The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, December 6, 2018 board of directors meeting at its Los Banos headquarters in the old Miller & Lux Building. If all you know of Los Banos is the slough through town down Pacheco Boulevard when trying to get from I-5 to Highway 99 then you don’t really know Los Banos. There’s more to it than just fast food, strip malls, mega box stores, motels and gas stations. Once you get off the main drag there are also bars and used car lots. Ok, there are those but there is also a charming downtown. They bother to decorate for Christmas. There are great Mom & Pop restaurants and (I haven’t been in a couple of years since Martin McIntyre was General Manager of San Luis Water District) the corner drug store still has a lunch counter and soda fountain. I got there late because the meeting was held at Casa de Oro Hotel in Santa Nella, just west of Los Banos. I missed the fine print in big, red, bold letters on the agenda notice. Anyway, they didn’t start until I got there – we saluted the flag with “under God” included and as soon as I had my computer out and running the meeting went into closed session.
The big news so far today is Federico Barajas was hired as the new Executive Director, he’ll start December 10th. Also, Becca Akroyd is now the official attorney for SLDM and they hired Scott Peterson as Water Policy Director. Peterson was working for Congressman Jim Costa.
Back in public session Interim Director Francis Mizuno will go back to running the Tracy facilities. She had a new hairdo this morning – she looks younger and without any reason to think so I’m going to say it was her way of celebrating. Jeff Cattaneo, GM San Benito Water District was critical about offering Peterson a job without clearing it with the board first. There was also a question about whether or not there was any agreement in the offer requiring Peterson to stay for at least a year since SLDM is paying for him to relocate from Washington DC. Also, there is no job description or employment agreement. Chairman Cannon Michael weighed in saying the strategic planning SLDM is going on. It’s not finished but it is yielding results and these hires have been under consideration. If I understood correctly a job description and employment agreement will be executed and the board unanimously approved Peterson. Akroyd’s compensation was also approved. Good for her.
Akroyd presented the board with agreements that changes SLDM’s role in SGMA. SLDM has been providing a good deal of help to the GSAs. There is planning grant money coming into play and SLDM isn’t a GSA. So, Stanislaus Irrigation District does act as a GSAs and will be the lead agency on the grant. The board questioned a few points on points. One, the contract wording, as pointed out by Director Anthea Hansen, GM Del Puerto WD and shouldn’t say dull and void – rather null and void. Good eye. The board agreed to the agreement.
Next Akroyd presented the board with an agreement with Contra Costa WD, Madera Regional Water Management Group, Merced ID, San Joaquin County, Stanislaus County Regional Water Authority and the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water (an NGO? No surprise there). This is about some multi-million-dollar grant to do outreach to disadvantaged communities. I asked if the NGO listed was suing anyone else in the grant. I guess not. The board agreed.
Former democrat congressman Dennis Cardoza gave his report by saying he hasn’t seen so many issues from both the state and federal side thrown at water. He said the recent election has slammed the Republicans in California. There are no Republican congressmen from Orange County anymore. Both Congressmen David Valadao and Jeff Denham have lost their seats. Of the 54 California congressmen only seven are Republicans. He said he’s been reaching out to the newly elected congressmen and said something like – their learning curve on water will be steep. They don’t know much at all. On the state side he sees more drinking water legislation. The democrats have a super majority in both the state assembly and state senate. He said there is a, “. . . very, very, very liberal” delegation coming Sacramento next year. They have enough votes to overturn a veto from Governor elect Gavin Newsom who is just as liberal as the legislature. In the middle of this Cardoza said Govern Jerry Brown just replaced someone on the State Water Resources Control Board. So far no water bills have been introduced in the new assembly but that could change soon. The assembly has limited themselves to introduce 55 bills a piece. Cardoza said when he was in the assembly they limited themselves to 30 bills. He recommended taking advantage of getting some spot bills in place and Michael directed him to start preparing some language. He also suggested board members to fly back to Washington DC to help educate the new California congressmen on water and Endangered Species Act. He said he wasn’t comfortable talking about this in open session. He did say the Weyerhauser lawsuit was a victory. Had it gone the other way the ESA could have been used to claim habitat where none exists. He also said Senator Kamala Harris has voiced her opposition to extending the WIIN Act and he said if it doesn’t get done before the next congress is sworn in it won’t happen.
