The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, June 13, 2018 meeting at its Wasco headquarters. Well, the San Joaquin Valley in the summer and it’s over 100 degrees. I recently purchased a, not used, what do they call it? Previously owned vehicle. My old Saturn had more than 300,000 miles on it and the AC was going out. I got a guy in Madera who really does me right with used Saturn’s. Coming down Highway 99 it started getting hot and I turned on the new AC. It was only in the 90s according to my rearview mirror/thermometer but the AC was having a heck of a time keeping. It wasn’t until I got to SWSD I discovered I have heated seats. So, live and learn. Also the district served chicken and tri tip with green beans and a salad. Thank you staff.
At 12:30pm Chairman Rick Wegis called the meeting to order. We saluted the flag and introduced ourselves. Dana Munn, General Manager Shafter Wasco Irrigation District spoke up during public comment saying there is a landowner in a white area on the north of Semitropic’s boundaries that keeps asking to be annexed to SWID. Since SWID sits to the south of Semitropic that wouldn’t be geographically pretty. We’ll see what happens.
The minutes and the financials were approved. CPA Jeff King gave the audit report. He kept it briefer than many. The board approved the 2017 audit. As mentioned above it’s a hot Valley afternoon which inflames the surge through the veins for more accounting lust, evidently. Because the budget review was next. The board accepted the report.
General Manager Jason Gianquinto reported on the financing for the System X, Y, Z Project. Staff said the financing will cover $8.5 million and there is good indication it can be paid off before five-years without any prepayment penalty. The board had to pass a resolution to continue with the funding process and the board did so. This project will help to fill out a piped distribution system in the district. Gianquinto said landowner Larry Wells wants to consolidate some of his property and retain the water transfer ability. Wells was late in making the request but if I understood correctly that was more of a paperwork snafu and the board approved.
The Kern River Watershed Coalition was formed with the help of Semitropic and now it wants an amendment to the JPA. After getting deeper involved with the Irritated Lands Regulatory Program it was discovered a need to include growers and landowners to the board of directors. Currently the JPA limits seats to district management or board members. The board agreed to the amendment and now more direct input from farmers will be available.
Gianquinto reported there is 16,000 a/f of dry year water and so far there have been available for $500 a/f. There have been requests for 900 a/f and 850 a/f. Gianquinto recommended extending the deadline past the May 30th date. Now you have to order the water, pay for it and then its delivered on demand. Part of the reason there wasn’t more demand was the cashflow. The board will allow a longer time from ordering and paying. You’ll still have to pay before you get the water but you can order it further out. If the customer wants to bank the water it has to be banked in Semitropic.
The W.M. Lyles Company representative wasn’t present so Gianquinto gave the report. There are bridges being fashioned from rail cars and that should be finished by July. Larry Rodriguez, GEI reported the SGMA landowner assessments have a mock run ready for Semitropic to try. The outreach with Self Help Enterprises is moving along. Rodriguez said the 2015 energy investigation has finished and the 2016 portion will start. There’s not much happing on the Tulare Lake Project but there will be a meeting about resizing the project in the near future. SGMA support for Semitropic is taking form in new tools to evaluate operations. This will be further developed for landowner presentation. Gianquinto said there has been a good of effort by GEI getting what is happening explained in a way the general landowner can understand. Rodriguez said coordinating with the Poso Group would be a good thing. My main man Wil Boschman was skiing somewhere so Gianquinto reported Boschman had attend the recent ACWA conference and found out Jason Peltier is now working for the Delta Coalition and no longer with San Luis Delta Mendota.
John Jones reported for DWR Inc. saying he’s observing a type of well refurbishing that used acid and if I understand an explosion to knock the scale off. No one in the room thought that was a good idea to eat up a steel casing and then blow it up.
Dean Florez, BPR reported on the governor’s race. Antonio Villariagosa didn’t win and Florez is now hanging around with Gavin Newsome. He said John Cox went from 12 percent to more than 20 percent after President Donald Trump twitted out his support. Florez said Newsome doesn’t have much experience besides being Lt. Governor which doesn’t count for much and he doesn’t have many friends in Los Angeles, the Valley or the legislature. If he wins he’s open for a bipartisan transition team. On the federal Senate race Diane Feinstein is ahead by a mile but it woke her up. She wants to tour Semitropic and discuss carbon farming. Florez said support for Villariagosa shouldn’t hurt the area. He said Latinos don’t vote until November. He wants Semitropic to get a couple of guys together and visit Newsome.
