Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

MID’s Circle of Life is a Tale of Spending Gone Wild

By Emerson Drake

Sitting in on Monday’s meeting was enlightening.  They told us they wanted to spend $72 Million on lateral lines and reservoirs to capture 25,000-40,000 acre feet water their ditchtenders over order.  It was referred to as both operational discharge (in their handout) and as “spill” by (MID personnel and their paid consultant Dr. Burt.)  This “spill” is the water they want to sell toSan Francisco.  So they want to spend the $72M to capture the water they want to sell toSan Francisco to get the money to pay for the system upgrades needed to capture the water.  If that isn’t going round in a circle I don’t know what is.

Don’t get me wrong, they’ve found a way to spend even more and that’s by spending $10M on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition or (SCADA) telemetry upgrades. These same upgrades were listed under completed work.

Completed Work


  • State-of-the-art technology
  • Major diversion points upgraded/automated
  • Installed new radio/tower system
  • Truepoint Database System
  • Enhanced scheduling and records
  • Improved billing and reporting
  • Ditchtender Laptops
  • Real-time monitoring from the field

We were told by the good Dr. Burt that MID bought first class state-of-the-art equipment yet now we’re being told we need to spend $10M more for this same equipment we already purchased.  Sound familiar?  Remember when the county squandered $10 Million on computer equipment that wouldn’t talk to each other?  I’m not saying it’s the same but MID’s staff keeps adding to their “Christmas wish list” like a greedy child.

Let’s talk about the Dry Creek Flume that Board President Tom Van Groningen keeps bringing up in dramatic theatrical tones.  Yes the flume has been around for 100 years and yes it did burn down once but now its in good shape working perfectly fine.  Their newest main concern is about a major earthquake possibly damaging it. Oh, and did I mention a MID staff member told the audience it would probably take only one week to get the flume up and running again, in the event that it were damaged in an earthquake.  A $10Million insurance policy against something that hasn’t happened in the last 100 years and with no guarantees the new structure could withstand a large quake. After all they say “quake resistant not quake proof.”

Now this wasn’t a concern of Director Van Groningen’s for the first 20 years of his MID Board term but suddenly he refers to it and its possible demise in hushed tones like he’s repeating a mantra over and over.

What’s the sudden difference?  Money, money and a possible legacy, and a chance to have a flume named after him resonate within him.

We have a staff that couldn’t bring a project in under budget and have it remain functional (remember the expensive roof and wall that were found to be rotting immediately after the building guarantee ran out) and of course the fiasco of a water plant extension where major portions need to be torn out and rebuilt at an unknown cost. But these costs will definitely run many Millions of dollars. 

And just how much are two biggest cheerleaders for the project being paid?  Dr.Burt, the MID consultant, will certainly be called upon if this spending spree goes forward.  And MID’s attorney, Tim O’Laughlin, has been making money all along and since water sales agreements are in his bailiwick is he championing the spree in order to yet again run up his billable hours?

We’ll find out about MID’s hired guns by sending a PIR to MID for this information.

We need to re-invest in StanislausCounty’s citizens, farmers and our economy by replenishing the water aquifer in a variety of ways it is the single best thing we could do.  The water table keeps getting lower and lower and the concentration of contaminates keeps getting higher and higher and the only real answer is to re-charge the water table, not to sell it and our selves down the river.


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2 thoughts on “MID’s Circle of Life is a Tale of Spending Gone Wild

  1. The district wants and “NEEDS” to spend 72 million dollars right away to capture spill water that with the sale to CCSF will only generate 1.54 million per year in return for ten years. That is the same financial mentality that has taken our MID from a AAA bond rated company with a balanced debt to reserve ratio to an A stable rateing and 1.2ish BILLON debt. I am concerned that the board has no plan whatsoever to solve the problem. The thing that destroys most companies is too much debt without a well concieved map as to where the company is heading, at what speed and how to recoup invested capital. Our elected MID board has no clue. As per one director “we are making money at Mountain House” clearly shows they only echo the GM’s voice. Right or wrong, ture or not true.

  2. Somebody is getting payola somewhere in all of this. Time to track it down. So much money $70 million for laborers work and we are just talking about sealing cracks in the canals. PAYOLA! PAYOLA! PAYOLA!

    Maybe a more thorough investigation is needed with the evidences you have given so far..how about the Federal Tipline?

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