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Ceres wants surface water plant with or without Turlock
TID surface water plant
This image shows an overview of the Surface Water Supply Project, which will provide Turlock and Ceres treated water for drinking from the Tuolumne River. - photo by Photo Contributed

Amy Bublak told voters in Turlock that if she became mayor she wanted to back out of plans for the surface water treatment plant with the city of Ceres. When she defeated Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth – a staunch supporter of the surface water project – on Nov. 6, there were concerns about the future of the plant.

But Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra said with or without Turlock, Ceres wants and needs drinking water from the Tuolumne River.

“I want Turlock to be a part of this program,” said Mayor Vierra. “I think it’s really important that they do this but if they choose not to do it then so be it, let us know and we’ll resize the plant for what we need and we’ll go it alone.”

Vierra, who is no fan of the policy of state lawmakers, said he could foresee the state banning cities from drilling new wells or ratchet down on water standards that many cities won’t be able to meet. He said with the Tuolumne River yielding better water quality than what’s pumped from the underground aquifers, the surface water plant will be a lifesaver in the future.

“It’s going to be cheaper to treat surface water than it is ground water,” predicted Vierra.

Vierra noted that Bublak served 24 months on a subcommittee of Ceres and Turlock city officials studying the plant with the Turlock Irrigation District and said “she voted in support of it the entire way … not one point did she ever say we don’t need this project – she was 110 percent for it.”

At a candidate forum, Bublak questioned whether or not Turlock residents would truly benefit from the project that was doubling their water rates. Soiseth answered her saying that Turlock rates “were going to go up 63 percent if we stayed on groundwater.”

Vierra believes Bublak’s position will not change the entire Turlock City Council’s years of support for the project and hopes it wasn’t just about political posturing to get elected.

“She needed to do something to create a difference between her and Gary and that was the campaign charge and she’s got bad information from a lot of people who were kind of saying … it’s going to cost a ton of money and it never deliver any water and it’s just not true.”

Vierra said without Turlock’s participation, Ceres would have to be a higher cost.

“We would stay involved. It’s so critical and so valuable we can’t not be a part of it.”

The origins of the Surface Water Supply Project began in 1987 when TID initiated discussions with the Stanislaus Regional Water Authority (SRWA) regarding a drinking water project that would help offset deteriorating groundwater quality and supplement groundwater supplies by providing a portion of TID’s Tuolumne River surface water.

The surface water plant, which broke ground near Fox Grove Fishing Access north of Hughson, is being designed to filter and supply up to 30,000 acre-feet of water to Ceres and Turlock residents.

Many residents of Ceres and Turlock protested their respective increase in water rates adopted in 2017. Construction of the plant is expected to cost approximately $288 million, with Turlock paying $182 million and Ceres $100 million. To cover expenses, both cities needed to raise water rates.