On September 20 at 10:31 a.m., President Jim Ericson called to order a special meeting of the Madera Irrigation District board of directors. The meeting had been called for the board to consider, provide direction to staff and present to the public for the first time, the possibility of selling over 10,000 acres referred to as the Madera Ranch to a non-profit organization, The Trust for Public Land, at a possible price of $58 million.
Erickson led the Pledge of Allegiance and there was no report from the closed session held earlier, no potential conflicts of interest nor any public comment. Board Secretary Andrea Sandoval read the detailed agenda item listing all 19 of the tax parcel numbers and then General Manager Tom Greci presented a brief summary of the proposed option agreement.
He said the District had purchased the property in 2005. During discussion, the only member of the public attending, Chris Newton on the staff of The Specialty Crop Co., asked why the property had been acquired originally. Counsel John Kinsey said that there had been the possibility of establishing a water bank. That use and potential other development had been deemed not possible and an earlier board had formalized that decision in 2016. While some rangeland had been commercially leased, for some time the board has been exploring other options.
On the table was the possibility of selling the entire property consisting of 10,940 acres to The Trust for Public Land. This 501c3 non-profit organization acquires land to preserve open space, provide natural habitats and allow non-invasive recreation, especially near urban areas. Privately funded, the group finds public entities to take over and preserve these properties for public benefit. Both the Board and the Trust intend that the Madera Ranch property be preserved in this way.
The document says that within ten days of signing, the Trust will deposit $10,000 with the District, but more significantly, it will have up to two years to obtain an appraisal, review environmental concerns and determine what entity or entities will be involved in maintaining the property into the future. Also included in the documents is authorization for the board to reimburse the Trust for up to five and a half percent of the purchase price for its costs associated with this work. Another deadline is a 120-day limit after signing for the District and the Trust to agree on more specifics on how this open space and habitat will be preserved in the future.
GM Greci said that board will use the net proceeds from the sale to update some of the District’s aging infrastructure as well as to reduce water costs for District landowners. Currently a bond of some $21 million remains on the property which of course would be retired in the event of a sale.
Staff suggested and the board agreed that October 24 will be the date for a special meeting to hear from the public. At this meeting, the board will take formal action on the option agreement. While no vote was taken here, it was clear that the directors are unanimous in their support for this effort. The District is distributing a news release to publicize what the board clearly regards as a potentially very beneficial development. The documents as presented at this meeting can be found MID 23 09 20 Special Board Meeting Packet (1) The public is invited to contact the District office with questions.
All directors were present along with the staff mentioned and Assistant General Manager Dina Nolan. The meeting was adjourned at 10:43 a.m.
Editor’s Note: following is the press release from MID.
Media Contact: Thomas Greci, General Manager (559) 673-3514
MADERA IRRIGATION DISTRICT TO CONSIDER OPTION AGREEMENT WITH THE TRUST FOR PUBLIC LAND FOR THE MADERA RANCH
Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) is excited to announce the potential of a new chapter for the property known as the Madera Ranch. Madera Ranch is located in Madera County approximately four miles southwest of the City of Madera. Madera Irrigation District purchased the Madera Ranch in 2005. In 2008, MID sold approximately 2,700 acres of cultivated land, the District continues to own and operate the remaining almost 11,000 acres as grazing land.
As many in the community of Madera are aware, the Madera Ranch has had a long and convoluted past. From ownership by an Enron subsidiary to unsuccessful attempts to create a water bank on pristine grassland, the Madera Ranch has had countless hurdles and a history longer and more complex than most. It is with great optimism that the MID Board of Directors will be considering an agreement with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) that would benefit MID, the community of Madera, and the public at large.
The property would be conveyed to TPL and then subsequently to a public agency or environmental steward and preserved for open space, habitat restoration, and other related uses. There are many documented endangered species and areas of potential habitat on the site, including species thought only to still exist or have the potential to exist there. In the past, the presence of these species was seen as a detriment to the property’s development; however, the presence of those species is now viewed as an asset—an asset for the environment itself, the District as the landowner, and most importantly, Madera. The MID Board of Directors’ intent and objective in entering into a potential agreement with TPL is to preserve that asset for generations to come while also realizing the monetary benefit of a property transfer.
The funds generated from the sale would be reinvested back into MID. The monies could be used for capital improvements to the District’s aging infrastructure, to reduce water rates for District landowners, to payoff existing bond debt, and to continue to enhance projects and programs for the long-term groundwater sustainability of the District.
“I would like to extend our thanks to the Madera Irrigation District for their leadership in spearheading this promising first step towards the protection and restoration of the Madera Ranch. This space represents crucial habitat for the protection of diverse species that are special to this region” said Guillermo Rodriguez, TPL California State Director. “Madera Ranch is a living testament to what the entirety of California’s Central Valley once embodied — a rich tapestry of natural beauty and biodiversity. By conserving and restoring this open space, we are not just preserving history but forging a path towards a sustainable future.”
The MID Board of Directors will be considering the Option Agreement for approval at the MID Special Board Meeting to be held on October 24, 2023. If you would like to submit comments beforehand, please email Andrea Sandoval, MID Board Secretary, at email@example.com. For more information on the Trust for Public Land, please visit www.tpl.org. For more information on MID, please visit www.madera-id.org.
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Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637 559/673-3514
Staff: General Manager -Thomas Greci, Assistant GM – Dina Nolan
Board: Jim Erickson, Chair; Tim DaSilva, Brian Davis, Carl Janzen and Dave Loquaci
HISTORY: From www.madera-id.org The Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres. MID operates a primarily gravity irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open flow canal systems as well as 150 miles of large diameter pipelines.
The District has a Central Valley Project (CVP) repayment contract with United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) providing up to 85,000 acre feet (AF) of Class 1 and 186,000 AF of Class 2 water per year from the Friant Division (Millerton Lake). The CVP water is released from Millerton Lake through the Friant Dam, and then conveyed through the Madera Canal for delivery into the District’s service area. The District also entered into a CVP repayment contract with the USBR for the yield from the Hidden Unit (Hensley Lake). Under the Hidden Unit contract, the average annual supply available to the District is approximately 24,000 AF per year.
DWR SGMA # 5-022.06