The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, February 7, 2019 board of directors meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. For many years I’ve been telling you they meet in the old Miller & Lux building. For many years I’ve been wrong. I always appreciate when someone gently corrects me and if you know Chris White, engineer, Central California Irrigation District General Manager, Executive Director of the Exchange Contractors and pretty dang good guy* then you know he’s a knowledgeable sort and he kindly informed me the Miller & Lux Building is actually next door. Why don’t my friends tell me these things? For all I know I’ve been committing the literary equivalent of running around with my fly down, a piece of spinach between my front teeth and snot bubble expanding and contracting from my right nostril. I urge you all to let me know when I get something wrong – that’s one of the things the comment section if for. I appreciate it – thanks Chris.
The snow on the Coastal Range is still there and the Valley floor has been getting a hard frost with ice on the top of the puddles left from the rain. This is good as it keeps the snow pack in place. However, I can’t help but remember that old Michael Martin Murphy song “Wildfire.” Remember how the little girl and her pony died? One day there came a killing frost and the pony Wildfire kicked down its stall and went running off to who knows where, maybe getting its circulation going and the little girl followed it. Presumably they both froze to death. That was some frost. Imagine what happened to the tomatoes.
Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at precisely 9:30am. We then all joined together to salute our nation’s flag and introduced ourselves. There were some minor changes to the agenda, no public comment came forward and the consent calendar was approved.
Action items were next and the new SLDM Executive Director Federico Barajas outlined the proposed activity budget of $2.7 million for 2019. He pointed out the membership assessment doesn’t yet include the Integrated Regional Water Management Program expenses as they are still being worked out. This was approved. Assistant Manager Frances Mizuno presented the Operations & Maintenance budget. She said there were different rates prepared for different water supplies. I hear her mention $2.75 per a/f. The Friant Water Authority asked SLDM to hold off until it’s board could be informed. The finance committee respected this request and for the time being will hold off any increases before next month’s meeting. Tom Birmingham, GM Westlands Water District asked about the rewind of the pump motors at the Jones Pumping Plant. He said he believes it should go under capital improvement as opposed to O&M. He said it is a policy question but perhaps there should be some debt incurred. Mizuno said while that would be the preferred method the time frame to get the massive motors refurbished would be delayed. Jeff Catania, GM San Benito County Water Agency said he shared Birmingham’s concerns but suggested this year be the exception. John Valera, Director Santa Clara Valley WD said much the same thing. Birmingham said he understand the immediacy of getting this completed as soon as possible but suggested some of the member agencies might want to loan money, short-term with interest to the SLDM. Barajas said he’s willing to reach out to any agencies willing to participate. Birmingham said similar deals have been swung in the past and the participating districts charged the same interest as the money loaned was earning, so it was a wash. Mizuno said she’s ready to work with interested member agencies but would really like to get this decided by next month. Rick Gilmore, GM Byron Bethany ID would like to get this finished as soon as possible. A workshop may noticed but it sounded like for the short-term this project will be approved as written but with the caveat of having the alternative funding take priority as soon as it can be worked out. Another chance for readers to comment if I got this wrong.
Mizuno told the board the revised employee handbook is ready and the board went right along with her recommendation and approved the new handbook after Birmingham pointed out one phrase needing amendment.
Attorney Becca Akroyd told the board there has been some changes to the Los Vaqueros Reservoir expansion project activity agreement. The board authorized the changes. The board also approved $25,000 to the funding agreement with the US Bureau of Reclamation to perform exploratory work for raising the B.F. Sisk Dam on the San Luis Reservoir. Barajas said the higher dam could add another 120,000 a/f of storage. Bill Pucheu, Director Tranquillity ID asked if the state will be chipping in or does all the storage go to CVP? Barajas said this being looked at. The board approved.
J. Scott Peterson reported to the board the 2019 legislative objectives. Lobbyist Dennis Cardoza joined by phone and said there are three objectives: restore CVP supplies, improve water infrastructure and improve outreach and education. Cardoza said he anticipates earmarks are coming back to congress so get your wish list together. A rumor is a big infrastructure spending bill is on tap for the first have of this year. Peterson said there will be a trip to Washington DC coming up and he recommends those participating get together and coordinate.
Jeff Payne, Water Policy Director at FWA spoke about Friant’s outreach efforts. At a recent FWA board retreat an outreach plan was started. The Valley needs two to three million a/f more than it is now getting. He said with SGMA the problem is: take 100 people, put them on an island, tell them they have enough water for 60 people and form small groups and work it out. He said the message needs to come from other than the water buffalos. Great term Jeff. He said the most impacted communities need to take this message directly to Governor Gavin Newsom. He needs to be asked what the state is willing to have the Valley turn into. This will require funding, partnership and participation. Steve Stadler, GM James ID and Garth Hall, SCVWD both expressed their support. Michael asked about the timeline. Payne said two years from today will be too late. This effort must be started immediately. Jim McLeod, Director Banta Carbona ID said the history of the San Joaquin River is not being taken into account. There are so many actions the environmentals shut down that need to be brought back. Birmingham asked Payne what he sees happening. Payne said there are no solutions without increased Delta exports. There are 10 million a/f of excess water, above regulatory mandates flowing out to sea annually. Putting together and implementing a plan to capture this water and how to get the people of California to go along. Dan Pope, WWD asked Payne what he wants. Payne said he’d like to see SLDM becoming a funding member of this effort. Again, this is something to be worked out in the details. Birmingham asked if not the water buffalos who? Payne said there have been townhall discussions with the disadvantaged communities and the GSAs. He said the east side’s GSA boundaries mostly follow district lines. It would be good to get input from them. As they are the most impacted and of course their counter parts throughout the Valley.
