The Friant Water Authority met at the World Ag Expo facility in Tulare on Friday, December 14, 2018. The Christmas spirit was a live and well. Chairman Kent Stephens called the meeting at 9:03am, instead of the traditional 9:00am sharp. I think it was because of the ginger bread cookies. They drew a bit of a crowd and Stephens had to herd them back to their seats. Also, the finance committee met before the meeting and that took a little longer. But, the committee completed its tasks and Director Cliff Loeffler gave an invocation thanking God for the rain and snow and asking for wisdom and peace. As a bonus Lucille Demetriff was present. Good for her.
The first piece of business was the election of officers. FWA has two-year terms of office and Director Eric Borba, Porterville Irrigation District was elected as new Chairman/President. Not really, it was Chris Tantau of Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District. A full slate as proposed by the nomination committee was elected without opposition. The voting was conducted under attorney Don Davis’ guidance to ensure validity. Former Friant Water Users Authority Chairman Kole Upton informed Stephens one of the perks for retiring chairmen is psychological counseling. General Manager Jason Phillips asked the directors to fill out a questionnaire regrading the recent board retreat.
COO Doug DeFlitch’s O&M report was next and he had a chore before him. Along with the defeat of Prop Three was the $750 million to help fix the Friant Kern Canal. There has been a lot of talk about why when we finally get a water bond that includes water it didn’t pass. That’s for another time and place. DeFlitch presented the board with Resolution No. 2018-05 to authorize a contract with Erosion Control Applications, Inc. for the supply and installation of liner improvements to the Friant Kern Canal. There was a vote and Fresno ID’s director wasn’t present. Two other districts abstained but there were plenty of yeas for the resolution to pass.
Phillips said there won’t be anything else getting through congress until next year. Phillips said folks have been after him to raise the profile of the WIIN Act with our representatives in Washington DC. Phillips said Congressman Kevin McCarthy called President Donald Trump to urge him to help support continuing the WIIN Act and he didn’t really know how much higher to elevate the issue. Naturally some joker in sotto voce said Pelosi and Putin.
DeFlitch also requested the board to approve a MOU with Tulare County to help with the bridges being impacted by the subsidence on the FKC and the board did agree. Next was a funding agreement between FWA and DWR to get some partial funding for the FKC reverse flow pumping agreement. There were some opt outs written in and the board approved. Finally the board was asked to approve a draft revision to the FKC O&M costs and how they are weighed by Class I & II contractors. Phillips said all of the FKC contractors will be given the draft of the proposed methodology before it is entered into any agreement. Director Edwin Camp requested adding the definition of extraordinary O&M into the agreement. That includes restoring the canal to its historic, flow or design capacity. Which criteria was the question, as they all represent different amounts of water. Tim Orman, City of Fresno suggested including the impacts of the different methods. Fergus Morrissey, GM Orange Cover ID said he thought that might be a very good idea since some of the growers may agree philosophically on the need but not agree financially. And he pointed out that is not a reflection of integrity but that of sticker shock. Sean Geivet, GM Porterville ID asked if this substantially the same agreement minus 215 Water and extraordinary maintenance. The answer was yes. Fixing the subsidence is a part of this and that is on everyone’s mind. The board tabled the item for further study. DeFlitch said the timing to pass this today has to do with the 60-day review so the home boards could approve before the March 1st date. March 1st is when the determination of fees is completed. But this is important enough to work on a little longer and the board was OK with that. Steve Collop, Arvin Edison WSD he wants assurance Class I and II and 215 Water can be evaluated for these purposes without coloring the water. Geivet suggested with the inclusion of San Joaquin River Restoration flows the policy most certainly needs an update but he would like to separate the subsidence from the rest of the issues. Stephens said he can envision scenarios where an earthquake somewhere along the canal could fall under extraordinary maintenance. Everyone agreed to table the item and direct staff to flesh the draft out further. DeFlitch also introduced a new lady who has taken over human resource duties for Friant. Friant CFO Don Willard gave the financial reports and all was approved.
