By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
SSJID strengthens finances
Water sales, Tri-Dam receipts on upswing
Donnells Reservoir in the Stanislaus River - photo by Photo courtesy Tri-Dam project

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District — thanks to a 108-year history of forward thinking — is in arguably the strongest financial position of any government entity in San Joaquin County.
The 2016 audit being presented to the board when they meet today at 9 a.m. at the SSJID office, 11011 East Highway 120, verifies the financial soundness of the district.
Snapshots in the report show the following:
uThe district ended 2016 with a net gain of $10.2 million after covering operating expenses of $30.7 million including $7.2 million for depreciation.
uOutside water sales brought in $13.9 million in 2016 — up from $5.9 million in 2015. The district was able to sell the water to help meet state and outside irrigation agency needs due to a long-term emphasis on water conservation and the vision of SSJID and with Oakdale Irrigation District to harness the joint pre-1914 water rights they hold on the Stanislaus River watershed by developing the Tri-Dam Project in the 1950s.
uTreated water sales to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy hit $6.7 million in 2016, up from $6.2 million in 2015.
uIn-district irrigation sales produced $1.9 million in 2016 as opposed to $1.8 million in 2015.
uPower sales from SSJID-owned generators that aren’t tied to Tri-Dam Project hydroelectric sales came in at $177,000 in 2016 compared to $199,000 in 2015.
uAll operating revenue from non Tri-Dam Project sources generated $22.7 million in 2016 as opposed to $14.8 million in 2015.
uNon-operating revenues — SSJID’s share of the 50-50 split with OID for Tri-Dam power revenue — rose to $18.2 million in 2016 from $7.2 million before any Tri-Dam reinvestment costs are factored into the equation. Thanks to substantially higher snowfall this year the Tri-Dam revenue for SSJID is expected to hit $20 million in 2017.
uThe SSJID collected $4.7 million in property tax receipts in 2016 compared to $4.5 million in 2015.
uThe district in 2016 had $47 million in unrestricted investments in marketable securities as opposed to $30.4 million in 2015. The 2016 unrestricted marketable securities are enough to cover one and a third year of all district operating expenses. it could be considered the equivalent of a 133% unrestricted reserve.
The moves the district has made independent of — and in concert — with the OID over the last 108 years that has allowed the SSJID to have a strong financial position today as well as the ability to meet in-district water needs include:
uSecuring pre-1914 legally adjusted water rights — the most solid legally secured water nights you can have in California.
uErecting the Goodwin Dam at Knights Ferry on the Stanislaus River to divert water into separate irrigation systems built by OID and SSJID.
uBuilding the in-district Woodward Reservoir in 1916.
uConstructing Melones Reservoir in 1926, It was subsequently inundated by the federally-built Melones Reservoir with a legal understanding that in exchange for allowing the dam to be built the first 600,000 acre feet of water that flows each year into the reservoir that has a 2.4 million acre foot storage capacity  belongs to the two districts.
uBuilding the Tri-Dam Project consisting of Beardsley, Donnells, and Tulloch reservoirs as well as accompanying hydroelectric plants in the 1950s.
uDeveloping a domestic surface water supply for Manteca, Tracy, and Lathrop that Escalon and Ripon can also tap into and powering it partially with what at the time it was built was the largest trackable solar power farm on the West Coast to substantially reduce PG&E costs needed to run the water treatment facility.
uImplementing a state-of-the-art pressurized system for Division 9 south of Manteca and west of Ripon that slashed water use by nearly 10,000 acre feet a year, reduced groundwater pumping, helped reverse saltwater intrusion, increased crop yield due to the ability to apply water directly to tree roots, and reduced power consumption and air pollution by eliminating the need to run generators on water wells.
The clean electricity from the Tri-Dam Project is being used to power some of the tech industry’s fabled firms. Under a deal that runs through Dec. 31, 2023, the Santa Clara-based Silicon Valley Power Company is buying all Tri -Dam power or in excess of 130 megawatts a year.
Plans for Tri-Dam Project were drawn up in the 1930s consisting of three dams — Donnells, Beardsley, and Tulloch — as well as three power plants and a seven-mile tunnel carved through rock.
Construction didn’t start until 1955. When it was completed the district had three times the water storage than what the original dams provided. They also had a reliable source of income to pay for the system’s operations and maintenance as well as to retire bonds over 50 years via power that they sold to PG&E.
What was considered remarkable at the time — and even today — is the fact the Tri-Dam system was planned, financed, and constructed entirely by SSJID and OID without a penny from the state or federal governments.
Money from power sales after the initial 50-year PG&E contract expired more than a decade ago and the $52 million bonds issued in 1955 to build the three reservoir project were retired, has allowed as much as $18 million a year to flow into SSJID coffers as its 50 percent split of annual Tri-Dam “profits.” A chunk of that money is invested back into Tri-Dam to allow the eventual replacement of equipment and such as they wear down.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email