Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “Modesto Irrigation District”

Going, Going, Gone, Our Water is Being Auctioned Off Thanks to the MID

By Emerson DrakeMIDpic

All farmers who irrigated their crops last year using MID are allotted a minimum 18 inches this year, not enough to bring a crop to the market place.  MID has set a bounty on the water of Four Hundred Dollars per acre for not using the water and returning the water to MID for distribution to all farmers that apply using a random drawing.  The reality is they set a base price for the upcoming private water auction for this year.

If the rate increase of 10% goes through the cost will be $32.50 for the base allocation of 18″  plus a ‘Drought Surcharge” of $11.91 which equals $44.14 per acre.  MID is offering to give irrigators  $400.00 per acre for their base of 18″ or $267 per acre foot if they don’t use the water and leave it with MID.  A nice incentive to return something they haven’t received or paid for.

It Gets Better:  Our self described city boys, yes John Mensinger used/coined the term referring to himself and Paul Campbell threw in a wild card.  He made his point by saying, “they mostly represented people living in Modesto.”  Their argument was that a farmer should be allowed to sell their water to anyone they wanted and not just to family as has been MID’s past practice for transferring water delivery rights.   And by pushing the $400 incentive they created a ‘base’ price for MID water.

But The Water Isn’t Theirs:  See the rub is the water is MID’s water and MID is owned by its ratepayers meaning you and me.   So the two city boys along with Nick Blom, who reversed his earlier position, voted to place MID’s water up for auction to the highest bidder.  Remember, this is water they haven’t paid for, don’t own, yet windfall profits are going to be allowed?  What did these three eat for breakfast?

Mensinger and Campbell have been complaining about subsidies by the electric side: With all of the preaching that has been going on about subsidies you would have thought they would have suggested that MID hold an auction for any surplus water and then use the profit to support its  budget instead of allowing a few special interest farmers to line their pockets using our water, which they won’t have to pay for until they receive their bill November.

We all understand the Modesto Chamber of Commerce donated $2,000 and Bill Lyons even more to each of the ‘city boys’ and that the Chamber is  famous for using public money to help their ‘friends’ and they do expect a return on their money, but I would have hoped they would have refrained from passing out the largess for a couple of months more.

The sellers are guaranteed a MINIMUM profit of $355.59 per acre.  And who knows where that will end up after the unofficial auction.

The bottom line is:  We’re fronting them the water for at least six months at no money down or interest fees to allow them to find the highest bidder on our water for them to make the profit on?   And this is  the business acumen the two city boys bring to the MID Board?   Just how did this help the 113,000 electric account holders?   How did this help the small farmer who is barely making it bring his crop to harvest.   How did this help us?

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Shh That Sound You Heard was Strings Being Pulled at the MID

By Emerson DrakeMIDpic

For the second meeting in a row the Modesto Irrigation District Board had a spirited debate, completely without rancor, which included several diverse positions.   After the Boards of Tom VanGroningen and Allen Short it truly is like a breath of fresh air.  Now if only the actions and decisions were different.

Jumping right into it:  The conversation started regarding the DRAFT  Drought Operation Rules proposed by staff.The proposed Transfer Policy was a complete reversal of what was decided at the last meeting which took place on Feb. 11, 2014.  You can watch it here starting at 59 minutes,  in the agenda it’s the ‘Drought workshop. You can forward to 1:18 to listen to the public debate. At 1:36 you can hear the unusual banding together of Mensinger and myself.  At 2:11 you can listen to Nick Blom argue the exact opposite position he voted for at today’s meeting.  http://mid.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=1&clip_id=24&meta_id=1689 you can advance through the short sound issues without missing anything.

The topic centered on deciding on how water transfers would be handled, and who would be allowed to transfer their water.  At the time I supported the idea of farmers being allowed to sell their water to anyone.  I was behind Director Mensinger in his opinion.  But we lost the argument convincingly. Yet today the DRAFT proposal supported this same position.  So why did staff bring a proposal that lost, forward as potential policy?  A look around the room and then listening to public comment gave us some clues.  The Chamber trotted out Chamber Board of Directors member Ruben Villalobos in support of the grower to grower transfers. What does Ruben know about water transfers?  Absolutely nothing.  But when Chamber of Commerce  lobbyist Cecil Russell calls Ruben,  Ruben  says yes Cecil, and trots on over. Bill Lyons Jr. was sitting in the audience making sure the actors in our little play performed as they were instructed otherwise he would tell daddy on them.  To cut to the chase they wanted to allow farmers to sell their MID allocated  water of 18″ inches per acre.

