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North San Joaquin Water Conservation District board regroups with Joe Petersen named as the new president

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Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:14 am, Thu Dec 22, 2011.

Joe Petersen has a major clean-up job ahead of him. As the new president of the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District, the responsibility falls to him to provide the district with direction, and to identify any and all resources under his command to keep the district out of the red.

"If all the energy put into the fight surrounding Mr. Pilkington had been put into this, we'd be a different district right now," he said. "We've got a long row to hoe."

At the Dec. 14 meeting, new officers were nominated. Director Mark Beck is the new vice president, director Joe Valente will serve as secretary and director Hugh Scanlon is treasurer.

Early Wednesday morning at John Kautz Farms, while peacocks poked around on the back porch, the board of directors hammered out the details of their Tracy Lakes petition. The goal is to convince the State Water Resources Control Board that the district is ready and able to use their full water right, up to 20,000 acre-feet a year.

Board attorney Roger Masuda chimed in through speakerphone while Petersen did his best to keep the conversation on topic.

Brandon W. Nakagawa was on hand to guide the board through the process. Nakagawa is a senior civil engineer with San Joaquin County Public Works. He recommended the board find a common ground somewhere between focusing solely on groundwater recharge through the creation of ponds and hoping that water sold to growers will trickle down to the water table.

"You want to present to the state board that you're on both paths and both are feasible. They've got to believe you," said Nakagawa.

One snag is that groundwater recharge doesn't bring in revenue. In fact, it costs the district a bundle in fees to rent the land and pay for electricity to pump the water. However, there is a credit availble for districts who engage in groundwater recharge projects.

To help cut costs, the district does not plan to create new projects until all the existing ones are in good repair and in use.

The distribution breakdown of how much water will be pumped to which facility is as follows:

  • About 8,000 acre-feet will go to Tracy Lake.
  • 7,400 acre-feet will be pumped into the South Ditch and its offshoots.
  • The North Ditch will receive about 2,500 acre-feet, as will the Woodbridge Recharge, formerly known as the Cal-Fed project.

If the state board approves this plan, North San Joaquin will be using over 17,000 acre-feet of its 20,000 acre-feet allotment.

One objection to this plan is that it does not send water to much of the eastern side of the district. Petersen said there were some very feasible options to include the eastern side, but the money just isn't there right now.

"If they want to pay a fee, we'll figure out a way to get the water up there," he said.

The board created a subcommittee on water operations consisting of Petersen, director Joe Valente and former watermaster Ed Steffani. The group will assess the district's current infastructure, including drains, pumps and pipelines, to see what needs repairs.

Before moving to closed session, Petersen invited the directors and members of the public to come forward with ideas for new projects and plans for the coming months.

The next regular meeting is on Jan. 30 at 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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