Modesto utility rejects SF water sale
Yesterday’s closed session vote concluded speculation that Modesto would would begin supplying water to the San Francisco region. The board voted 5-0 to conclude negotiations with SF after both sides refused to back down on a couple keys sticking points.
The breakdown of negotiations resulted from two critical amendments to the plan. Modesto requested that provisions be made for reducing the volume of water sold to the city in dry years. This provision was seen as critical to protect local farmers and guarantee them adequate water supply for irrigating crops. The second provision would have allowed Modesto to end the sale at any time.
Steven Ritchie, assistant general manager for the water enterprise at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said that these provisions made the deal impossible. San Francisco needs a consistent, reliable water source. These provisions would give Modesto too much flexibility to alter the terms of the agreement.
San Francisco was willing to pay $700/ac-ft, or 70 times what local farmers and domestic users pay. These funds would have helped pay for canal system improvements in Modesto. Environmentalists were pleased that negotiations broke off, fearing disruption of water supply to the lower Tuolomne River.
Although negotiations are currently at an impasse, it is likely that the issue will come up again in the future. San Francisco needs additional water supply, and Modesto needs funding for system upgrades.