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48-inch allotment, no cap for 2011 irrigation season

POSTED March 1, 2011 10:54 p.m.

A wet winter will mean a wet summer for local farmers.

The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors on Tuesday authorized a 48-inch per acre water allotment with no cap for the 2011 irrigation season, which will tentatively run from March 10 through Oct. 19.

“I’m very pleased that we have a good snowpack up in our watershed and we’re able to provide a good allotment to our farmers,” said TID Board President Rob Santos.

The approved allotment and cap is the same as offered by TID in 2010. Growers will pay the same in 2011 as in 2010 – $26 per acre for the allotment, with a $15 per acre-foot charge for the first acre-foot and $20 per acre-foot for each acre-foot thereafter.

The large allotment and nonexistent cap was made possible by an especially rainy winter, with accumulated precipitation in the watershed already surpassing annual averages. Snowfall currently sits at 92.4 percent of average for the season, and 106.2 percent of average for March 1.

As approved, the season would start and end about a week earlier than in 2010. But the season’s start and end dates may yet change at the discretion of the district’s Water Distribution Department manager, depending on weather.

TID directors on Tuesday also approved selling surplus irrigation water to parcels adjacent to TID delivery facilities — like canals and irrigation ditches — but not within the district boundaries. The district sold surplus water in the same manner a year ago, but had not previously engaged in the practice since 2006, due to lack of water.

Growers who may purchase surplus water are mainly located in the Eastside Water District and the Ballico-Cortez Water District, both of which rely heavily on groundwater pumping. Farmers will pay $20 per acre-foot, regardless of the amount of water they use. The program uses less than 20,000 acre-feet of water annually, and is considered a boon to the district’s groundwater recharge program.

Growers with questions about the irrigation season can call 883-8356.

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

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