At a special public hearing and meeting of the board of directors held October 24, 2023, the Madera Irrigation District acted to approve an option to sell nearly 11,000 acres of native grazing land referred to as the Madera Ranch for a price in the range of $58 million. If the deal is completed, the buyer will be the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit organization that will keep the land in its pristine state for public recreational use and the protection of endangered wildlife. The Trust would turn over the property to a public agency or private steward that would commit to protecting the land for future generations.
President Jim Erickson called the meeting to order promptly at 2:30 p.m. with all board members present. After the Pledge, it was noted that there was no conflict of interest nor any public comment on this agenda and nothing to report from the 30-minute closed session that preceded. With that, Board Secretary Andrea Sandoval read the resolution as published in the agenda, including all 19 of the nine-digit tax parcel numbers of the land being optioned. General Manager Tom Greci briefly introduced the agenda item regarding the land option, recalling the board and the public had been presented with the details at a special meeting held September 20. He said since that meeting, there had been several informal approving comments but no questions from the public. At that September meeting, and in a follow up news release issued the next day, it was explained that proceeds from the sale if completed could be used for the benefit of the District, retiring debt, investing in infrastructure and reducing water rates.
The board then considered action on the resolution to approve the Option. Present on Zoom and invited to speak was Alex Size, the Conservation Director for Southern California for the Trust. He said as it happened, he was speaking from the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. He said the Trust is a unique buyer that works with property owners across the U.S. The Trust obtains properties at or below fair market value and finds an appropriate public or private agency to put land into conservation not only to preserve species but to allow public enjoyment. He said in its 50-year history the Trust had completed over 4,500 transactions conserving over four million acres. He said the Trust treats landowners fairly and he thinks the board will find it to be a good partner.
With no further questions or comment, on the motion of Carl Janzen and second by Tim DaSilva, the board was polled and voted unanimously to enter into the agreement.
The option provides that within 10 days of this action, the Trust will pay a deposit of $10,000. It may take up to two years to obtain an appraisal, review environmental concerns and most importantly find an entity or entities to appropriately maintain the property. The Option provides that the District will reimburse the Trust for this work in an amount up to five and a half percent of the purchase price. There is a 120-day period for the District and the Trust to agree on the specifics of how this open space will be preserved for the future.
A second board resolution on the agenda provides approval for the payment to the Trust of these expenses. The District’s counsel, John Kinsey, introduced it briefly. It was moved by Dave Loquaci and seconded by Brian Davis and the board gave unanimous approval.
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Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637, phone 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