Ok fun. Next the Fiscal Year 2020 Operations & Maintenance Budget was presented by Mizuno. There are new positions opening and for an Info-Tech technician at the Tracy field office. They also need a custodian for the Los Banos offices and the O’Neil plant. Cattaneo said his district has had much better results with contracting out IT services. Mizuno agreed but the position was a place holder for the budget. The O&M Tech Committee approved the budget as did the Finance Committee. Director Gary Kremen, Santa Clara Valley WD reiterated Cattaneo saying with all the advancements in SCADA and the Cloud and such it is very difficult for an in-house IT guy to keep up. I respect Kremen’s opinion as he is up to his neck in Silicon Valley stuff. There were many other items in the O&M budget presentation. This type of information is posted somewhere and I invite you to contact SLDM if you want to know more about the minutia. Although, it’s not minutia to the employees impacted nor their work which benefits the growers in the Authority. You’ll also get better accuracy. I could have sworn I heard Mizuno ask the board to cough up $15,200 for an electric mandolin. It was an electric manlift.
Next, an engineer perhaps, I didn’t catch his name, spoke about an Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. There is a Westside-San Joaquin IRWMP and it needs an update required by the state. A greenhouse gas portion was lacking and has been updated. There were also two rounds of DAC outreach. There is the smell of Prop One grant money wafting through the air. SLDM could get a share of $65 million if it can write an application the covers CEQA (DAC’s not required to independently cover CEQA) and is shovel ready. He listed the projects brought forward for consideration.
Contra Costa WD invited others to partner on the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion. Westlands WD and SCVWD are interested. There was some discussion at the recent ACWA conference about the US Bureau of Reclamation coming up with some funding for expanding San Luis Reservoir. Kremen and SCVWD Director John Valera reported the Pacheco Reservoir expansion is moving forward. They are looking for partners with checkbooks in a positive balance.
Mike Wade of California Farm Water Coalition reported a press release was released earlier today announcing the hiring of Barajas as the new Executive Director. As if on cue Barajas walked into the room. He’s a former Bureau man with 25-years of Central Valley Project experience. Director Bill Diedrich, San Luis WD reported ACWA has a new executive director. Director William Bourdeau, Westlands said Diedrich did an excellent job representing ag at the recent ACWA show. And that was that. They’d already had closed session and have a long strategic planning afternoon meeting to deal with. They did service lunch, so I’ll check that out for you.
It was a do it yourself sandwich bar. It was great; salad, rye and French bread, ham, salami and turkey, swiss, pepper jack and cheddar cheeses, Dijon or yellow mustard and mayonnaise, chips, three kinds of cookies and some sort of caramel/chocolate cake.
Everyone was in a better mood from the food and consultant Martin Rauch led the board through an afternoon of strategic planning. I wasn’t able to stay and that’s kind of a bummer because I’ve seen Rauch’s work before and it’s good. He breaks it down in ways you can understand when trying to get from point A to point B and think clearly about it.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright
SAN LUIS & DELTA-MENDOTA WATER AUTHORITY was established in January of 1992 and consists of approximately 2,100,000 acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors within the western San Joaquin Valley, San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The governing body of the Authority consists of a 19-member Board of Directors classified into five divisions with directors selected from within each division. The main conveyance is the Delta-Mendota Canal that delivers approximately 3,000,000-acre feet of water within the Authority service area. Of this amount, 2,500,000-acre feet are delivered to highly productive agricultural lands, 150,000 to 200,000-acre feet for municipal and industrial uses, and between 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet are delivered to wildlife refuges for habitat enhancement and restoration. Chairman: Cannon Michael, Executive Director: Francis Mizuno (Interim), Attorney: Becca Ackroyd.