Merced Irrigation District meetings are long and full of obtuse bureaucratic presentations. And MID's last meeting in 2008 was no different from most. But after much of the crowd left the last meeting, Jack Hooper, usually a quiet board member, spoke up. And what he had to say might not have gone down well in front of a room full of farmers. He said that the district should sell water to whoever will pay for it.
"The only thing MID has to sell is water, and we’ve got to sell it when we need it to the highest bidder," he said in a phone interview about his comments at the meeting. He explained this unpopular opinion simply by saying that they need to sell the water to get out of their current crisis. This may not be what anyone wants to hear, but Hooper is willing to say it, at least at the tail end of a heated meeting over whether the district should be selling its water to outsiders at all.
He was reacting to what is so often said by local farmers -- the irrigation district was created and is meant to serve the farmers. They might think that, but MID's mission statement, on its Web site, doesn't say that. In fact, nowhere does it say "MID is only for farmers." The mission statement, which was adopted in 1991, pretty clearly states that the district's purpose is much broader than just serving the farmers. MID's mission, among other things, is to promote a balance between the county's competing water demands--including industry, agriculture, the environment and local cities. Not exactly a mandate to serve just the local growers.