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Turlock to partner with other cities in water plan

POSTED June 29, 2010 11:08 p.m.

The City of Turlock will join forces with nearby Hughson, Ceres, and Modesto to develop an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan in hopes of securing state and federal funds for regional water projects.

“It’s the trend throughout the state and country for cities to regionalize and develop projects that have a regional benefit as opposed to isolationism,” said Turlock Municipal Services Director Dan Madden.

The $241,450 document, of which Turlock will assume a 21 percent, $52,636 share of costs, will make the region eligible for a portion of $1 billion in 2006 Prop 84 water bond funds. A further $1.4 billion could become available this November, should voters approve Proposition 18.

Madden illustrated the need for a local IRWMP at the June 22 Turlock City Council meeting by displaying a color-coded map of the State of California, indicating each region with an adopted IRWMP. Stanislaus County stood out on the map as a lone white spot.

“As you’ll note the Stanislaus County area is one of the last remaining populated areas of the state that has not submitted for approval of an IRWMP,” Madden said.

The four partner cities hope the document will help to secure funding for a $197 million surface water treatment plant, in the works for 22 years, which would take water from the Tuolumne River, chlorinate it, and prepare it for human consumption.

The project could secure a source of drinking water for the region’s foreseeable future, but some local leaders see the costs as exorbitant. Without state or federal grant funding, a surface water treatment plant could double or triple Turlockers’ water rates.

The planning document will also create a Regional Water Management Group and lay out a strategy for the future of the region’s water, from projects to usage scenarios. The multifaceted document will cover everything from drinking water to storm water, wastewater, and recycled water.

“The IRWMP is a planning tool,” Madden said. “At a minimum, it will be used to assist in the development of sustainable water uses, reliable water supplies, improved water quality, the protection of agriculture and a strong economy.”

The protection of agriculture could come into play with the proposed North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project, which would pipe treated wastewater from the cities of Turlock and Modesto to the water-starved farmers of the Westside’s Del Puerto Irrigation District. The NVRRWP has already received some federal attention and the adoption of an IRWMP could open the project up to state funding, too.

While the IRWMP would provide a regional plan for the future of water usage, it would not commit the City of Turlock or any of the partner cities to pursuing any particular strategy – a plus to Turlock Vice Mayor Kurt Spycher.

“I see the benefit of being a part of this, especially for regional projects and grant monies and everything else,” Spycher said. “I just don’t want to do anything that will tie our hands as a city by the suggestions that come out of this in the future.”

The costs of producing the IRWMP will initially be borne by the City of Modesto, which will serve as the lead agency and handle project management for the document, to be produced by RMC Water & Environment of Walnut Creek. Once the document is completed, the cities of Turlock, Hughson, and Ceres will reimburse Modesto for their shares, which were calculated based on the water and sewer revenues received by each agency.

Turlock will pay its share through enterprise funds specifically designated for water and sewer projects. Some additional cost sharing could come into play if other, smaller cities and agencies choose to participate in the IRWMP.

 To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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