Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

Tuolumne Utilities District voters will decide in November whether to keep or replace the majority of the district's board of directors.

Four of the five TUD director seats are up for grabs this year. Nine people are vying for those positions.

The race includes incumbents Bob Behee, Dennis Dahlin and Ron Ringen, and six challengers - Jim Grinnell, John Maciel, Michael Sarno, David Evans, Kent Johnson and David Axelrod.

Behee is the only incumbent running who was elected to the board. Dahlin and Ringen were both appointed to replace directors who resigned in the past year, and TUD Director Barbara Balen is not seeking another term, leading to the higher-than-normal number of seats up for grabs.

The TUD board has faced a number of issues as of late, including a new rate plan approved by the board in June that increased water bills. The plan replaced a failed December rate proposal that rankled many members of the public.

The district also faces a possible water supply issue as the state is looking to set a minimum level for Pinecrest lake during the summer season. TUD officials have said the minimum level proposed by the state could lead to unpredictable water supplies during dry years, and district representatives are asking for more-flexible regulations. Others, including Pinecrest leaseholders and some environmental voices, want TUD to focus on conservation and the state to enforce a set summertime lake level.

The board also is developing a long-term plan for managing the open, unlined ditch system, which most agree is inefficient but is also seen as a recreational and historical resource to many residents. TUD is the largest special district in the county, providing water, sewer or both services to around 44,000 customers. The district maintains a wastewater treatment plant, the county's raw water conveyance ditch system and runs myriad water treatment plants.

District directors set policies for the district's staff, approve budgets and plan for future projects. They receive health benefits and some reimbursements for expenses as compensation.