Next Barajas told the board he’d like to schedule a workshop coordinating with consultant Martin Rauch to look at the SLDM strategic plan. Barajas suggested after the March meeting, that fell flat. After several dates were vetoed March 21 was chosen. That also happens to be Michael’s birthday, so get your presents together. He said something like, “He looks forward to sharing that day with his closest friends.” He urged everyone to be prepared so this process can be wrapped up sooner than later. Hall asked for a redlined version of the strategic plan a couple of weeks earlier.
Akroyd next spoke on the IRWMP matters and said the potential participants should be all the SLDM members to be sure the benefits can remain in the area. She said having an activity agreement to have a built-in steering committee to direct the ad hoc groups. How many committee members should there be? She didn’t know and asked for input. There are three funding components; share the general costs rated by water supply, specific funding for specific funds from grants and cost sharing of specific projects. She said the money has been budgeted but spending it hasn’t been approved. She’d like to change that situation. She wants feedback from the board so things can be put in gear at next month’s meeting.
Mizuno updated the board on the Temperance Flat Dam project. She said FWA and Ex Con have joined the new JPA with Westlands ready to join up – it’s rumored. Varela said the Pacheco Reservoir is moving along at an encouraging rate. Birmingham reported Westlands is getting in the middle of the Shasta Dam raising and getting the benefits back to the CVP. There will be a meeting in Sacramento on February 15th meeting open to any CVP district wanting to get going on this project.
Tom Boardman, now with Westlands, gave his report. He said the improved hydrology of the recent past is great but it opens a box of buggers from the regulators. Jones has been pumping away, as has the state’s Banks Plant. They’re both going to be cut back tomorrow. He said two to the three stations in the Delta for turbidity have been nice and clean. That saved 75,000 a/f of exports. The Row Island is the furthest X2 location to the west under the Decision -1641 standard. The further west the X2 line the more water it takes to keep the salt water of the San Francisco Bay from going upstream into the Delta. Yet the surge of water from the recent storms was enough to keep the X2 in place. The D-1641 standard implementation was avoided. He said often if one standard is triggered it triggers other standards. The fish count at the pumps yesterday was high enough to trigger a five-day cut back. Helpfully the Vernalis flows were up. Also the recently negotiated Cooperative Operating Agreement has helped. Flood control at Shasta is 700,000 a/f shy of releases. Folsom Reservoir is releasing but with the storms we’ve had he said that wasn’t unexpected. San Luis Reservoir picked up 100,000 a/f in January due to decreased demand and the rainy weather. He expects to fill SLR by mid-March. He expects the Bureau to maybe allocate 25-30 percent, but he emphasized that is a maybe. There are new components in rescheduled water that may or may not penalize folks one percent. Water guru Erick Johnson of the Water Agency asked about SJR flows due to all the snow. Boardman said with the SJR having this much snow flows through Vernalis should be a backstop later this year. Hall thanked Westlands for its cooperation with the WIIN Act and asked Boardman what the impact will be as a result of it. He said at full pumping capacity the state will get a better deal. He also said the cold-water pool at Shasta is shaping up but the lake has yet to stratify. However they have enough info to theorize there will be a good cold pool. He said by the end of March the Bureau will know enough to maybe even take a risk on allocations. Michael also thanked the members on the front line of COA and WIIN Act matters.
Barajas gave his report and said he wants to pursue the opportunity to get the Bureau to pay for part of the motor rewinds at the Jones plant. He also wants to partner with the Bureau to come up with how to deal with subsidence on the Delta Mendota Canal. He reminded folks the infrastructure bill coming up would be good to keep in mind. He said partnering with the Bureau could yield better results. He said he recently attended a ROC the LTO (one of the cooler acronyms) and that is moving forward. The US Fish & Wildlife Agency is actually being cooperative.
Mike Wade, Bull Goose of the California Farm Water Coalition reported some great outreach over ROC LTO. Bill Diedrich, Director San Luis WD and Chair of the ACWA Ag Committee reported there will be a committee meeting and if someone wants a ride call him.
Mizuno reported on transfers and the San Luis Transmission Line project. There could be some water (50,000 a/f) from Oakdale ID available for transfers pending Bureau help or hindrance. She said it is very clear this is transfer so it shouldn’t get lost somewhere in the Delta. I’m not completely or even partially sure what’s going on with the SLTL project. It is going forward and the design is complete but funding isn’t immediately available. McLeod urged the water policy committee to keep an eye on the mess of Water of the State. California is nuts. White thanked Mizuno for a recent tour of the Jones Plant. Amen. And that was that with the meeting adjourning and going into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 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.