Voters in much of the Lodi area will have the opportunity to vote in November on whether to rescind a groundwater charge on well water.
Measure V is a ballot initiative submitted by Lockeford teacher and farmer Bryan Pilkington. But what the ballot measure really means depends on who you talk to. Attorneys from the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association disagree on what will happens if voters approve the measure.
The groundwater charge, approved by the North San Joaquin board in May 2007, is intended to purchase pumps and other infrastructure to take 20,000 acre-feet of water from the Mokelumne River. The district is entitled by the state to 20,000 acre-feet during years with normal and above-normal rainfall, but it doesn't have the equipment to pump more than 3,000 acre-feet.
The water would help farmers, mostly east of Highway 99, irrigate their land and replenish the area's dwindling groundwater aquifer.
In the Lodi city limits, the North San Joaquin district covers only the area roughly east of Ham Lane. Lodi residents won't be billed for the city's wells, but North San Joaquin has billed the city a lump-sum $200,000 for the 2007-08 fiscal year.
Although the initiative's text clearly states that the groundwater charges approved by the North San Joaquin board for the 2007-08 fiscal year would be repealed, attorneys say that's not really true.
Attorney Steve Herum, who represents the North San Joaquin district, said the groundwater charge for the 2007-08 fiscal year has been legally collected, and the money collected has already been spent on infrastructure projects. Measure V, if it passes, won't take effect until the 2009-10 fiscal year, he said.
Groundwater charge at a glanceCharge is limited to property owners with wells.
- $21.40 for rural residential lots, regardless of
- $6.42 per acre for vineyards.
- $11.98 per acre for orchards.
- $17.92 per acre for irrigated pasture land and golf courses.
Note: Property owners in several areas will not be billed directly. These include residents in the Lodi city limits, Lockeford Community Services District and county service areas in Victor, Clements, western Acampo and the portion of Woodbridge north of the Mokelumne River.
The city of Lodi has been billed $200,000 and the Lockeford Community Services District was billed $11,000. Lockeford board members voted last year to not pass the charge on to its ratepayers.
Source: North San Joaquin Water Conservation District
But the ballot language reads that the measure would repeal the 2007-08 charge.
Herum also maintains that the district will not refund payments made by property owners if the measure passes.
Meanwhile, Tim Bittle, an attorney from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, says that property owners would be entitled to a refund, but only if they submit a written request to the district for one. Bittle represents Pilkington regarding his battles with the water district.
Attorneys from both sides agree that starting with the 2009-10 fiscal year, no groundwater charge may be levied without a vote of the people if Measure V passes.