FWA Director of Water Policy Jeff Payne reported on the Temperance Flat MOU group. At this point only FWA and the Exchange Contractors are fully in. San Luis Delta Mendota is waiting to see how many of its members are willing to enter into an special agreement. Phillips said he was in a meeting with governor elect Gavin Newsom. Newsom asked what was happening with Temp Flat. Phillips said since the California Water Commission was less than enthusiastic there is some question whether or not the state would block Temp Flat if outside funds were raised. I was there and Newsom, as Phillips said, was open minded about this. Payne said there is an updated Technical Memo being produced at the request of the SGMA agencies within FWA. Jeevan Mohar, GM Arvin Edison asked if the recent progress on the Cooperative Operations Agreement between the state and feds will have much of an impact at this point. I think there is more to work on before that can be determined. There is a man retiring from DWR has been a champion of the NASA Airborne Snow Observatory; but he leaves a legacy that paved the way for more state involvement in ASO. I did not catch his name. Payne also gave the US Bureau of Reclamation’s report since no one from the Bureau was able to attend. Am I the only one who finds this – well strange? Prop Three down – no Bureau? Anyway, Payne said the details for new information are vague at this time. There recent storms yielded more snow than rain, if I understood, and that’s a good thing.
FWA Government Affairs Director Alex Biering phoned in her report from somewhere, I’m guessing Sacramento, but I had a very difficult time hearing her from where I was sitting; so take that into account. She said the FWA should be ready to take a trip to Washington DC in February. The upcoming issue of Water Line, FWA’s newsletter will include something about the State Board’s vote this week. I guess now is a good time to bring this up. Despite overwhelming opposition the State Board voted to require San Joaquin River tributaries to send 40 percent of their flow through the Delta. Not a popular move considering sending more water through the Delta has never helped the wildlife. The general consensus is the State Board is out of control, with staff running the asylum. There have been calls for a reorganization of the board. Also, the Ferguson Group in Washington DC was retained to help represent Friant.
It was Phillips turn to give his XO report. He said Friant’s Bill Luce is ready to host his ugly Christmas Sweater Party this evening. Funny, I didn’t get an invite. Phillips said it was on this day after a long meeting Luce called him to offer the Friant CEO position. He said that is a fond memory. Phillips reported further on the meeting in Fresno with Newsom. He said he hopes all the sincerity Newsom exhibited will still be there next year. He said by the time he was able to speak many of the key points had been expressed. He told Newsom if the State Board and all the other agencies stop interfering with surface deliveries the Valley will still be in a big jam. He suggested Friant working with DWR on some strategy. I was at this meeting and I join Phillips in hoping Newsom will continue keeping the Valley in his sights, in a good way. Newsom is aware of the subsidence on the FKC. I’ve heard from some other really slick politicians that Newsom doesn’t have any great alliance with the legislature and he may have to actually govern in a more moderate manner than his reputation as a far leftist would lead me to believe.
Phillips reported on the recent board retreat and said it was helpful. One result was to push a Valley wide effort to deal with the overdraft, subsidence and SGMA problem. There are many other contractors on the FKC who are not members of FWA. The subsidence issue impacts everyone who receives water from Friant. He will reach out to all of these districts with an invitation to join FWA with the option of forming an ad hoc committee to weigh in on the subsidence fix. Tom Barcellos is a director of the Lower Tule River ID. He spoke up saying he’d be very supportive of the ad hoc approach and would like to see LTRID participate. The issue of transferring title of the FKC to FWA was discussed. Phillips said he heard from the retreat FWA needs to put together a White Paper on how to move forward. He said developing partners is very important. A draft of the SJV Blueprint was developed and distributed in the packet. He said the SGMA folks have been nose deep on these issues for some time. He said Temp Flat was a good example of developing a political coalition but not having the proper technical components. He said the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority is one such partner. Bottom line, the Valley needs three million-acre feet more than it does now. To borrow – we have to stand together or hang separately.
Stephens said he thinks Phillips has a valid vision and is providing leadership. He said he found the retreat to have been very valuable.
The meeting went into closed session, with a special board meeting at noon.The lunch was chicken and hogs with pilaf, salad (the kind that looked like lawn clippings, not romaine) and steamed vegetables. The afternoon special meeting covered some pretty amazing things: President Donald Trump’s memo and the Cooperative Operating Agreement. Both of these are worth a report to themselves and the FWA will be holding a workshop on the subjects. Briefly, if I understand it correctly, Friant will be receiving much more San Joaquin River Restoration Program captured return flows. The Central Valley Project is now on par with the DWR when accounting for COA flows. And the Trump memo has gotten the stalled Biological Opinions back on track. All of this accomplishes better supplies for the Exchange Contractors and takes away the threat of the USBR making a call on Friant water to meet its Ex Con obligations. Pretty good news in light of Prop Three and losing Congressman David Valadao’s seat to someone else. My old dog Boudreaux died in his sleep early Wednesday morning so I need some good news.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright
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 Water 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.