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Seven water district hopefuls state their case to the board

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Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 10:00 pm

Applicants for the vacant seat on the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District agreed on Tuesday that district officials need to do a better job explaining what the district does and conduct night meetings so that more residents can attend and learn about the district.

Seven applicants - Mark Beck, Larry Mackey, Eileen St. Yves and Martin Church, all of Acampo, have applied, along with Neal Colwell, Fran Forkas and Richard Prima, all of Lodi - appeared before the board, one at a time, at a special meeting Tuesday morning.

They hope to replace Fred Weybret, who resigned his seat in June after 33 years on the board, citing hearing problems during board meetings.

Beck said his vision for the district is to complete General Manager Ed Steffani's 10-year plan to install pumps and other infrastructure needed to pump water out of the Mokelumne River and replenish the area's groundwater basin.

Beck added that the district's controversial groundwater charge, approved in 2007, is necessary at this time in order to build infrastructure needed to pump more water from the Mokelumne River, recharge the Lodi area's parched groundwater basin and maintain local control of area groundwater.

Colwell, a senior engineer for ECO:LOGIC, a Stockton water engineering firm with clients including several from the Lodi area, supports looking for ways to reduce groundwater usage by district residents and encourage greater use of water from the Mokelumne River to improve the groundwater basin.

Forkas, water/wastewater superintendent for the city of Lodi until his retirement in 2003, cited his 40 years of experience in the field. He said he supports the district assessing a groundwater charge to provide additional water pipes and pumps to maximize its water availability, and to seek state grants.

"I think you're headed in the right direction," Forkas told the board. "The only question is the sale of water."

Applicants were asked whether they would support the temporary sale of Mokelumne River water to other water users such as the neighboring Stockton East Water District in order to raise money to construct water-related infrastructure that would allow North San Joaquin to pump more water from the Mokelumne.

Forkas and Mackey, a retired youth correctional counselor with the California Department of Corrections, said that even if North San Joaquin signs an agreement to sell water to another district on a temporary basis, it's typically hard to get the water back.

Prima served as Lodi's public works director for 10 years and worked in for the city from 1975 until his retirement in 2008. He supports a groundwater charge.

"The charge is minuscule compared with the expense of doing a major project," Prima said. "It costs money; don't be ashamed of it."

He said the district should consider establishing a modest office to maintain records and conduct business, and hiring additional part-time employees or contracting with individuals for long-range planning.

Decision next week

The North San Joaquin Water Conservation district board is scheduled to appoint a new board member at 8:30 a.m. next Tuesday in the Lodi Public Library's community room, 201 W. Locust St. The term expires in November 2010.

Source: North San Joaquin Water Conservation District

Prima and St. Yves strongly urged installing water meters in the district and charging for water based on usage.

St. Yves is a property manager from Acampo who serves on several boards and commissions in Lodi. She says she can provide a different perspective on the board because she is not a farmer. She believes that the needs of city residents should be considered as well as farmers.

Church, who lost to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the Democratic primary in 2006, pledges to preserve water quality as well as quantity to the district. He said that assessing a groundwater charge should be determined by a vote of the people. He also said the district should work to limit residential construction because California has enough people as it is.

Some questions received differing responses depending on how board members phrased the questions.

Bryan Pilkington, often at odds with his board colleagues over how the district is run, asked applicants if they support a groundwater charge on some property owners even though the district gives "free water" to certain property owners and plans to sell water to the Stockton East Water District instead of keeping it for North San Joaquin's use.

Some applicants changed their position after board members Tom Hoffman, John Ferreira and Joe Mehrten explained that the district plans to temporarily offer "free water" to property owners who purchase an expensive conveyance system to pump directly from the Mokelumne River as an incentive to stop pumping well water.

Board members also explained to applicants that any attempt to sell water to Stockton East or another neighboring agency would be short-term - maybe one year - where revenue from the sale would go toward infrastructure for North San Joaquin.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

Mark Beck
Martin Church
Neal Colwell
Fran Forkas
Larry Mackey
Richard Prima
Eileen St. Yves

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4 comments:

  • posted at 6:02 pm on Wed, Aug 26, 2009.

    Posts:

    Mr. Pilkington keep up the great work if it went your way there will be no serface water nor ground water.YOU NEED TOO BE RECALLED,get out you are a discrase to the local water agencies and Lodi

     
  • posted at 3:45 pm on Wed, Aug 26, 2009.

    Posts:

    I am deeply concerned about the overdraft of our ground water. I have read all News Sentinel articles on the subject and I gone to the nsjwd website to get educated on the recharge issue. I believe the nsjwd plan to use it's water allocation to replenish our ground water is a good one. It amazes me that Mr. Pilkington continues to twist facts and mislead readers. Thank you Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Steffani for correcting Pilkington's misleading statements. This guy is a loose cannon!

     
  • posted at 9:20 am on Wed, Aug 26, 2009.

    Posts:

    What baffles me is why Director Pilkington can not get past something that was said two years ago and instead, help us find a way to put water back into the ground today. He fixates on the illusion that the Board is conspiring to sell water to Stockton and give water to favorite farmers. So much time and effort is being wasted on these obsessions. Subsidized water is available to farmers willing to spend their own money on a second pumping system, but it is not free if it costs them thousands of dollars. To date none have expressed interest, but there is no "free water" deal for anyone.With the exception of Bryan Pilkington, this Board is dedicated to recharging our aquifer. This means we must deliver river water to farmers to stop them from pumping. This will provide more water for those we can not reach. We must also establish basins where river water can be poured over the ground to to soak in. This will cost money. It is fair for those who pump from the ground to pay to put water back into it.Tom Hoffman, ChairmanNSJWCD

     
  • posted at 2:05 am on Wed, Aug 26, 2009.

    Posts:

    Sue Constituents and Free Water to Select Farmers? In 2007 the Water District sued all its constituents to impose a groundwater charge, then give Free Water (no strings attached) to a Selected Group of Farmers and then Sell 50% of our Water to Stockton. In the court documents of 2007, Ed Steffani ( District Manager & Former Manager of The Stockton Water District ) testified that he planned to sell 50% of the Mokelumne River Water to the Stockton Water District. Steffani also planned to Give Free Water to His Select Group of Farmers (no strings attached). Nine months ago I requested copies of documents from Mr. Steffani, hoping to learn about the Districts Agreements and History. Nine months later I have never seen any Documents that discuss a Free Water Plan. The Water District is Giving Free Water to a Select Group of Farmers and Charging everyone else a groundwater fee even if you don't receive any water. How can this action be fair to "Constituents Who Pay Taxes"?Please ask your Director for the Facts! Thank You, Bryan Pilkington, Director

     

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