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North San Joaquin Water Conservation District board votes to move forward with grant application

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Posted: Friday, February 11, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:15 am, Fri Feb 11, 2011.

A cash-strapped local water district will work with private landowners to apply for grant money to pump more water out of the Mokelumne River. The directors for the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District voted unanimously Thursday evening to spend up to $4,000 on legal costs to apply for a grant that, if approved, could divert river water into Tracy Lake, where it would be used by surrounding landowners.

While many of the details are still to be sorted out, landowners would front most of the money to match grant funds and would be repaid with district water.

The vote to try for a grant was the only action to come out of a revenue workshop held by the district Thursday evening. Board president Bryan Pilkington did not attend due to illness. Pilkington did not attend the board's previous meeting due to health issues as well.

While the board unanimously agreed to pursue the grant, it was not without hesitation. Each director raised concerns on how much energy the project would consume, what the district's costs would be over the years and if taxpayers would be on the hook if the deal fell through.

"I don't like doing business rushed like this," director Mark Beck said after voting for the grant application process. The grant's application deadline is late next week.

The idea was kicked around last year to pump water into Tracy Lake so growers could use it, and much of the grant paperwork is ready to be sent out, but the parties involved must still hustle if they are to meet the deadline to apply, said Ali Elhassan, an engineer who spoke on behalf of the Franzia family. The Franzia family reached out to the district with the proposal.

While there are many details to still sort out, the district is only on the hook for $4,000 related to the grant application said Karna Harrigfeld, a lawyer for Herum Crabtree and legal counsel for the district.

The district could also choose to deny accepting the grant if it were given to them and they didn't like the deal set up with the landowners.

A workshop on potential district projects will be held Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Lodi Public Library. The meeting is open to the public.

Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at jordang@lodinews.com.

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