The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, November 2, 2018. Chairman Jim O’Banion called the meeting to order at 8:00am and we all saluted the flag together. The way it should be. The minutes were approved and there were no changes to the agenda. Executive Director Chris White kindly invited me to report on the recent SGMA Roundtable at Fresno State. It went well and there will be more in an upcoming report; now that I’ve found my missing notebook. Panic over until the next time. I also asked if anyone else had heard Trevor Joseph, DWR’s point-man for SGMA is moving into the private sector. I find the timing interesting and that’s no slight against Joseph; he’s always been forthright and helpful to not only me but the GSAs who have asked him for help.
Joanne White gave the financial reports and Adam Hoffman gave his Water Master’s report. He said if the data transmitters being used by the US Bureau of Reclamation were built after 2014 the satellite receiver can’t handle it. The sensors and the satellite aren’t communicating. Somebody, somewhere is working on a patch to fix this. Friant Water Authority personnel have had to drive up and down the San Joaquin River in certain places to double check flows. I’ve heard of the “Kill Chip”, a chip programmed to shutdown the device as soon as the warranty expires. One wonders. Hoffman also said there has been some unexpected trouble at the federal Jones Pumping Plant and a few days of pumping had to be curtailed. The temperature has been much higher than normal but precipitation has been running normal. He also said consultant Dan Steiner visited Ex Con offices recently and shared his thoughts and history on the State Water Project, the Central Valley Project and Delta operations. It was described as a wealth of knowledge.
White gave his report. Few places along the SJR from Friant Dam to the confluence of the Merced River are impacted by the SJR Restoration project as Ex Con. So, Ex Con is tuned into developments in that sphere of concern. Central California Irrigation District and San Luis Canal Company have been working fish screen designs. There was nothing in open or closed session regarding the California Water Fix. Temperance Flat Dam has new sponsors, or the transition to new sponsors. Under SGMA he said to expect the Ex Con GSP to be ready by January.
John Wiersma, General Manager SLCC reported on the subsidence situation in the Red Top area. There is improvement at Sac Dam. Down from six inches in 2015 to 2/10ths of an inch this year. He said Triangle T is bringing in water to the area. The Triangle T Water District is developing public outreach because there are still some areas not plugged into the cure. There is a chance of flooding if subsidence along the Eastern By Pass isn’t slowed down and stopped. Columbia Canal Company GM Ranch Houk said Madera County’s hesitance to address this in the pass is a posterchild for SGMA. He said the area from Chowchilla to the Sierra foothills is still being planted wall to wall. There was a question as to what is happening at the Madera Ranch Recharge Project but no one knows or no one who does is talking. Director Michael Stearns, Firebaugh Canal Water District said the By Pass is an emergency situation and no one is treating it as such.
Rick Iger, Provost & Pritchard talked about the Orestimba Creek program. He said engineer Joe Hopkins will be working in Los Banos part time. The brain trust restored. Hydrogeologist Dr. Ken Schmidt is designing some wells and work should start soon. Iger said this will allow for a USBR grant to get 20-acres for a well field.
Consultant Dave Cory gave his report on CV Salts and State and Regional Board matters. He said there is some funding to help launch a couple of pilot projects to develop nitrate management plans. He’s also working on how to share the pain of actually dealing with salt. He said there will have to be a great deal of coordination with SGMA to prevent duplication. This has long range impacts on ag according to Cory. He’s warned the board many times to stay frosty about the Irrigated Lands Program. The Irritated Lands Program is administered by the Regional Board, if I understand correctly. Jeff Bryant, GM FCWD said a lot of the folks who attended ACWA’s Region Six and Seven meeting went over this very topic and left with their heads swimming.
Attorney Paul Minasian gave his report and said any federal money to the California Water Fix financing is not yet far enough along to report on. He said next week the State Board’s slated to adopt a new, more draconian water quality control plan taking away more water form the tributaries. There is talk the State Board is trying to have it both ways, adopt the plan but allow wiggle room for voluntary agreements. It didn’t sound like sound direction. Minasian laid it out in a bit more detail about the actual procedures in legally dealing with which ever direction the State Board blows. Much more in closed session. I have however heard all manner of pre-election rumors regarding gubernatorial candidates John Cox and Gavin Newsome’s intentions towards the State Board. I’ve also heard Chairwoman Felicia Marcus’ desire is to remain on the board.
Under informational Director Chris Cardella, Columbia Canal Company recently lost his father and our condolences go out to him. White said ACWA is coming up at the end of the month.
The Four Entities GMs’ Report* was next and Bryant said with the existing weather and water supplies he can keep his growers going with water deliveries for as long as they like. Houk said much the same thing. Wiersma said SLCC is working up a banking plan. White said CCID delivered 20,000 a/f last month and will probably do the same this month. His board approved more than $2 million in grants for growers and those projects are rocking. The meeting then went into closed session for eight items: one, personnel, one real estate and the rest litigation.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
The Exchange Contractors cover almost a quarter of a million acres in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties.
The Exchange Contractors Water Authority mission is to effectively protect the Exchange Contract and maximize local water supply, flexibility and redundancy in order to maintain local control over the members’ water supply.
James O’Banion-Chair Central California Irrigation District, Chris Cardella-Vice Chair Columbia Canal Company, James L. Nickel-Treasurer San Luis Canal Company, Mike Stearns-Director Firebaugh Canal Water District
Chris White-Executive Director, Steve Chedester- Director Policies & Programs, Adam Hoffman-Water Resources Specialist, Joann White-Director Finance and Human Resources, Patty Baldini-Office Assistant, Darlene O’Brien- Administrative Assistant, Paul Minasian-Attorney
The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors hold some of the oldest water rights in the state, dating back to the late 1800s. The rights were established by Henry Miller of the legendary Miller and Lux cattle empire. In 1871, Henry Miller constructed canals to divert water from the San Joaquin and North Fork of the Kings Rivers for irrigation of his vast acreage. Today, several of the original Miller and Lux canals are operated by the Exchange Contractors.
Although Henry Miller’s canals served the irrigation needs of his estate in the western portion of Fresno, Madera, Merced, and Stanislaus counties, in order for more growth on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley to occur, more water was needed. In 1933, the United States Department of Interior undertook the Central Valley Project, a vast undertaking to build dams throughout the great Central Valley including the Sacramento, American and San Joaquin Rivers. When construction of the Friant Dam (north of Fresno) was under consideration, feasibility studies showed that irrigation development of the Friant Project between Chowchilla and Bakersfield depended upon water being diverted from the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam and brought to the east side of the valley, via the Friant-Kern Canal.
To accomplish this, the government asked the heirs of Miller and Lux to agree to “exchange” where they receive their pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water from the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers for guaranteed deliveries of “substitute” water from the Sacramento River by means of the Delta-Mendota Canal and other facilities of the United States. This agreement, known as the “Exchange Contract,” along with the accompanying “Purchase Contract,” were reached in 1939 and that led to the name “San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors.” In normal years, the Exchange Contractors are guaranteed 100% of their contractual water allotment (840,000 acre feet) and in critical years the amount is 75% (650,000 a/f).
The Exchange Contractors, however, did not abandon their San Joaquin River water rights. Instead, they agreed not to exercise those San Joaquin and Kings Rivers’ water rights if guaranteed water deliveries continued through the Delta-Mendota Canal or other facilities of the United States.