The Turlock Irrigation Board of Directors met Tuesday to listen to a proposal that could more than double irrigation rates for customers if passed.
The Board did not vote on any rates Tuesday, and was only listening to the proposal for the first time.
Over the last 10 years, the TID staff reports that there has been an average irrigation revenue shortfall of nearly $1.5 million each year. Staff also projects a $1.6 million shortfall for 2014.
To make up for that annual shortfall, the TID staff is proposing a rate increase for irrigation customers.
“It’s incumbent upon us to make decisions that will benefit generations to come,” said Tou Her, TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources.
Currently, TID irrigation customers are charged $8.25 per acre-foot in a normal year, based on the water available to each customer. The proposed increase would bump the blended charge up to $17.50 per acre-foot. Additionally, the fixed charge customers pay would be $60 per acre, up from $23.
The proposed rate increase would also hike blended charge rates up $16.80 per acre-foot, from $13 to $29.80, and fixed charge from $26 per acre to $68 during dry years, such as the one Turlock is currently experiencing.
The release of the proposed increase came much to the dismay of several TID irrigation customers who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
“Doubling the price today is not an avenue we should take,” said one concerned customer, adding that any increase should be done in steps, even if that means adding $10 or $15 in 10 years.
In comparison to other irrigation districts in the area, TID currently has lower rates than nearly everyone — only Modesto Irrigation District has lower rates.
However, the proposed rate increase would make TID charge the third most expensive — only behind Patterson Irrigation District and Merced Irrigation District.
Added into the annual irrigation shortfall are the costs of several projects in the works, including:
- $395,379 annually to maintain memberships and contracts with several organizations in order to: achieve favorable legislation, be informed on pertinent policy, and share legal costs.
- $10.9 million total estimated cost for the SBx 7-7 (or Water Conservation Act of 2009) project started in 2013.
- $2.3 million for the Lateral 8 Reservoir Project that entails improving the existing abandoned Hilmar County Water District water treatment ponds into a 29 acre-foot regulating reservoir adjacent to Lateral 9 and Lateral 7.
- $2.2 million for the Lateral 8 TCC Pilot Project that includes installing TID’s first Total Channel Control project which will automate 11 canal drops on Lateral 8.
- An apportioned amount of $3.1 million to the purchase of a 5.95-acre property that includes the War Memorial and Brandon Koch Memorial Skate Park.
- $1.6 million for the Integrated Water Resource Plan, a water master plan that will guide and focus TID decisions during changing times.
“Projects such as Lateral 8 and Total Channel Control are pilot projects…” said Her. “They’re expensive projects… but we’re piloting because we’re planning for the future.”
The irrigation rate increase has not been approved at this time, and two “Grower Outreach” meetings on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 will be held to further inform the public of the proposal. Then, at the Nov. 18 TID Board Meeting, the Proposition 218 hearing will be set and the 45 day public notice period begins. Finally, on Jan. 13, the TID Board will vote at the Proposition 218 rate hearing and adopt any rate changes.