Larry Byrd and Jake Wenger wanted to limit the transfers to family and were encouraging an incentive to farmers to decide to return the allocated water to MID.  Jake wanted $400 per acre and Larry $100 per acre as an incentive, to be distributed to other interested farmers and encourage the sharing of water if a farmer had other supplies (pumping).  Unfortunately the establishment of the incentive plan came after the ‘Transfer’ issue was resolved and may have been a mute point.

Much to the dismay of many in the room, Nick Blom decided to go with the self- described ‘city boys’ and voted for growers to be able to sell to anyone. It’s a extremely intricate issue and not one lending itself to simple explanations.   It’s understandable for farmers to want to help each other and no one is really against that.  The overreaching concern is a few of the wealthier farmers will be able to out bid smaller farmers and the smaller farmers might go under, not that the Chamber of Commerce would mind.

An attorney from Ripon (Stacey Henderson) claimed to be representing several small farmers decided to insert the term lottery into the mix.  It seemed like she took the opportunity to unduly influence the issue since this word was no where to be seen in the staff’s proposal.  Later during a break and in private  conversation she upbraided me for characterizing her comments as spin. She said if I had any question I should ask her first.  So I did and she walked away without saying a word.  Someone from Ripon is getting paid to influence our decisions.  Just like a lawyer/lobbyist making suggestions they had no intention on following through on.  Just more paid for testimony from my point of view.  We see lots of that at the MID.

Were strings being pulled and Directors were dancing to the Chamber’s and Bill Lyons tune?  This time it’s the farmers not the ratepayers who will pay.

On another note, Modesto City Councilmen Bill Zoslocki and Dave Cogdill just authorized MID to spend up to $504,000 on a study of the rim fire area.  Consequently,  our rates will be going up at a time when the Council wants to forgive Seneca Foods an $8 Million fine they incurred by generating excessive waste water, causing Modesto to settle a lawsuit costing up to $1 Million.

I wonder when the City Council will get around to telling us?

 

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake

Topics include Women’s voting issues from around the country, what political

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

candidates should and shouldn’t put on their facebook pages, Jim Mortensen’s reasons he lost the MID race, Mike Hardin’s Measure X claims and the missing truth about Modesto’s budget, these topics and more so tune in and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Fridays at Noon.

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To listen live or from our archives at your convenience:  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/11/08/hats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

Don’t Forget to Vote !

By Emerson Drake

It’s time for recommendations for our local elections.  If you’ve read the articles here on the EyeOnModesto

English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...

and listened to the radio show  ‘What’s on America’s Mind‘, you’re well aware of our stances.  The issues facing some offices make our choice extremely clear (MID water sales and Board Governance Policy).  In others, the candidates past actions makes our choice easy (Developer/Profiteers).

From participating at MID meetings and city committee and council  meetings, candidate forums and following the money, we’ve learned the true beliefs of the candidates not the ones they tell the public in order to get elected.  There is even one candidate for Hart-Ransom School District  who is in favor of forced public urination for 13 year old girls in mixed company (you can’t make this stuff up.  Candidate (Athens Abell) wrote it on her facebook).

MID District 4 is the toughest call.  We have three candidates who could perform well but unfortunately one must be chosen.  The polls are suggesting the candidate most likely to defeat Jim Mortensen (arguably the worst candidate for the people/ratepayers), is Jake Wenger.  For a complete breakdown on the election candidates check out recent “What’s on America’s Mind” broadcasts.

Here’s the list:

For MID   Division 2 Carmen Sabatino        Division 3 Les Johnson                      Division 4  Jake Wenger

For Modesto City Council       District 2 Juan Telles           District 4  Juan Melgoza                         District 5  Jenny Ketchum Kenoyer

Modesto City Schools District full Term   Michael  Scheid       Sue Zwahlen         David Allen      Ruben Villalobos

Modesto City Schools District 2 year term  Jordan Dickson

Hart-Ransom School District      Sandy Rigghs     Jim Cover   Richie Fultz

Measure V    Yes

Measure X    No

While we need more police and fire the money won’t be spent there so as much as I would like to support this measure I can’t.