Gianquinto reported Pamela Creedon has retired from the Regional Board and her replacement Patrick Pulupa has been pretty good to work with so far. There was a landowner in Semitropic penalized $100,000 for failing to sign up for the Irrigated Lands Program. The Regional Board is working on updating the Kern County amendment and Kern County folks are working on a way to bring sense to that. There could be a change in the State Water Project allocations on the good side. It shouldn’t go down and may go up. The Kern Groundwater Authority GSA will be holding a manager’s meeting. As for the Delta the X2 line is holding.
A public hearing scheduled for 2:00 pm for the General Assessment Service Charge and the General Project Service Charge got underway on time. The GASC is $1.50 per acre for the improvement districts and the GPSC is $107 per acre for lands within Semitropic benefiting from groundwater recharge. Attorney Ernest Conant read the boiler plate and Gianquinto took it from there. Gianquinto said the board proposed these charges at the last meeting. There were various categories of land impacted in different amounts. Attorney Robert Kuhs, Kuhs & Parker, a Bakersfield firm presented the board with a protest on behalf of his clients Good Harvest Farms, Wasco West LLC, and Edward Wenzel. Greg Manston is a landowner who spoke saying the Kern County economy is agriculture and agriculture should be encouraged; including developing farmland. Manston suggest the board impose a penalty for poor irrigation practices instead of a surcharge for planting crops.
Kuhs presented his case. He asked if the $500 per a/f charge included is groundwater or surface water. Gianquinto said both types of water. Semitropic has yet to determine safe yield under SGMA. Kuhs said his clients asked for documentation and have not received it. Gianquinto said he spoke with one of the landowners yesterday and there was a misunderstanding of what information was being requested. He put the Semitropic Rules & Regulations including the New Land Surcharge document on the overhead to explain the reasoning. Land in Semitropic has a contract with the State Water Project for 3.5 a/f per acre but rarer than a pearl in an oyster is the times the SWP met its contract obligations. So, Semitropic used transfer transactions between Dudley Ridge WD and Mojave WD for Table A water. There was some fine tuning to compensate for variables and that’s how the $500 per acre foot charge was determined.
Kuhs asked if his client were to pump now would it be native water and not subject to service charges. Conant said the charge applies to land developed after July 1, 2017. Kuhs asked if that means any land developed after July 1, 2017 no longer have native water rights. Conant said no, that’s not what it means. Manston said he was confused since he has no canal or turnouts to his land although he’s in Semitropic. Why is he being charged since he has no other source but pumping was his question. It sounded to me like a common question about assessments. A district recharges to the benefit of everyone in the district whether or not they are on surface deliveries. If you were to annex into Semitropic you have to bring your own surface supply.
Kuhs asked if his client brought water into the district would that surcharge apply and I believe the answer was no, they wouldn’t be charged. The rate of $500 per a/f applied to 3.5 a/f per acre equals $17,500 per acre for water if all the 3.5 a/f is used. This charge is based on consumptive use. Consumptive use was emphasized again and again. Kuhs said he’d like to see the documentation and continue the meeting for 30-days. Manston asked if the charges violate Prop 13. Conant said he’d address that directly.
Conant said the district will respond to Kuhs letter. He reminded the board there was special legislation to allow Semitropic move up some of the SGMA provisions. He said the proposed charges fall under Prop 218 and not Prop 13 since they are not taxes. A letter was sent to everyone in the district and the 218 process passed. The new rule was discussed and the board thought in light of SGMA new development without additional surface supplies should be discouraged. Conant said this needs to be adopted today to meet the Kern County Tax Assessor deadline next month to get it on the billing. Or have a special meeting later in the month. Kuhs said the problem with the surcharge treats landowners differently because those that got to the spigot first get the water free. He sees a constitutional problem with that.
The board was asked to adopt resolutions to implement these changes. The board did so.
The meeting then went into closed session for 14 items.
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SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT
1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Board: Rick Wegis – President, Philip W. Portwood – Vice President, Dan Waterhouse – Treasurer, Todd Tracy – Secretary, Jeff Fabbri, Tim Thomson, Tom Toretta
Staff: Jason Gianquinto-General Manager, Bobby Salinas–District Controller, Isela Medina–District Engineer, Executive Secretary-Marsha Payne, Consultant-Will Boschman, Superintendent-John Lynch & Attorney Ernest Conant
About: Semitropic Water Storage District is one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The District delivers water to nearly 300 customers for the irrigation of approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also supplies energy to a variety of users and provides groundwater banking and storage services. Established in 1958, Semitropic Water Storage District covers an area of more than 220,000 acres. It began as an irrigation district for the purpose of securing State Water Project supplies to reduce groundwater overdraft. From www.semitropic.com