Local News

Wednesday, Feb 05 2014 07:13 PM

Thirsty growers bid sky-high for available water

BY LOIS HENRY Californian columnist lhenry@bakersfield.com

Bids for a chunk of water being sold by a local agricultural water district came in so high Wednesday that one district pulled its bid in the middle of the process figuring "why bother?"

In response to California's devastating drought, the Buena Vista Water Storage District announced last month it would sell 12,000 acre feet of its stored water to local growers by auction as part of a larger water conservation program. The minimum bid was set at $600 per acre foot.

Related Info

WATER BIDS

1. Harris Ranch, $1,350 paf - 300 af, total $405,000

2. Starrh & Starrh, $1,250 paf - 1,000 af, total $1.25 million

3. Cal Heavy Oil, $1,207 paf - 350, total $422,450

4. Starrh & Starrh, $1,200 paf - 1,000 af, total $1.2 million

5. Primex, $1,200 paf - 1,100, total $1.32 million

6. Harris Ranch, $1,200 paf - 300 af, total $360,000

7. Horizon Nut, $1,175 paf - 250 af, total $293,750

8. Starrh & Starrh, $1,150 paf - 1,000 af, total $1.15 million

9. Starrh & Starrh, $1,100 paf - 1,000 af, total $1.1 million

10. Paramount Farming, $1,100 paf - 10,000 af, total $11 million

11. Starrh & Starrh, $1,050 paf - 1,000 af, total $1.05 million

12. Stiefvater Orchards, $1,030 paf - 2000 af, total $2.06 million

13. Webster Pistachios, $1,011 paf - 400 af, total $404,400

14. Cal Heavy Oil, $1,007 paf - 300 af, total $302,100

15. Elex Farm, $1,000 paf - 250 af, total $250,000

16. Harris Ranch, $1,000 paf - 300 af, $300,000

17. Wheeler Ridge Maricopa, $1,000 paf - 3,000 af, total $3 million

18. Harris Ranch, $950 paf - 300 af, total $285,000

19. Rod Stiefvater, $915 paf - 250 af, total $228,750

20. Sandridge Farms, $900 paf - 1,000 af, total $900,000

21. Munger Bros., $900 paf - 1,500 af, total $1.35 million

22. Cawelo Water District, $900 paf - 400 af, total $360,000

23. Rod Stiefvater, $865 paf - 250 af, total $216,250

24. Amin Orchard, $850 paf - 1,200 af, total $1.02 million

25. Rudy Hernandez, $850 paf - 400 af, total $340,000

26. Sandridge Farms, $825 paf - 1,000 af, total $825,000

27. Rod Stiefvater, $815 paf - 250 af, total $203,750

28. John Antongiavanni Jr., $808 paf - 350 af, total $282,800

29. Cal Heavy Oil, $807 paf - 300 af, $242,100

30. Kern-Tulare Water District, $802 paf - 3,000 af, total $2.406 million

31. S&H Ranch, $800 paf - 250 af, total $200,000

32. Grimmway Farms, $800 paf - 1,100 af, total $880,000

33. Westchester Group, $800 paf - 3,000 af, total $2.4 million

34. S&H Ranch, $800 paf - 250 af, total $200,000

35. Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa, $800 paf - 2,000 af, total $1.6 million

36. Rod Stiefvater, $765 paf -250 af, total $191,250

37. CAPS, $750 paf - 500 af, total $$375,000

38. Cal Pistachio, $750 paf - 250 af, total $187,500

39. Chapparel, $750 paf - 750 af, total $562,500

40. Sandridge Farms, $750 paf - 1,000 af, total $750,000

41. Royal Farming, $750 paf - 1,000 af, total $750,000

42. Virvi Almonds, $750 paf - 800 af, total $600,000

43. Rudy Hernandez, $750 paf - 300 af, total $225,000

44. Rudy Hernandez, $725 paf - 250, total $181,250

45. Rudy Hernandez, $725 paf - 250, total $181,250

46. Rainbow Orchards VI, $700 paf - 400 af, total $280,000

47. Sunnyview, $677 paf - 1,000 af, total $677,000

48. Cawelo Water District, $675 paf - 3,000 af, total $2.025 million

49. Cawelo Water District, $675 paf - 1,000 af, total $675,000

50. Kern Westside*, $650 paf - 12,000 af, total $7.8 million

paf = per acre foot

af = acre foot

*Made up of Wheeler Ridge-Maricopa Water Storage District, Berenda Mesa Water District, Belridge Water Storage District and Lost Hills Water District

Note: One company may submit multiple bids based on their differing farming needs.

Source: Buena Vista Water Storage District

Out of a total of 50 bids, nearly 20 were $1,000 per acre foot or higher. Only four bids were less than $700 an acre foot.

The highest bid was $1,350 per acre foot for 300 acre feet, or $405,000 from Harris Ranch.

The lowest was $650 per acre foot for the full 12,000 acre feet up for auction, at a total cost of $7.8 million. That came from Kern Westside, made up of several water districts in western Kern County.

The biggest bid, though, was from Paramount Farming, which pledged to buy 10,000 acre feet of water for $1,100 per acre foot, or a total of $11 million.

In all, the bid requests reflected a need for more than 63,000 acre feet of water.

"The water we're offering is just a drop in the bucket" compared to overall need, said Buena Vista's general manager Maurice Etchechury.

Buena Vista plans to use proceeds from the auction to pay for a land fallowing program within its district. It has offered to pay farmers $400 per acre not to farm this year to reduce demand on the aquifer. It hopes to fallow 4,000 to 5,000 acres through the program.

Announcement of the sale created a great deal of interest locally and throughout the Central Valley, which is still reeling from news that the state has cut water allocations to zero this year.

On top of that, water contractors learned last week that water they had stored in San Luis Reservoir, commonly referred to as "carry over water," may be cut by as much as two-thirds, Etchechury said.

Though no bid winners were announced Wednesday, Sheridan Nicholas, water resources manger for Wheeler-Ridge Maricopa Water Storage District, wasn't hopeful that his district would get the water it bid for.

Wheeler Ridge bid $1,000 per acre foot for a block of 3,000 acre feet and $800 per acre foot for another block of 2,000 acre feet. It was also one of the water districts in the Kern Westside group that bid for all the water at $650 per acre foot.

"I thought we'd be in the running," he said. But he wasn't surprised by the high prices the water was fetching.

Wheeler Ridge typically received about 120,000 acre feet of state water. It had 30,000 acre feet of carry over water, but Nicholas had no idea how much of that the district would actually get this year.

"Keep looking," he said when asked what the district's next step would be.

As the bids were opened and read in Buena Vista's Buttonwillow offices, Steve Dalke, general manager for Kern-Tulare Water District, pulled his district's bid. He ultimately put it back in, but at $802 per acre foot for 3,000 acres, it was on the low side.

"They were all coming in higher, so I thought why bother?" he said of pulling the bid. "But I was here, so why not?"

Etchechury said Buena Vista will now work through the bids and vet them to make sure they adhere to one of the requirements, which was that the water stay in Kern County for agricultural use.

He didn't expect to announce bid winners before next week.

 

Have something to share? Comment on this story

Bakersfield.com Daily Deal!

Mauricio's Grill and Cantina

Daily Deal

$20 for Two Vouchers, Each Good for $20 Worth of Mexican Cuisine at Mauricio's Grill and Cantina ($40 Total Value)

Value
$40
% Off
50%
You Save
$20
27 Bought
Buy Now! See more deals