West Side Irrigation District, in response to an order from the California State Water Resources Control Board, shut off its irrigation pumps Monday. The irrigation district normally draws water from Old River from April to November, but the statewide drought has led to unprecedented restrictions.
The former Kimball athletic director, Steve Thornton, told the board during the public comment time that the grass fields used by the softball and baseball teams were dying again after two previous tries to bring them back to life. He said he didn’t understand why Kimball’s classrooms were on city water lines while the fields were watered — with restrictions — by the West Side Irrigation District.
“West Side Irrigation only allows us to have water for seven months of the year,” he said. “November, December, January, February and March, we don’t get water, so our fields basically go without water for five months.”
The assistant superintendent for business services, Casey Goodall, explained that the school district had used the West Side Irrigation District because the school was built outside city limits. He said the decision to not water the fields in the winter was due to the city’s need to reduce water use for landscaping.
Thornton said that drought conditions had caused the fields to die twice and the school’s baseball and softball teams had to find another place to play home games. Softball teams played at the Tracy Sports Complex and baseball at West High School, but neither had fields for practice.
He said the baseball team practiced on the school’s tennis courts using whiffle balls.
“It was rough on the kids, the coaches and the parents,” Thornton said. “I think the kids of Kimball deserve to play on their own field. It just doesn’t seem right we can’t find water.”
The father of a Kimball athlete argued that because his son had to play home games at West, those games should be considered away games and athletes should be provided transportation. He said he was paying $150 in transportation fees, but the players were not receiving the service.
“There is no long-term solution in place for watering our fields; we need to change that,” he said. “Why should a Kimball athlete pay the price for inadequate foresight on our part. The plan doesn’t work and now we’re paying the price.”
Kimball High football coach Charles Spikes summed up his feelings in a request: “Please help us find a long-term solution.”
During the board’s comments, Trustee Gregg Crandall addressed the matter by saying that the board didn’t make decisions with the intent to cause trouble. He also stressed that the recent decision to shut off the water was not Goodall’s, as some people had said.
“We’re trying to do the right thing,” Crandall said. “We’re working on it.”
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