The Friant Water Authority met at the World Ag Expo facility in Tulare on Thursday, July 26, 2018. At other venues FWA has met at there was more space between the tables. It reminded me of the English Parliament where they’d keep the delegates two sword lengths apart. Here at the World Ag Expo upstairs dining and conference room the tables and seats are much closer. But it’s a nice facility and as Director Cliff Loeffler thanked Jesus for in the invocation, “It’s a cool room on a hot day.”
Chairman Kent Stephens called the meeting just after 9:00 am, Loeffler started it all and the consent calendar was approved. FWA Chief Financial Officer Don Willard gave the budget reports, cash activity report and got the board to pay the bills. Willard presented the board with a draft budget and asked the members to take it to the home board for review, come back next month with suggestions for staff and get the whole thing wrapped up at September’s meeting.
Jeff Payne, Director of Water Policy gave his report and said he had two updates on Temperance Flat. The San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority was awarded a $171 million by the California Water Commission and all the strings attached. It also set a $8.5 million or five percent cap on early funding. This money could go for engineering and planning. Temp Flat got shorted on this by the CWC. Payne said the reasoning was convoluted. The other driving force behind Temperance Flat is a MOA and a MOU to further the project. There will be a meeting in Fresno soon where the five MOA members: FWA, City of Fresno, Westlands WD, Exchange Contractors and San Luis Delta Mendota can get together. Attorney Don Davis said there was some heartburn over the funding language that has been cleared up. Davis also said FWA needs to solidify who will represent it at the MOA. Directors Kole Upton, Edwin Camp and Tim Orman names were mentioned. Upton asked why Westlands and Ex Con entered as separate entities from SLDM. CEO Jason Phillips explained the two chose to not participate in SLDM’s Special Activity Agreement felling their interests would be best served by direct participation. He said Westlands has put forth Dan Errotabere and Dan Pope, Ex Con has Jim O’Banion and San Luis has Cannon Michael. Orman said he’s already representing the City of Fresno so the board decided to appoint Upton. Payne also said Tulare ID’s GM Aaron Fukuda and Arvin Edison WD’s Steve Collup have been doing the heavy lifting for the MOU and thanked them for their hard work.
Rufino Gonzalez, US Bureau of Reclamation gave the water report as the federal government sees it. A new man working on contracts was introduced. I didn’t catch his name and I’m pretty sure his last name wasn’t mentioned. But he worked his way up from the mailroom. Good for him. Gonzalez said record heat is taking place this week in the Valley (a lot of fires in the mountains, the sun and moon are glowing red). The NASA flights may receive Bureau funding.
Alex Biering, FWA Government Affairs & Communications reported the November/Meral Water Bond has now been designated Proposition Three on the upcoming ballot. The ballot label was pretty good, it’s being called what the proponents want. There has been what sounded to me like overwhelming support from across the state. The argument against the bond was from the Solano Tax Payers group who complained it doesn’t have funds for dams. The Public Policy Institute of California polled on this and the good news is the voters are interested and 58 percent are in favor and would vote yes. Gubernatorial candidate John Cox requested a briefing from Friant about the situation in the Valley and how Prop Three’s passage can help.
Phillips said there are details on the PPIC web about the polling. He said Friant’s responsibility for $750 million needs to be well thought out. The two fundamental purposes; $400 million on the Friant Kern and Madera Canals. The additional $350 million could be spent on east/west conveyance. However, this isn’t carved in stone – the $350 million is also for recharge. There is some talk about helping the Delta Mendota Canal’s subsidence in order to help Friant by keeping the Exchange Contractors whole. Phillips said this could be a cost savings for Friant and the time to think outside the box is now. He said the FWA board needs to work on how it wants to make the wisest investments. Collup said recapturing San Joaquin River water at Banta Carbona ID with a $50 million conveyance to bring SJR flows back to the Valley could be a good idea.
Stephens said he heard the repayment on the Prop Three bond would cost the state more than $400 million per year but save local governments more than that annually. The new east/west conveyance could well be a 30 mile long, 1,000 cfs pipeline. Maybe they should call it a tunnel and get Governor Jerry Brown on board.
Biering continued with the State Board’s insane Bay Delta Plan that will strip almost half the water from the tributary rivers that join the SJR downstream by through Delta flows. At this time the State Board said the SJR settlement has provided a temporary shield from being forced to contribute more water. But it could be a shield made with the strength of toilet paper should the State Board decide to come after that water later. Payne commented the State Board was petitioned to extend the comment period. He said if you don’t think the government can’t act fast you should have seen how fast the State Board turned down that petition. He said Friant may not be out of the woods yet. Upton said the State Board has held hearings in Merced and other impacted areas where everyone from the state and federal elected officials to the local ag and non-ag businesses spoke out against this plan and the State Board has ignored it all. He said it just a matter of time before they come from more upper SJR water. Assemblyman Adam Grey is planning an August 20th rally at the capital but who knows. Biering also said she’s upgrading the communications and outreach efforts for Friant.
Phillips said he and some of the FWA directors recently visited Washington DC to discuss priorities. The bond, the ability to recharge CVP water into white areas, WIIN Act funding and clean up of how the feds are handling the biological opinions.