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake… Friday at Noon

Topics include the ethics of Modesto’s Politicians,  the evil cabal behind

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

the Mensinger, Campbell, and Mortensen slate,  will the County’s water proposal really make a difference, Mike Hardin’s Measure X claims and the missing truth, these topics and more so tune in and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Friday at Noon.

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To listen live or from our archive: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/11/01/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

Board of Supervisors Meeting 10/29/13

Water drop

Water drop (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Vance Kennedy

There has been widespread discussion of groundwater problems in the foothills.  The question seems to be “what to do about it”?  Major damage to some smaller property owners is occurring right now and that can be a complete loss of value of home and property, simply because adjacent large plantings of almonds are taking their groundwater.  An estimate of that property loss would be highly appropriate in your investigation.  Legal costs to defend these small properties are simply too expensive to individuals and are prolonged.

You have the police power to stop abuses.  Please use that power as soon as possible.  An immediate moratorium, like that in San Louis Obispo County would be very appropriate…but then what?

A rapid estimate of the problem could be made with existing knowledge by county employees, hydrologists and farmers, using present orchard records and detailed data on approved wells, plus planned almond planting and wells.  That would be a guide.

Rainfall in the low foothills is on the order of 12 inches per year.  Half may reach the water table.  Minimum irrigation needs of almond trees is estimated at 30 inches per year.  Thus, at least 2 feet of water is needed, in addition to rain.  That must come from groundwater, since there is no other source.  Because the pore space in rocks holding available water is roughly 15% (plus or minus 5%), every foot of pumped groundwater should drop the water perhaps 8 feet.  That equals 16 feet per year.  If the water table drops significantly less than that, it means that groundwater is flowing laterally underground to the well from ones’ neighbors and depleting the overall groundwater supply.  That would not be surprising, since lateral movement of groundwater is well known to be much easier than vertical movement.

There is a legal term known as “prescriptive rights”, whereby, if water is taken wrongly, and no objections occur, then at some point in time the right to object is lost.  Since there is no groundwater law in California, the time for a prescriptive right is unknown, but could conceivably be quite short.  You can control that.

A rough estimate of the magnitude of the water problem in the foothills can be made in a week.  Not a year or two, if people use reasonable estimates, as described.  There is certainly enough understanding of the problem by employees of the local irrigation districts to make valid estimates of the problem.  I cannot overstate the need to act now on requiring environmental impacts on properties adjacent to wells.  Also, grand-fathering in of continuing harmful practices absolutely must be avoided.

While I am up here, I would like to put in a plug once again for an influential county/city committee to look at the truly long term needs by our local society for food and water.  Some members of this area seem determined to make the central valley another silicon valley.  that would truly be a local and national disaster.  I believe the average local citizen is concerned but does not know how to register that concern with the decision makers.  A prominent committee could help

WATER EXPORT RULES

I would like to put in a plea that you folks approve the proposed rules on export of groundwater today.  I understand from highly reliable sources that this sort of problem was recognized at least 10 years ago and ignored.  If it had been addressed then we would probably not have the present problems.  There is a phrase to “kick the can down the road” that has been applicable in the past.  Please do not do it in this case.  If there are major unexpected problems with the rules, there is no reason why they cannot be changed in the future.

The county does need a water expert on its staff, who has legal advice available.  Neither the city or county has a lawyer knowledgeable in water precedents….I have asked.  given the tremendous importance of water at present, and even more so in the future, it is imperative that the county have such advice readily available, the sooner the better.

Rumor has it that 40% of natural river flow will be kept for the fish in the future.  Meanwhile, the state requires major increases in housing by the city.  It seems obvious that truly great water challenges lie ahead and that does not even consider potential global warming.

Judy Sly and the Bee’s Cover-up of Jim Mortensen’s Lie

By Emerson Drake

When the Modesto Bee’s Editorial Staff brought the MID District 4 candidates in to visit they allowed the candidates to ask one  question of

Punch and Judy puppet show in Philadelphia

Punch and Judy puppet show in Philadelphia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

another candidate.  Jim Mortensen was asked if he had brought a lawsuit, made a financial claim or received any monetary payouts from MID in the past.  His response was that he’d received between $3 to $4 thousand dollars in remunerations.

In response to two Public record Requests MID turned over the claim Jim Mortensen and his attorney filed against MID for $90,000 dollars.  At first it was denied but after threatening  further legal action a settlement was reached in the amount of $20,000.

