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North San Joaquin Water Conservation District’s future is topic at meeting

Board hopes to come up with plan to retain area’s water rights

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Posted: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 12:00 am

In the wake of Measure C’s defeat, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District discussed ideas to retain the district’s water rights and possible collaborations with other agencies at a public meeting Tuesday morning.

Board president Tom Hoffman recommended the district host a town hall meeting before the end of the month for members of the community to come together and offer solutions to the area’s groundwater problems. The town hall would be the first in a series of meetings intended to bring stakeholders to the table and exchange ideas, he said.

“We need to get as many people and ... proposals as possible,” Hoffman said. “Do we need to change the board? The manager? Shrink the district?”

Manager Ed Steffani said the district could look to local agencies such as the Groundwater Banking Authority and the Eastern Water Alliance for help generating revenue. He also proposed the district could request voluntary payments of a groundwater charge.

The town hall will be held at 6 p.m. inside Crete Hall at Hutchins Street Square on July 27.

Other meeting highlights:

• Four of the five board members, Mark Beck, Dan Parises, Joseph Mehrten and Hoffman, must all run for election in November. The nomination period for potential candidates will run from Monday through Aug. 6.

• The district voted 4-0 to request a removal of a point of diversion to the State Water Resources Control Board. The point of diversion would have been necessary in order for the district to send water to Stockton. Since the district voted earlier this year not to send water outside its borders, the point of diversion is no longer needed, the board said.

• The district also voted to approve a letter in response to a Grand Jury investigation into the board. The letter to the Grand Jury addresses issues that were contained in the jury’s report, and looks at what the district has done to remedy them. Many of the Grand Jury’s findings revolved around transparency and public education. The district said it agrees with the Grand Jury’s findings in the letter, and multiple directors have spoken openly about how the jury’s report shows the district isn’t up to anything illegal.

• Members of the district also expressed displeasure with board member Bryan Pilkington’s appearance before the state’s Natural Resources and Water Committee in late June. Pilkington spoke before the committee in opposition to AB 2483, a bill district members said they have no interest in and doesn’t apply to North San Joaquin. AB 2483 would establish the Santa Clara Valley Water District and give it powers relating to flood management and water supply.

While Pilkington spoke against the AB 2483, it’s unclear if he did so as a spokesperson of the North San Joaquin district. Pilkington did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, and phone calls placed to his residence were not immediately returned.

Directors Mehrten, Hoffman and manager Steffani said Pilkington had not told them he planned on missing Tuesday’s meeting.

The district has sent letters to the chairs of the Senate Local Government and Natural Resources and Water committees saying Pilkington was not speaking on behalf of the board and the district has taken no action in regard to AB 2483.

The district is seeking transcripts or video of Pilkington’s testimony before deciding what it will do next.

“We didn’t take any disciplinary action,” said Mehrten. “We will see what he did and how or if he represented the board when he spoke.”

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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