Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
With the excess amount of rain this season, the Madera Irrigation District has been able to release water into its 300 miles of canals.
Recent rains have dramatically altered and transformed the seriously parched California landscape to one that is lush and growing soggy. One local public agency is scrambling to assure this precious resource isn’t squandered.
The Madera Irrigation District encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres in the Madera area. The MID operates a primarily gravity driven irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open flow canals and a 150 miles of large diameter underground pipelines.
According to its files, the mission of Madera Irrigation District is to obtain and manage affordable surface water and groundwater supplies in a manner which will ensure the long-term viability of irrigated agriculture within the district.
“All the rain we’ve had recently has enhanced the district’s ability to provide water for the 2017 growing season,” said MID firector Rick Cosyns. “In addition, we have put a lot of man hours into clearing out debris in the canals and pipeline impeding the water ways.”
This has caused some flooding to growers with property along Cottonwood, Dry and Berenda creeks, Cosyns said.
Rehabilitating the waterways is performed my MID’s own maintenance staff, which expands when the ditch tenders pitch in to groom the creeks and canals that make up the channels for water delivery. These employees take on tasks outside their job descriptions to insure the canals, pipelines and the turnouts are groomed and cleared of branches, weeds, litter and other debris, said Cosyns.
There are some water deliveries being made at this time too, he said.
MID is a public agency, established by the state legislature as a special act district in 1920. It is governed by a five-member board of directors who reside within the division they serve and are elected at large. The statutory authority under which an irrigation district operates is known as the California Water Code.
A large segment of the City of Madera is included within the district. Each resident of the city can vote for the directors and may opt to run for the directorship. City residents benefit when the MID canals and pipelines are employed to help divert storm water from flooding streets.
In addition to the services rendered to the lands within the district, MID conveys agricultural water to the Gravelly Ford Water District. In a partnership with the Madera-Chowchilla Water and Power Authority, they operate and maintain the Madera Canal under an agreement with the United States Bureau of Reclamations. The district also owns and operates Lake Madera and the Madera Ranch Water Supply Enhancement Project, commonly known as the water bank.
Presently, MID is making water deliveries and has undertaken a massive groundwater recharge effort.
In January, the Madera Irrigation District received an influx of water from Millerton Lake via Friant Dam and Hensley Lake from Hidden Dam alleviating potential floods.
After five years of reduced water supplies, including two years of zero water allocations, MID opted to deliver free water to district landowners. The board of directors, at its Jan. 10 meeting, made the decision to allow landowners to use surface water at no charge through Jan. 20. Afterwards, the rate was set at the reduced price of $40 per acre foot for original district landowners and $80 per acre foot for subordinate landowners.
“It has been challenging over the last few years to manage severe drought conditions,” said Thomas Greci, MID general manager. “The district recognizes the need to capture and use as much surface water as possible when it is present. The district is currently routing surface water for recharge purposes into newly rehabilitated basins and is promoting the use of surface water on lands within the district to prevent the loss of the water. The primary opportunity for us to mitigate groundwater overdraft in Madera is to capture and use as much surface water as possible when it is available.”
“MID’s board of directors wanted all district landowners to take advantage of this opportunity provided by the district to receive water at no charge,” said MID board president Jim Erickson. “The board of directors wanted to acknowledge the water supply challenges landowners faced over the last few years and promote the utilization of this very valuable resource while it is available.”
Madera Irrigation District is accepting crop water applications and water orders. To sign up or order water, contact the office at 673-3514 or at Madera Irrigation District, 12152 Road 28 1/2.