Ms. Sly has always claimed she believes it a greater offense when a candidate lies about his past instead of coming clean.  So to be fair we forwarded the Public Record Request responses to Ms. Sly so she could set the record straight since the Bee has already  endorsed Mortensen.  Ms. Sly has yet to respond to our information and queries.  It’s generally known Ms. Sly is finally retiring after this election, but to see her go out on such a dishonest note is sad.

An interesting side note is one of the Directors who voted for the payoff was the same man paying Mike Lynch to be Mortensen’s campaign adviser,  Bill Lyons.

This  pdf is the $90,000 claim Jim Mortensen ‘forgot’.

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This pdf documents the $20,000 payout Jim Mortensen tried to obfuscate.

Slegal13102413510 (1)

Shame on Jim Mortensen for failing to come clean on a $90,000 claim and a $20,000 payout.  Those kind of numbers you would remember, especially if you’re running for the MID Board.

Shame on Judy Sly and the Modesto Bee for trying to cover-up Mortensen’s obvious lie.  It just goes to show you can’t trust the Modesto Bee’s Editorial staff, especially when they have an  agenda.

Pinocchio’s anyone?

Pinochios

Contributor Endorses Jake Winger

By Jim Bonetti

MID should have people who are committed to doing what’s right for rate payers AND farmers. Not just to do what farmers and/or MID

Modesto Marathon  7983

wants. Electric rate payers already pay 95% of the MID bills and water users pay 5% of these bills.
Jake Wenger dropped off a flyer while I was out. I called him Wednesday morning and asked him where he stands on a number of subjects at MID. First off he was glad I called and second he was forthright with his answers. When I asked about the “board governance policy” which gives the MID manager more power to make decisions (and less power to the Board), he explained that when he is elected, that will be the first thing he will addres,s to delete this “policy”! I agree wholeheartedly!
I spoke to Paul Warda a couple of months ago about this same “policy”. He told me that he didn’t know it was in the proposal at the time he voted on it and asked for a clarification from a MID executive who researched it and told him “yes, this “policy” was still in the proposal when the Board voted on it”, unfortunately. He apologized for his mistake and vowed that if he had known about it, he never would have voted for the proposal!
Maybe it was just Van Groningen leaning on Warda to push him to vote for the proposal…..
Jake is not just looking out for farmers, as some people may think (farmers are for farmers mentality). On the contrary, he says that the cost of water could be increased to about $30/acre foot and still be profitable for most farmers. Those that grow corn would have a tougher time of it as corn requires more water to mature. However, with water users paying more of the bills it would ease the expense paid by electric rate payers.
If the cost of water reaches $50/acre foot, farmers would drill their own wells and not buy MID water. But, if farmers keep drilling, the aquifer will diminish and may never be replenished and we have only so much water to spread around.
IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS OR DOUBTS REGARDING JAKE or MID policies, CALL HIM! THE NUMBER IS IN THE FLYER (209-484-9343). He’ll answer you with good, honest information.

By Jim Bonetti

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake at Noon Thursday 10/25

Today’s topics include, Jim Mortensen’s $20,000 lie, the Modesto Bee’s misinformation campaign,  the latest goings on at MID with the

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

disastrous  Mensinger, Campbell, and Mortensen slate, MID’s Tom Van Groningen’s temper tantrum, the Modesto City Council and  the Measure X proposal, the Modesto Courthouse placement. these topics and more so tune into and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 6:30  PM

104.9 FM our flagship station

To listen live or from our archives go to: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/10/25/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake

What’s on America’s Mind With Emerson Drake Wed 10/16 at 6:30 PM

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Radio RED 104.9 FM (Photo credit: Mahdi Ayat.)

Tonight’s topics include Rod Olsen’s special relationship with the police and DA Birgit Fladager in regard to the child endangerment charges, the school Board race including both Modesto and Hart Ransom districts, Olsen’s upcoming fundraiser for the Sheriff, the County’s take on mining water on our East side, the upcoming workshop on Don Pedro,  the Measure X proposal, the Modesto Courthouse placement. these topics and more so tune into tonight and find out what you need to know to make decisions important to you, your family and your community. Wednesday at 6:30  PM

104.9 FM our flagship station

To listen live or from our archive http://www.blogtalkradio.com/whats-on-americas-mind/2013/10/17/whats-on-americas-mind-with-emerson-drake-1

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