Modesto Delays TID Water Sales Agreement Vote, SRWA to Revisit Deal Thursday

The cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto nearly had a historic day July 16, but a 2-1 vote delayed approval of a water sale agreement with the Turlock Irrigation District for one week.

TID and the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA), which was formed by the cities of Turlock, Ceres, and Modesto in 2011, have been in talks since 1987 on water sale agreement.

Earlier in the week, the TID Board of Directors unanimously approved to present a deal to the SRWA to sell treated river water to local cities that could be used as drinking water.

The deal, as approved by TID, would send 30,000 acre-feet of water from the Tuolumne river to the cities within the SRWA. The cities would purchase the water at the same price as TID’s Tier 4 Irrigation rate, approximately $20 per acre-foot.

Before the water would be considered usable for municipal use, the water would need to undergo treatment at a yet-to-be-constructed treatment plant, which would be owned, operated, and paid for by the SRWA, as part of the agreement.

The treatment plant, which comes with a more than $100 million price tag, would guarantee a long-term reliable water supply for the City of Turlock, which is currently dependent on a dwindling groundwater supply for its drinking water.

While TID approved to present the agreement, the SRWA still needed to approve the terms and was expected to on July 16.

The meeting was well attended by representatives from Stanislaus County, the cities involved in the deal, and TID.

“Here we are, 28 years later — I think if my math serves me right — that we’ve been talking about this and we’re finally on the cusp of this historic agreement,” said Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa. “And the fact that we’re in a historic drought and there’s an agreement to supply water from TID is just amazing."

That historic day never came however, as the SRWA Board vote 2-1 on the agreement, which required a unanimous vote.

Turlock Mayor and SRWA Boardmember Gary Soiseth and Ceres Mayor and SRWA Board President Chris Vierra both voted in favor of the agreement, however Modesto Councilmember and SRWA Boardmember Bill Zoslocki prevented the deal from moving forward with the lone dissenting vote.

Zoslocki’s disagreement with the terms ended up boiling down to the wording of one subsection of the agreement — which were ultimately came down to 13 words.

The section was concerning the SRWA and future water sale agreements, such as a possible deal to sell recycled water to the drought-stricken Del Puerto Water District — known as the North Valley Water Project.

Because of the wording of the section, Zoslocki requested the SRWA wait a week and vote on the agreement at the regularly scheduled July 23 meeting.

Soiseth recommended the SRWA not hold up the deal and approve the terms, with the exception of the section of Zoslocki’s concern, and made a motion. After Zoslocki refused to second the motion, Vierra quickly seconded and the 2-1 vote was made.

“I think we need to continue moving forward and progressing,” said Soiseth, adding that his motion did exactly what Zoslocki sought to do.

While getting majority vote from the board present at the meeting, SRWA staff said the vote required a majority of four — representing the amount of members at the formation, which previously included the City of Hughson.

The SRWA will attempt to make history again on Thursday morning, this time without the section Zoslocki was concerned with.

According to the agenda packet released by the SRWA, the section has been removed from the agreement.

The current proposal considered by the SRWA still includes offset water, which would be calculated at a parity for both agricultural and urban users.

For example, if TID farmers are allocated 36 inches of water in a dry year — a 25 percent reduction — TID would provide 22,500 acre-feet of water to the SRWA and would in turn receive 11,500 acre-feet in offset water.

The offset water delivered to TID would be either recycled water or groundwater from well unsuitable for human consumption, but suitable for agricultural use.

Aside from the offset water, the City of Turlock has also agreed to deliver 2,000 acre-feet of baseline recycled water, which is not suitable for human consumption, to TID each year. In years that offset water is required per the deal, the 2,000 acre-feet would count as a portion of offset water.

Additionally, this agreement would not limit the ability for other communities in the region to join the project at a later time, something the City of Turlock has remained adamant about during discussions.

If approved by the SRWA, the TID Board of Directors will have to finalize the deal with a majority vote.

The SRWA will meet at 10 a.m. Thursday in Room 2001 on the second floor of 1010 10th St. in Modesto. 

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