially guarantees through its blessings of PG&E rates plus other efficiencies that PG&E lacks.
Some after years of operating independently of PG&E, are charging their customers rates 35 percent below what PG&E charges.
As of Jan. 1 an average customer using 750 kilowatts a month will pay:
$176.50 if they are a PG&E customer.
$132.40 if they are a Modesto Irrigation District customer.
$114.14 if they are a City of Roseville customer.
$110.61 if they are a Los Angeles Water and Power Department customer.
$103.21 if they are a Sacramento Municipal Utility District customer.
If the initiative goes forward it will rank easily as a major milestone in SSJIUD’s 107-year history.
uIn 1909 the SSJID floated a $1.9 million bond to secure adjudicated water rights on the Stanislaus River basin and build Goodwin Dam and the initial canal and delivery system.  That was followed up with Woodward Reservoir in 1916 and Old Melones Reservoir in 1925.
uIn the 1950s SSJID in partnership with Oakdale Irrigation District built the Tri-Dam Project. Three major power generating reservoirs were built within two years — Beardsley, Donnells, and Tulloch.
uA little over 10 years ago the SSJID built a state-of-the-art surface water treatment plant and what was then the largest tracking solar farm in the West to help power the plant.
uFive years ago SSJID put in place a cutting edge pressurized delivery system serving Division 9 south of Manteca and west of Ripon that is saving 10,000 acre feet of water a year and has drawn international acclaim for its numerous green advantages as well as for reducing costs and increasing crop production.