This past week’s rain has helped improve the irrigation forecast, but year-to-date rain still lags behind historical averages.
Year-to-date, 3.75 inches of precipitation have fallen in the Turlock Irrigation District watershed; historically, 6.85 inches have fallen by the end of November.
“We’re still quite a bit below average for this date,” said Jason Carkeet, TID utility analyst.
As of Tuesday, November’s total precipitation sat at 2.86 inches, below the monthly average of 4.26. Only minor rainfall is currently forecast for the TID watershed in the remainder of November, though Turlock may see rain today.
Nov. 18 marked the biggest day of rain so far this water year, with 1.24 inches falling. That’s more than the entire accumulation of rain as of November’s start – .91 inches, well below the Nov. 1 average of 2.6 inches.
TID stresses that the water year is still early. The majority of annual precipitation, which averages about 34 inches, falls between December and February.
But given low water storage levels in Don Pedro Reservoir following a historically dry 2011-2012, every inch counts. If dry conditions continue, it could take more than six years to refill Don Pedro –potentially with irrigation allotments of 30 acre-inches or less each year.
TID budget work continues
District directors continued work on the TID budget Tuesday, approving annual budgets for the Walnut Energy Center Authority and Tuolumne Wind Project Authority.
WEC is a 250 megawatt natural gas plant which provides the majority of TID’s power. TWP is a 136.6 megawatt, $427 million wind power plant in Klickitat County, Wash., which helps TID meet state renewable energy mandates.
Both saw essentially flat budgets, which shifted only due to changing power costs and employee benefit costs.
Directors also began reviewing the Electrical Engineering and Operations Administration budget, which will add two new positions for 2013 – a cybersecurity analyst, and an energy specialist. Six positions will be removed, including a substation communication manager, an administrative assistant, and four linemen.
The division budget will remain mostly flat, with slight increases coming due to employee benefit costs. The administration is expecting to engage in several large projects in 2013, with $3.1 million allocated to address growing the system to new customers, $3 million to replace antiquated lines, and $200,000 for a new fiber optic communication system, which will add redundancy.
The Resource Management Planning and Rates Administration presented a similarly flat budget. But the district expects to spend $7 million to drill new natural gas wells, as part of its investment in several fields, and a further $10 million to purchase transmission capacity.
“It could enable us to more cost-effectively reach the Tuolumne Wind Project,” said TID Assistant General Manager of Resource Management, Planning and Rates Jim Farrar.
Most miscellaneous fees and rates will remain flat, though the damaged meter charge has been updated to reflect the replacement cost. Material and service charges were likewise updated, and the work billed to others rate was increased 4.3 percent to reflect increased benefits costs.
TID directors are scheduled to adopt the full TID budget, including rate changes, on Dec. 12.
Her named AGM of Water Resources
Tou Her will become the new TID Assistant General Manager of Water Resources.
Her, currently the Civil Engineering Department manager, will replace current TID AGM of Water Resources Bob Nees, who will retire at the close of the year.
Her was appointed via unanimous vote of the TID directors in closed session Tuesday. He will assume his new position Jan. 1.
Bearing out at new power plant
A bearing has gone bad in one of TID’s new, cutting-edge natural gas turbine generators.
The generator, Unit 1 at the district’s new, $485 million, 174-megawatt Almond 2 Power Plant in Ceres, experienced an overheating bearing last week, forcing the turbine to shut down until it can be repaired. TID was the first utility in the nation to receive General Electric’s new LM6000PG series gas turbines, which can begin producing power in minutes.
When the plant opened in early June, TID staff said that testing and analysis of the cutting-edge units would continue for months, but that the generators had performed beyond expectations in early trials.
GE has been responsive in addressing the bearing issue, TID said, and will fix the fully-warranted unit at their cost.
TID meetings cancelled
The Nov. 27 and Dec. 4 meetings of the TID Board have been cancelled.
The November meeting was cancelled due to Thanksgiving vacations; the December meeting, due to an annual water conference attended by directors.
The board will next meet at 9 a.m. Dec. 11, in the board room of TID’s 333 East Canal Dr. headquarters.