[env-trinity] Hanford Sentinel 8 25 09

Byron Leydecker bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Aug 26 16:05:42 PDT 2009

Westside farmer sells water for $77 million

By Seth Nidever
snidever at HanfordSentinel.com

Forget gold.  In Kings County, water gets most of the attention. More
specifically, it's the prospect of losing local water rights to outside
entities that gets everybody's dander up.

That's why the Kings County Water Commission spent a good chunk of a Monday
night meeting talking about a Westside landowner who plans to sell 14,000
acre-feet of water a year to the Mojave Water Agency in San Bernardino
County for $5,500 per acre-foot.

That's $77 million of the wet stuff headed out of the county for likely
urban development (an acre-foot is enough water to supply a typical home for
a year, according to Wikipedia).

The tradeoff is that the unnamed landowner - a member of a Bay Area company
called Sandridge Partners, based in Sunnyvale - plans to cut down 2,500
acres of his almond trees along Interstate 5 near Kettleman City.

Normally, that probably wouldn't rank high on the concerns of the water
commission - The land is far away from Hanford, it doesn't affect Kings
River water users and it's California Aqueduct water coming from the
Sacramento River, anyway.

But the concern is that the pattern could become more common as scarce water
becomes more valuable as a commodity than as a way of growing crops.

"Higher bidders are bidding for the water and are willing to pay more," said
Don Mills, commission member.

Mills said he'd like to stop Sandridge from selling the water, but that
Kings County "has no legal authority (to stop it)."

Dudley Ridge Water District, where Sandridge's land is located, has adopted
a policy divvying its water among member property owners. That gives each
the right to sell their share.

No representatives from Sandridge Partners or Dudley Ridge Water District
spoke at Monday's meeting.

According to Mills, however, Sandridge plans to use part of the $77 million
to buy groundwater rights on adjacent land in Kings and Tulare counties in
order to keep at least some of its almond trees alive.

The groundwater might be lower quality, but it is a more reliable water
supply than Aqueduct water, which has been reduced severely due to drought
and environmental issues in the Sacramento River delta.

"It's a matter of economics," said Mark Gilkey, general manager of the
Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage District, in an interview.

Property owners in his water district have done the same thing in the past,
Gilkey said.

As with most water discussions in Kings County, Monday's comments quickly
turned to the topic of new dams - a sore point in Sacramento as Democratic
legislators balk at new storage projects and Republican lawmakers, along
with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, say they won't support anything that
doesn't include new dams.

"The answer's got to be more [water] contracts," said commission member John
Howe, adding that the reshuffling of the existing water supply is "delaying
the inevitable."



Byron Leydecker, JcT

Chair, Friends of Trinity River

PO Box 2327

Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327

415 383 4810 land

415 519 4810 cell

 <mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net

 <mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org

 <http://fotr.org/> http://www.fotr.org 




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