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Treated sewer water may irrigate 417 acres of crops
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Manteca is working to leverage 417 acres of farmland the city bought along Hays Road into a way to generate revenue, reduce future wastewater treatment costs, and increasing the market value of another 100 acres the city owns by at least 500 percent.

The Manteca City Council is considering a $242,000 capital improvement project in the fiscal year starting on July 1 to begin improving the farmland at 2300 South Hays Road near the San Joaquin River roughly over a mile west of the T-intersection of Airport Way and West Ripon Road. The improvements include identifying crop opportunities, developing a master plan and obtaining state regulatory clearance to apply treated effluent from the wastewater treatment plant and/or Eckert Cold Storage wastewater to the 417 acres.

This could:

• avoid future costs the city is expected to incur as water standards are tightened further for releases into the Delta by switching to land disposal.

• allow 100 acres the city owns around the wastewater treatment plant to eventually be converted to business park or retail use effectively increasing the value of the land in today’s prices by at least 500 percent.

• generate revenue by leasing the Hays Road land complete with a water source to farmers. A similar arrangement now on property around the wastewater treatment plant nets the city income with farmers growing corn for use as silage using the treated water from the plant.

A second phase would cover the cost of improvements including purple pipe needed to reach the Hays Road property from the treatment plant.

All of the funds are coming out of the wastewater enterprise account supported by ratepayers. The $3.7 million to purchase the Hays property came from the account. Any proceeds from the sale of land around the treatment plant for retail or business park purposes would go back to the enterprise account.

And cost avoidance such as more expensive treatment standards in the future that would be avoided would also save the enterprise operation money.

Essentially, the city is pursuing a strategy to keep the lid down on sewer costs for ratepayers while at the same time trying to stimulate economic growth.

There is also a third facet to the plan.

Some 50 acres of the 417-acre site purchased by the city is considered ideal for an easy conversion into wetlands. That would mean for every acre of wetland that Manteca must compensate for, the city would save $124,500 per acre through the Hays site instead of accessing a wetland mitigation bank. It also allows the city to replace wetlands that are part of more than 100 acres of city-owned wastewater treatment property west of Costco and Big League Dreams to allow the land to be converted into prime commercial uses.

By creating the first wetland mitigation bank in San Joaquin County working in conjunction with the Army Corps of Engineers they can they sell easements to other jurisdictions in the county for the replacement of wetlands.

Since the city would have land disposal, that means Manetas can pursue agricultural processing jobs that are becoming more sophisticated and better paying with various marketing strategies such as salad packages

The food processing strategy is a sharp departure from the last 30-plus years where the city avoided such operations like the plague since they gobbled up wastewater treatment plant capacity at the expense of being able to serve homes.

The city would need to build a pipeline for the wastewater treatment plant to divert treated effluent as well as  agricultural wastewater from Eckert’s and other potential food processing plants to the proposed spray fields on Hays Road nearly three miles to the south.

The city is also toying with the idea of developing its own green waste composting facility at the Hays Road site.

The land could also be used for a possible regional wastewater treatment plant 50 years or more into the future.