Some 7,000 acres of farmland north of French Camp Road and east of Highway 99 could one day be served by South San Joaquin Irrigation District with both water and retail electricity.
That possibility is being raised by the staff of the San Joaquin County Local Agency Formation Commission as part of a municipal services review plan being processed as a precursor for the district to possibly secure approval to pursue acquisition of PG&E’s retail power system.
The area is sort of a no-man’s land that is within the Central San Joaquin Water Conservation District but is situated in such a manner that the CSJWCD is unable to serve it. The area - a rich segment of almost all prime farmland - is served almost exclusively by wells tapping into a dropping underground aquifer.
The municipal services report being presented to the LAFCo board Friday as part of a status report on the SSJID’s application to add retail electricity to its service forte also includes a suggestion that the SSJID and CSJWCD merge.
The rationale is that the SSJID has adequate financial resources to help serve the CSJWCD even if it is allowed to go into retail power sales. The LAFCo report does note that the district wouldn’t have enough water to meet all of the needs of both districts but could go a ways in improving the delivery of irrigation water to CSJWD farmers. The massive district is generally bounded by Highway 4 on the north, the county line on the east, Highway 99 on the west and the SSJID on the south.
SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields said that while the district he oversees may have the financial ability to make such a merger work, the vast majority of the CSJWD is situated where the district’s facilities would be unable to serve it. Also - as the LAFCo report points out - while SSJID has adequate water rights for future and existing needs within its existing boundaries they don’t have enough of a surplus to takeover the entire CSJWD.
Shields pointed out that Stockton East Water District is already discussing merger possibilities with the CJWD. The Stockton East buys surplus water from SSJID when it has it available.
Shields noted that the district has never entertained any thoughts of merging with the CSJWCD but it would consider at some point in the future the possibility of annexing the 7,000 acres.
If that happened, it would go a long way toward helping assure the long-range viability of farming on the 7,000 acres north of French camp Road.
A final decision on SSJID’s application to enter retail power sales is expected in early 2012.
If the LAFCo board vote is affirmative, SSJID then would immediately enter into negotiations with PG&E to acquire the retail delivery system within the SSJID boundaries. Should a mutual agreement not be reached, SSJID is empowered under the state constitution to use eminent domain and have the court set a fair price.
A study commissioned by LAFCo reaffirms SSJID’s contention that it can indeed lower rates 15 percent across the board as well as upgrade the power distribution system and put in place service that meets customer demands.