Someone named Joe who works as Friant’s DC rep spoke by phone saying there has been some good endorsements from federal elected officials for the bond and commitments to not oppose. He said the WIIN Act and fiscal 2019 appropriations for CVP includes some money to fix the Friant Kern Canal. The efforts to get the feds to consolidate its response to the biological opinions by having the National Marine Fisheries Service that operates under the direction of the Department of Commerce work with the US Fish & Wildlife Service that operates under the direction of the Department of Interior with FWS leading the efforts. Congressman Ken Calvert is working on a federal government reorganization that could move NMFS to the Department of Interior. That isn’t expected to pass this year but it is expected to pass. Valley congressmen want to help get NMFS to commit on a schedule for completion of section 7 consultation on CVP operations. Wilbur Ross is the Secretary of Commerce and as I understand it he’s from New Mexico, so a western ear might be more sympathetic should someone speak out. On the other hand, the cooperation and understanding from the Department of Interior is solid. Continuing with the discussion Joe said there are efforts to streamline title transfer for federal property like the Friant Kern Canal to the FWA. Having the flexibility of recharging CVP water outside of the CVP area is needed to help with hydrology and SGMA. Phillips and Friant have been working on this with a Senate subcommittee and has had good success. The Natural Resource Defense Council* raised its concerns Friant was just trying to expand its boundaries. One hopes the Senate sees through this. If the NRDC held the urban areas to the same standards as ag there would be no civilization.
Doug DeFlitch, FWA COO had engineering consultant Alan Stroppini speak on the work that has been ongoing to fix the conveyance problem on the Friant Kern Canal. Stroppini walked the board through all manner of developing a work schedule complete with funding goals. Engineer/renaissance man Bill Swanson of Stantec took on the daunting job of explaining WIFIA, the Water Infrastructure Funding Innovation Act. This funding source is administered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and one must be invited to apply. It takes a while to get through the procedure, more than a year, after all just the application instructions alone are more than 50 pages long. The board was presented with further evidence that showed some work is being advanced in spite of the joint state/federal task force on making everything a regulatory problem. Loeffler commented he appreciates the work and efficiency on display.
Next DeFlitch said Friant needs the position of senior engineer and needs to hire one. Loeffler said the finance committee has reviewed this and supports this action. The board approved. Sone one’s going to get hired at Friant. Don’t know who yet. Also, since Kathy Bennet has retired FWA needs a new HR head. Friant looked at hiring an agency to find one but that hasn’t been smooth sailing. The board was asked to establish the need to fill that position as well and it approved. As for O&M DeFlitch is committed to getting things done smarter and stuff. My words not his.
Michael Jackson, Regional USBR chief, I don’t know his actual title but he runs the Fresno office. He said the Bureau is getting dollar values for the FKC transfer needs. He reported the City of Bakersfield wants to have a bike trial along the FKC. Bakersfield is going through CEQA at the moment and Jackson said the Bureau won’t approve without Friant’s input. He also said the Secretary (of Interior?) was in town recently didn’t ask him to dinner.
Davis gave the legal report saying the board and staff isn’t in favor of the Bakersfield bike path. He said Friant doesn’t have a say whether or not the Bureau allows the city to install the bike path. He was clear Friant isn’t anti cycling spandex but is concerned about the public dumping crap. He did say the Bureau has been very cooperative in working with Friant. It isn’t an easement in perpetuity and the city liable for trash and other maintenance. If the city doesn’t keep things up or if after the end of the agreement remove its stuff Friant has the right to charge it for doing so. The city is also liable for clean up of any homeless camps. I don’t know if this means the city has to bring out a truck and haul off the cardboard housing or if it has to actually clean the homeless camps; perhaps polish shopping carts. Dana Munn, GM Shafter Wasco ID said Bakersfield has experience with bike paths and in his dealing it has been very responsible. Collup said spandex is bad for pumps, or that’s what I thought he said. Phillips clarified saying if this passes Collup will wear spandex at next month’s meeting.
Davis also said there is a plan for long-term maintenance agreement for FKC with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. He said as scary as that sounds there could be good benefits.
Phillips thanked his staff for their help while on vacation last week. He said he got way behind and didn’t get a CEO report prepared. He avoided emails except for the one from Director Camp that said “Emergency” and the message was don’t let his wife catch him opening this email.
He will be in Sacramento soon to discuss with folks why Friant should get $750 million from the bond. He also said if someone really wants to wade into the minutia of how and why Friant does what it does there will be a board retreat on November 26, 27 and 28th. Last year’s retreat was a success and this year alternates and general managers are invited.
The meeting then went into closed session for three items. It was expect to last 30 minutes and then lunch.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide it’s clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete. Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties. *I’ve said it before, the NRDC is the prime example of the greedy, corporate environmentalist organization.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.
FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 15 districts to operate and maintain the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project. Water from the San Joaquin River is diverted at Friant Dam at Millerton Lake to the Madera/Chowchilla Canal to the north and the Friant/Kern Canal to the south. More than one million acres of mostly family farms and numerous communities get their surface supplies from the Friant Division. Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, COO Doug DeFlitch, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.