Projects to benefit local growers

tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJune 16, 2013 

— A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation infusion of cash will benefit local growers, according officials.

The bureau announced plans last week to spend $414,000 on conservation and efficiency grant projects on the west side in the 2013 fiscal year.

The Los Banos-based Central California Irrigation District will see $300,000 of that money, while the rest is set for the Firebaugh Canal Water District.

Chris White, general manager for the CCID, said about 15 landowners within the district will benefit from the program that will improve on-farm elements and the service ditch.

"There's tremendous scrutiny, especially south of the delta where water is scarce," White said.

The CCID improvements are expected to save 487 acre-feet of water annually. An acre-foot is the amount of water it would take to cover one acre, one foot deep.

The improvements mean better use of water and better quality water, and will help meet state goals for conservation, White said. Basically, the system improvements will allow landowners to stretch the same amount of water out longer, he said.

Since about 1989, White said, the CCID began adding water conservation efforts, including a tiered system for buying water. The water increases in price as the amount used rises.

More conservation efforts are planned.

"Over the next 10 years, the district has budgeted upwards of $70 million toward water conservation," White said.

Jon Maring, who owns about 2,000 acres within the CCID, said anytime the region can get money from an outside group, landowners come together to help the projects move forward. As growers, we all want to do these projects," Maring said. "We just can't afford it."

The project will convert 0.8 miles of open channel to pipeline, operate as an on-demand system and eliminate operational spills.

Maring said changing a dirt ditch into pipeline will keep water from moving sediment and will make for cleaner water.

"We'll release clean water into the river," he said, "and that's what we're all about."

The Firebaugh project will better manage 10,000 acre-feet of water annually, according to a news release.

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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