The Modesto Irrigation District board took a step Tuesday toward continued use of Tuolumne River hydropower, a key source since the 1920s.
Directors also wrestled with how to mix solar electricity, a new source, into the grid.
The board voted to hire an engineering firm to guide the federal relicensing application for Don Pedro Reservoir. The complex task, expected to take seven years and cost $26 million, will deal with possible increases in water releases to benefit fish, among many other topics.
The MID expects to cover 32 percent of the cost. The Turlock Irrigation District, which also taps the Tuolumne for water and power, will pay the rest.
The engineering firm is HDR, based in Omaha, Neb. It has experience in the relicensing process at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The districts last went through relicensing in the 1990s. They completed Don Pedro in the early 1970s, enlarging a hydropower system created in the 1920s.
The MID has started to add solar power via state-mandated rebates to homes and businesses. At issue Tuesday was a proposed system atop the Del Monte Foods fruit cannery on Yosemite Boulevard.
Del Monte is asking the board to ease a policy requiring that such systems be owned by the rebate recipients, rather than leased. The company plans to lease the system from a third party over 10 years. Company officials said leasing is the only way to justify the $6.4 million project.
District staff said outright ownership would help assure that the system operates for its entire useful life -- much longer than 10 years -- and that the MID gets its money's worth from the rebate.
The board will continue the discussion July 14.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.