State

West Side farmers take case against power lines to MID

A West Side farming family complained Tuesday about damage from new power transmission lines strung by the Modesto Irrigation District.

The project forced the removal of 171 trees and damaged some of the remaining trees and soil, said Ken and Michele Bays, part of a family that grows apricots and nectarines near Westley.

"When someone comes in and basically disregards our wishes, and does whatever they want without regard for our property, it's painful," Michele Bays told the MID board.

The farm is on Needham Road, near the southwest end of a 16-mile transmission corridor from Westley to Rosemore Avenue, just west of Modesto. The 230- kilovolt lines, completed last year, are a key part of the MID's effort to increase the amount of imported power to meet peak demand.

MID General Manager Allen Short declined to comment in detail on the complaint during open session. He said the district is in negotiations with the family, and the board would discuss the matter in closed session.

The farmers said they have tried for three years to get the MID to deal with the effects of the construction, which took place after the district gained access via eminent domain.

They said the power lines have made it impossible to spray pesticides from the air, and ground spraying is limited in wet weather.

They said their soil was left rutted and compacted by equipment used to erect temporary power lines during the construction. They also said the MID left the concrete footings from the previous power poles in the ground, interfering with the irrigation system and farm equipment.

The farmers said it takes seven years from planting for a new apricot or nectarine tree to produce enough fruit to pay for itself.

"You have increased our work, decreased our return, as well as further devalued the land that we farm in order to live," Ken Bays said.

Directors had little comment after the presentation, which included several photos of the farm from the air and ground.

"We certainly do want to do what's right," board chairman Tom Van Groningen said. "Your point about being honest and fair is what will eventually take place."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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