The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, December 17, 2018. The meeting started a little late today, SVWA Chairman, the real Jim Costa called the meeting at 11:00 am. Manager Dan Vink showed an animated video of the way the intakes of the Delta Tunnels would be built. It was very interesting. Vink said there wasn’t a lot to report on about the current water situation; other than the situation looks good enough prevent the US Bureau of Reclamation sending Friant water to the Exchange Contractors. It was raining as we met and the NASA snow flights won’t be starting until February. The budget was in line and the board approved the financial statements.
There is a tour of state legislators coming through later this week on a tour of the San Joaquin Valley. They will be educated on SGMA this Wednesday from 2:00 to 4:00 pm at the LTRID offices.
Vink proceeded to give everyone an update on the current issues. For the past 10-years the San Joaquin River Restoration flows have been somewhat successful. The SJR tributaries and Westlands Water District have sued to get a portion of the return flows but haven’t been successful. This past Wednesday the Coordinated Operations Agreement was updated for the first time since 1986. When the original COA was negotiated and agreed upon there wasn’t a Central Valley Project Improvement Act and a butt load of other new situations such as the Bay Delta Agreement. So, the COA is far more balanced now between state and federal shares of pumping from the Delta. The Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan found Friant pretty much safe as the SJR Restoration counted as the Friant share. There is the Re-initiation Of Consultation on Long-Term Operations – ROC on LTO; the memo from President Donald Trump got the biological opinion consultations back on track. The State Water Resources Control Board has voted to require at least a 40 percent unimpaired flow from the SJR tributaries rather than voluntary agreements from impacted parties.
In addition to this the Friant Water Authority has offered the State Board to give up 50 percent of the recirculation water up to 50,000 a/f. Friant contractors have also agreed to pay $6 a/f on all Ex Con deliveries from CVP facilities. Friant contractors get an agreement from the State Board there will be no additional requests for flow contributions for Water Quality Control Plan from the upper SJR for at least 15-years. The Bureau will be able to recirculate the remaining Restoration Flows.
Dale West, GM asked why any CVP contractors should have to pay the $6 a/f tax. Vink said this money is more of a tax on Delta exports and it is a long-established agreement. Attorney Alex Peltzer said these issues are interrelate and is like juggling. The SJR recaptured flows where one of the carrots to get Friant to agree to the SJR Restoration Act. As for the COA the state is actually a minor player in the Delta but had over the years acquired more and more of an advantage due to later circumstances. The newly minted COA will be of help to Friant. He said even though FWA offered the 50,000 a/f of recirculation water all the contractors will need to buy in. Peltzer said something I hadn’t heard before – the State Board’s only bullet is to require more flows. I must have heard him out of context. Even Vink said this presentation is full of “As we understand it”. He said the Natural Resource Defense Council would not be prevented from suing for more fish flows even though the State Board agreed to stand down for 15-years. Peltzer said some of this will need to be discussed in closed session. He said only a relatively small amount of restoration flows are available for recirculation. The Bureau is working on a long-term recirculation plan that is way over deadline. Peltzer said the hearing last week on the unimpaired flows at the State Board was Phase I. There is a caveat the State Board will revisit this matter as the voluntary settlements are developed further. He said the Phase I revisit is only a framework within a framework. Friant may have gained 15-years of peace from the State Board but not from the NRDC. Vink said if NRDC feels the least bit slighted on any of the recent developments it will sue.
Peltzer said there is no guarantee the $6 per a/f for Ex Con water having any benefits firmly attached. The next steps are to establish open lines of communication with DWR, USBR and the State Board and prepare an internal analysis of the FWA proposal. A request for a review of the modeling used to develop assumptions for the benefits needs to happen.
Vink then spoke about the WIIN Act saying the democrats at the urging of the environmental interests have done its best to prevent an extension. Why wait, just jam it through before January? There aren’t enough dedicated republicans to pass it now.
This morning I saw a Sacramento Bee articled that said the state ceded Delta water to the feds in reference to the COA development. The COA was supposed to be reviewed every five-years and this is the first time a renegotiation has been completed. The negotiations have been underway well before Trump ran for office and the Sac Bee’s spin was to make it a negative loss to the evil Trump. Metropolitan WD was a participant of the process and as I understand it was supportive of the outcome. Peltzer said now is not the time to make a stink. Cliff Loeffler, a director from FWA said there has been a lot of information given by Friant but there is a workshop everyone is invited to attend. Loeffler was asked who was speaking for Friant. He said the Bureau Commissioner asked FWA Ex Officer Jason Phillips and attorney John Bezdek. This was all under a confidentiality agreement. LTRID grower Mike Faria said he wants to see more cooperation between FWA and South Valley. He said there are a lot of smart guys on both sides. Vink said while he’d not announce a 50,000 a/f give away for all of Friant he would like to see Peltzer speak with Bezdek and he’d like to speak with Phillips. With that Vink asked Loeffler to say grace and we ate fajitas in the Christmas spirit. And then there was closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright
South Valley Water Association – Dan Vink, General Manager. Alex Peltzer, Attorney. Eric Limas, Financial Guru. Member agencies: Lower Tule River ID, Pixley ID, Delano Earlimart ID, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID, Tea Pot Dome ID, Shafter Wasco ID, South San Joaquin Municipal UD and Stone Corral ID.