Earlier last week, the Turlock Irrigation District race wasn't looking to be much of a battle for incumbent directors Ron Macedo and Joe Alamo, both of whom are looking to retain their seats on the TID board.
However, on Friday, all that changed when Daniel Agundez and Darrell Monroe threw their hats in the ring to challenge the current directors.
Director Charles Fernandes of Ceres is uncontested for his seat.
Fernandes, who was elected to the board in 2001 to represent the Ceres area, said the relicensure of the dam will be the number one concern facing the board. If elected, he hopes his experience with the district will help serve to find a solution to ongoing water problems.
"In a low water year, it's going to make allocating water that much more difficult," said Fernandes. "We're going to need to have long-term goals to address the situation."
He also stated that he's been in support of more controversial projects, like the Tuolumne Wind Project Authority. Fernandes said the project has helped the district as a whole reach future alternative energy goals and that it was a testament of good decision making by the entirety of the board.
"There really are no quick fixes to anything," said Fernandes. "We've done a lot of things right, and we need to move slow and look to the future."
Alamo, who is finishing up his first term on the board, is also looking to reclaim his seat. He stated that his first term has definitely been a learning experience.
"The TID is an intricate business and there really is a lot to know," said Alamo. "But I do believe that I have a lot to offer."
Alamo stated that if elected, one of his major goals will be guaranteeing the district's rights to the Tuolumne River.
Macedo, the final of the three candidates seeking reelection to the board, echoed the concerns of both Alamo and Fernandes. He stated that if elected, he hopes to continue to share the message on how important the Don Pedro water is to Turlock irrigators.
"I think the best thing we can do as a board is to continue to show how this dam is so important to this community," said Macedo.
Macedo, who comes from an extensive agriculture background, stated that there was a learning curve when he was first elected to his seat, despite his prior experiences.
"I thought I was well versed, but things are always changing and shifting," he said.
Macedo also applauded the efforts of the board, and stated that he's "enjoyed every minute of it."
"If I've learned anything, it's how strong of an organization TID really is."
Agundez, a retired Pacific Gas & Electric worker has lived in the community for over 30 years, stated the current board is not being efficient enough in taking action against problems.
"I want to make sure that these issues are being looked at in an urgent way," said Agundez. "I really haven't seen any changes to the current situation."
Agundez, who himself owns and operates a residential pump, stated that there is a lack of attention being given to the groundwater quality and pumping in Turlock and surrounding cities. He also stated that in lieu of 3 consecutive drought years, the board needs to work harder in ensuring water flow is saved for the county's irrigators, rather than selling off the water to other districts.
"Right now, groundwater is the lifeline for a lot of these farmers," said Agundez. "The effects of losing water aren't just limited to our farmers and growers, but our whole economy as well."
Agundez also expressed concerns about the private contractors used by the TID to do field work. According to Agundez, these workers are from out of town and don't stay and contribute to the local community. Instead, Agundez believes that the man power should instead be offered in a form of apprenticeship to community youth.
"Instead of bringing in contractors, why don't we starting offering apprenticeships to our youth," said Agundes. "We'd be paying the same amount and this could generate more jobs in our community."
Also running is retired irrigation worker, Darrell Monroe. Monroe, who filed for his candidacy on Friday worked for the district for over 25 year as a water distribution operator. He stated that if elected, his experience can bring a workable knowledge to the current board.
"Right now, I don't think some of the board has the correct amount of knowledge," said Monroe.
"It seems like the management just kind of leads them into decision.
Monroe also stated that one his major causes for running was ensuring that the Don Pedro reservoir is adequately protected, and that the board should do everything can to ensure the satisfaction for current TID employees.
"For me, it's about keeping the water safe, keeping the power rates low, and keeping our employees happy," he said.