The Tulare Irrigation District’s board of directors met on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 at its headquarters west of Tulare. Driving home from Bakersfield yesterday afternoon I witnessed a rainstorm on Highway 99 in the Tulare area that caused me to turn my whippers on full throttle, slow down to 40 miles per hour and the radio said the wind speed was more than 30 mph. While not Irma force it was pretty intense for this time of year. Corn and silage took a hit. So, I was pleased to see the TID boardroom weathered the storm. However, directors Mike Thomas and Scott Rogers were unaccounted for. Board Chairman David Bixler called the meeting to order at 9:00am.
After approving the minutes and no public comment worth noting Water Master Marco Crenshaw gave his report saying there is water left from this year to carryover for next year. The district’s run ends today. General Manager and all around nice guy Paul Hendrix spoke about a change in TID’s arrangement with Delano Earlimart ID that helped both districts.
District Engineer Aaron Fukuda spoke about the Westlake On-farm Recharge program. He said the grower Daniel Westra found himself with a 1.75-acre pit on his property that would cost a tremendous amount of money to convert to a waste lagoon. He approached TID with a five-year plan to convert the pit to a recharge pond. This is new territory under SGMA and the Mid Kaweah GSA will have some say so in this, but that’s still down the road. How will this recharge be accounted? For sure the grower won’t be pumping out of the pond but will receive the benefit of recharge. It will cost TID $5,000 over five years to lease this pond and it is expected to yield 160 a/f annually or 800 a/f over the course of the program. No bad, less than $7 per a/f for the district to count towards the groundwater recharge. Hendrix said to expect more of these types of proposals as SGMA’s reality come into focus. He said after the district’s recharge capacity is full it would be good to have the extra space to take advantage. Director Dave Martin pointed out if it was farm land the lease cost would be $600 per acre or more. If I understood correctly. There are many ways to put this deal together. There will be some further infrastructure needed and the grower can pay for that or TID pays for it and the grower buys the water or just slice and dice until everyone is happy.
Fox, Wayne Fox, there’s a name you’ve probably heard before because he’s the TID Superintendent. He said some of the tie-ins with a grower using a pressure system to sprinkler the crops is causing a problem in the pipes. The older cast in place concrete pipes can split open. Fox said water has been shooting out of stand pipes. Fox said the district can either upgrade its pipelines or place some new rules on growers. Spraying is almost always a fun topic at board meetings. Dirt canal banks without organic weeds tend to crumble in many cases. Growers don’t want to pay to water weeds. While all of this is happening in the San Joaquin Valley there is a different mindset to the north.
I had a great opportunity last week to visit with Ted Tremble, the GM of Western Canal WD in Nelson, California. Nelson is in the Sacramento Valley and as far as the eye can see there is rice. As I drove through this sea of rice I noticed all of the ditches were full of tulles and blackberries and other stuff I couldn’t identify. Tremble told me the overgrowth can actually count as habitat. I don’t know much about the Sacramento Valley or rice or having enough tail water to use for habitat and how you have conveyance in a ditch full of flora and fauna but I have been around long enough to realize when it comes to water people get creative. Good for Tremble and his gang. Still, this doesn’t mean the government needs to come in with redundant, often counter-productive regulations to spur creativity. I digress.
Next Controller Kathi Artis gave the board the financial report. She keeps it together at TID. Martin thanked staff for stapling the reports at the upper right corner since he’s left handed. That’s an attention to detail one doesn’t usually witness. Due to TID’s Friant cred it will get a check (I think Artis said $6,000 – maybe $60,000 but I doubt it because the board didn’t get giddy enough) from San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority’s audit of the US Bureau of Reclamation. The board reviewed the accounts payable without neither profligacy or penuriousness and approved. Director Rick Borges observed the district purchased both new locks and bolt cutters.
Hendrix gave the SGMA update and said the Mid Kaweah GSA will meet next week and there will be action items to approve all manner of stuff. There will be financial statements and other fun things.
The Okieville Basin Recharge Project was the next item. Fukuda said this small community has some groundwater problems that will most certainly get the California Department of Making Everything a Dam Problem’s Committee for Finger Pointing’s nickers in a bunch. Part of the water is good – drinking water quality but not far away there are elevated levels of – take a guess – nitrates and uranium. If something isn’t done yesterday all the babies from the hood will emit a soft blue glow when the lights are off because no one can pay the power bill because farmers were held responsible and were fined out of business. Good news, as Okieville is to no one’s surprise, a disadvantaged community. Fukuda found a trash can full of grant opportunities to help with this but it looks as if TID will have to be the lead agency. There is no Okieville Chamber of Commerce to spur municipal action. This will cost TID some in cost sharing and the way that pencils out the Prop One SGMA Grant will not be attractive. However, the situation does have direct impacts on ag water visa vie GSA planning for the GSP. So next year’s round of Integrated Water Management Plan grants could be more monetarily friendly. The board recommended not to spend money.
Fukuda next reported on the new power plant to be added to the old power plant at Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River. This all falls under the Kaweah River Power Authority of which TID is a member. The photo of the Osseberger Turbine proposed for the new plant looked like Goldberg got a hold of tinker toys but it’s reportedly all the rage in Colorado. Fukuda showed the operational details and there was much more to it than I can type but depending on the water year this could add an additional 5,000 MW-h/year for you power groupies. There are enough variables to foresee additional planning fees but the total package as of today is $5.3 million. Revenue estimates range from $300,000 to $600,000 annually. Part of this hinges on whether or not So Cal Edison agrees to a 12 KV Transmission line. There was an estimated schedule that shows power could be generated as early as 2020.
