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Power, water rate increases on their way
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Electric rates will be going up for Ceres and the rest of the Turlock Irrigation District, as will the rates that farmers in the area pay for irrigation water.

The TID Board of Directors approved the increases on Tuesday last week. The vote came after public hearings that included complaints.

Base electric rates will increase an average of 15 percent when the new rates take effect on Feb. 1. An average TID residential customers using 850-kilowatt hours of electricity will see an increase of approximately $12 in their monthly electric bills.

The increase for each rate class will bring charges closer to the actual costs of providing electric service to those users, said a TID spokesman.

In December, the Power Supply Adjustment (PSA) increased from $0.009 to $0.01 per kilowatt hour. The PSA charge is evaluated every six months and is projected to be reduced later in the year.

This is the first across the board electric rate increase since 2006.

TID general manager Larry Weis said that rates had to be increased as part of adopting the Operating and Capital Improvement Budgets for 2009. Without the increase, TID would fall short of the $52.7 million needed for its 2009 budget.

Weis said TID was forced to increase electric rates due to significant financial impacts including rising wholesale electric prices, below-average generation from hydroelectric and meeting state mandates for renewable energy and greenhouse gases. Revenues have also fallen for TID in the past year because of many households which are vacant because of foreclosures.

"The cost of doing business plus renewable mandates from the state Legislature has put a huge strain on TID," said Weis.

Rates would have been much higher had the TID not dipped into its Rate Stabilization Funds by $8 million.

Irrigation water will increase in a two-step process. On Jan. 1 water will jump by $3 per acre. The second increase will come on Jan. 1, 2010 with an additional $3 increase per acre. The charge for both tier two and tier three water will increase by $5 per acre-foot on January 1, 2009. The increase would raise the water charge from $20 per acre to $23 on Jan. 1, 2009 and to $26 per acre on Jan. 1, 2010.

When available, water above the allotment would be provided at the cost of $15 for the first acre-foot and $20 per acre-foot for any water thereafter.

The rates charged for irrigation water have remained unchanged for the past four years during which time operating and maintenance costs have increased. The new charges will help offset a portion of the increased cost associated with the delivery of irrigation water, maintenance of the canal system and regulatory requirements.