For 112 years Oakdale (OID) and South San Joaquin Irrigation districts (SSJID) have been the senior water right diverters on the Stanislaus River. In 1972, an agreement was struck by the two districts with the Bureau of Reclamation on how the district’s water will flow-through the New Melones Dam facility after it being constructed. Since then, the district’s water gets stored behind New Melones Dam annually and used when called upon by the districts. Under this agreement with the government, any water left behind New Melones Dam at the end of the year would be relinquished to the federal agency.

For more than two decades, both districts have had the opportunity and taken advantage of transferring portions of their

New Melones Lake on the Stanislaus River (USBR)

annual water supply through willing buyer/willing seller transactions. Transferred water has historically gone to other water districts in the area, to out-of-area districts, releases to the California Department of Water Resources, and even sales to the Bureau of Reclamation

Recently, however, Reclamation changed its interpretation of the 50-year-old contract, insisting that water transfers out of the basin are now no longer allowed, despite a history of such. Any water destined for a transfer

this year that could be a lifeline to other federal water contractors south of the delta would be relinquished to Reclamation and used for other purposes, such as bay-delta water quality enhancement or fish flows, not for agriculture. South-of-delta farmers and 1.2 million acres of farmland hoping for transferred water are anxious for these supplies because their current allocation from Reclamation’s Shasta Reservoir is zero.

Reclamation should adhere to the historic interpretation of its contract and allow water transfers, ESPECIALLY in a year like this, when so many farmers, rural communities, farm-related businesses, and federal wildlife refuges, are suffering under near unprecedented drought.

Read more: Modesto Bee

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