Hendrix gave the board an update on the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project. Friant is becoming more involved and Hendrix and other managers got together recently and took a look. He said the new reservoir would add 1.3 million a/f of storage and the 665 feet tall concrete dam will be one of the tallest around. The current capital estimate is $2.7 billion. It could be finished as soon as 2033 and at three percent interest figure $3.9 billion. Hendrix said the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority JPA got the Prop One grant application in on time. The next step taking place over a year and a half is fuzzy. Friant contractor buy-in is needed but the costs have yet to be defined. Friant wants first shot at a buy-in before other entities desiring additional storage. To get ten100,000 a/f of storage sign ups is expected to cost $2 million over 30 months. Friant likes the idea of not accepting state money with state strings attached. In theory contractors could pay for enough of the project to have more say so in operations. Hendrix said there is not a rush to opt in at this time. He said those tossing in money now secure a seat at the table but not storage. So, a district comes in later will still be eligible for storage on an equal footing but would have to pay back costs. At least that is some of the ideas for an MOU being floated. It won’t be cheap but there are many benefits. Hendrix said a partnership with other Kaweah River districts could help spread costs out. He believes Friant needs to step up. Borges said he sees much more benefit for TID in Temp Flat than the California Water Fix. But Borges reminded everyone the Friant Kern Canal has to be repaired and maybe the water bond with money for FKC will pass. Hendrix said for TID to participate in buying storage there will probably need to be a 218 Election to help the district raise bond money.
The Mid Kaweah GSA water budget was the next item. TID and the Cities of Tulare and Visalia make up the MKGSA. Fukuda said GEI engineering/consultants took a look at data from the Water Resource Investigation from the Kaweah Delta WSD. Hendrix said he’ll be working with the management committee to find ways to fund the GSP. When you look at the figures developed TID is the only one of the three entities bringing in more water than pumping it out. But that is not the only consideration and at this time the level of cooperation is very good. TID has not municipal waste water treatment and the cities have no channel loses.
The TID board will sit for the next 10-days as the board of equalization (except for Sunday) and accept petitions to be considered at next month’s meeting.
Borges reported on Friant Water Authority meetings he attended. He said he was told Cal Trans and High Speed Rail have been telling districts the districts are fiscally responsible for infrastructure changes. This is not true. The Friant board will have a retreat in November but no one knows where yet. There were a couple of NASA folks at the last Friant board meeting reporting on the snow survey. Friant met with the SJVWIJPA about Temp Flat to talk things over. There is a proposed new activities agreement to investigate the Temp Flat benefits. Borges said he thinks this is the item the City of Fresno is excited about. There is a competing water bond that has $200 million for Friant Canal but it’s an enviro scam. I think NRDC is behind it. Many of the water bonds over the past haven’t included much in the way of water – more enviro funding. He said in the past after a 2,200 cfs release at Terminus the extra water went to the Tulare Lake Bed. But now, through better management more water can be utilized in the service area and therefore more storage allowed behind the dam. This must be gently explained to the newer Army Corps of Engineers engineers. In response to a report about the tax on nitrates Martin observed AWCA needs to know the nitrates in the water supply of the disadvantaged communities nestled against the foothills didn’t get their nitrates from water flowing uphill. This turned into a discussion on the State Board’s office of enforcement’s 27 letters sent out to growers. Is there an Antifa relationship? I’ll stop there because I haven’t read the letters but it does sound like an unbelievable example of government overreach.
For some good reason there was no closed session and the meeting adjourned.
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TULARE IRRIGATION DISTRICT
6826 Ave 240, Tulare, CA 93274 Office: 559/686-3425
Board: David G. Bixler- President, Richard S. Borges, Jr.-Vice President, Scott Rogers, Dave Martin & Michael Thomas
Staff: Paul Hendrix-General Manager, Kathi Artis–District Controller, Wayne Fox–Superintendent, Marco Crenshaw–District Watermaster, Aaron Fukuda–District Engineer & Alex Peltzer-Attorney.
About: The Tulare Irrigation District was organized September 21, 1889. The original proposal for the formation of an irrigation district covering 219,000 acres, extending from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Tulare Lake, was eventually reduced to 32,500 acres. The District continued in this status until January of 1948 when the so-called Kaweah Lands” (approximately 11,000 acres) were annexed. In October of 1948, approximately 31,000 acres, compromising the area served by the Packwood Canal Company were annexed to the District. A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation contract was signed in 1950 providing an annual supply of 30,000 acre-feet of Class 1 water, and up to 141,000 acre-feet of Class 2 water from the Friant-Kern Canal. The District and the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District have coordinated efforts to enhance the recharge of groundwater within the Kaweah Basin. During high flow times KDWCD may use the recharge basins with the District for recharge purposes. Further, KDWCD has historically provided for a financial incentive program through which the District sustains the level of groundwater recharge from supply sources into the District. This historical program was recently reinstated by both districts in lieu of the District’s plans to concrete-line this canal to conserve the surface water. TID is a member of the Mid Kaweah GSA.