A plentiful and stable water supply was responsible for a real and sustained economic boom 100 years ago in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.
It turned the sandy loam and barren countryside into some of the most fertile farmland in the world. Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon went from mere wide spots on roads to bustling communities. Everyone benefitted: The farmer, the laborer, the merchant, the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor.
It happened because a group of visionary farmers understood the economic might that irrigation water would bring.
Now 100 years later the same organization those visionary farmers formed - the South San Joaquin Irrigation District - is on the verge of laying the groundwork for another sustained period of prosperity in Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon that will benefit everyone.
Sometime this summer the San Joaquin Local Agency Formation Commission will say “yea” or “nay” to the SSJID plan to lower retail power costs across the board by 15 percent in Manteca, Ripon, Escalon and the surrounding countryside.
An independent financial analysis by a consultant that PG&E recommended LAFCO use determined it is feasible thanks to yet another visionary move the SSJID made more than a half century ago. That vision was the Tri-Dam Project. It not only secured more water but also put in place clean hydroelectric power. Since the bonds have been retired, the revenue stream from Tri-Dam is now sending between $12 million and $16 million in unrestricted revenue each year into the SSJID’s coffers. It is that money that is making it possible for SSJID to do everything they have to do - buy the PG&E system, upgrade it, pay severance costs, and secure power contracts - to reduce retail power costs by at least 15 percent.
The first year SSJID is up and running, the Manteca-Ripon-Escalon economy will grow by $12 million. That is how much money households, businesses, farmers and government agencies will avoid paying in power costs.
Imagine what an extra $12 million a year infused into the local economy would do. Now think about what that 15 percent savings can do into improving the employment outlook.
Roseville snagged Hewlett-Packard and NEC Electronics in the 1980s. They were on the short list due to their location, proximity to Silicon Valley, quality of life, schools, recreation opportunities, and medical care. Things that also was true about Folsom that secured Intel the same decade.
How the two cities secured platinum employers who are long-term and offer a variety of jobs requiring different skill sets came down to one thing: Cheap electricity.
The City of Roseville has its own power department while Folsom is part of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
A lot of trash talk has been uttered by some who hail from Beale Street in San Francisco about publicly owned utilities. And while there are cases out there where rates of public utilities aren’t below quasi-public utilities that are protected monopolies such as PG&E, they are a significant number that are less expensive.
In fact, SMUD’s rates are substantially lower than PG&E’s despite having to shoulder the cost of decommissioning and mothballing the Rancho Seco nuclear power plant.
The City of Manteca’s economic development manager Don Smail said it best when asked how big of a deal having SSJID provide power at 15 percent less than PG&E’s rates would be for job generation in the South County.
“It’s huge,” was Smail’s answer.
Roseville and Folsom would agree.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.