Gail Altieri and Linda Santos have been saying for months that the Oakdale Irrigation District (OID) hides its business from members of the district. Now we’re hearing rumors that despite saying all year long it is short water, OID has sold water outside the area.
Altieri and Santos are running against incumbents Al Bairos and Frank Clark for positions on the OID Board of Directors. Earlier this year, OID had a proposed water sale quashed when it was learned OID management had failed to follow California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines for water sales.
One-time water sales, however, are not subject to CEQA oversight. Though it cut allocations for farmers earlier in the year, saying the drought had imposed severe restrictions, it now appears OID has come up with “surplus water” and sold it outside the region as a one-time sale.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions about the water sale. What we do know is OID and South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJ) met on September 17 to discuss a sale of “surplus property” and also met in closed session to discuss “price and terms” for selling water to “federal and state contractors.”
Reliable sources are saying OID and SSJ sold 23,000 acre feet of water for $500 a foot. If that’s the case, it’s easy to see why OID would want to avoid publicity about the sale. Earlier this year, OID told farmers they would not receive their usual allotments of water due to the drought.
Linda Santos says some farmers didn’t plant crops because they feared they wouldn’t have enough water. Later, OID raised allotments for all its customers. Despite the raised allotments, OID Board members have faced angry farmers at public meetings all year long. The farmers claim OID hasn’t been honest about its water supplies from the beginning.
OID depends on water sales to balance its budget. Lately, the district has been running multi-million dollar deficits. The deficits have put added pressure on the district to promote water sales.
Stanislaus County Supervisors and local farmers have protested sales outside the region. They claim there is a strong local market for OID water and have urged OID to consider selling water locally. All parties are likely to be furious to learn OID has conducted a clandestine water sale outside the region.
We are trying to get more details about the sale and will report as soon as we have them. Meanwhile, we’re wondering where OID Directors and management plan to hide if news gets out they’ve negotiated a secret water sale.