The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, April 12, 2019. Chairman Jim O’Banion called the meeting at the stroke of 9:00am and we all saluted the flag. Ex Con Executive Director Chris White asked us introduced ourselves and we did. It was interesting when Director Chris Cardella of Columbia Canal Company introduced himself as director of the NRDC. Chairman O’Banion ruled him out of order. That was a good one. The agenda was approved as were the minutes. Joanne White, Ex Con controller gave the accounts payables and the finance committee reports.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying Ex Con demands are rising as the heat rises and the crops grow. The San Joaquin River flood releases stopped last week and all the water is now Restoration Flows. There was water under the bridge on State Route 152 when I drove over the SJR. Storage is good in general but the Central Valley Project water contractors are getting screwed from the San Luis operations and Delta pumping. They’re only getting 55 percent allocations despite the wet year. Carry over in San Luis will soon be used or loosed. Delta inflow is 160,000 plus cfs. Oroville and Shasta are releasing. Pumping is now pegged on SJR flows past Vernalis. A quarter of that water can be pumped after being split by the state and feds. More than 111,000 cfs is flowing out to sea. Hoffman said the fall X2 line could really impact pumping in October and November. The outflow of 11,000 cfs is needed to push the salt back during a salmon spawning time.
White gave his report and said he and attorney Paul Minasian have been working with the State Lands Commission on SJR restoration. He said the restoration folks from the US Bureau of Reclamation said there were some snags on funding. White and others went to Washington DC earlier this week and the Bureau Commissioner had worked things out. White reported the fish screens at Sac Dam has become more difficult since it will be tough for sturgeon to get through the current design. This started out a $42 million project and is now a $70 million cost. The Bureau purchased some land near Columbia Canal and it flooded damaging Cardella’s trees. The Bureau started an emergency repair project 45 days ago but no work has been done so far. Ex Con and Santa Clara Valley Water District are looking at transfers and storage agreements. Good for them.
Steve Chedester reported on the Temperance Flat Dam situation. He said getting beneficial deals between east side and west side of the Valley require many moving parts. The re-consultation is bumping up against the Presidential memo timeline. It has the very cool name ROC on LTO.
Jared Martin reported on GSA matters saying Dr. Ken Schmidt will be taking the data and writing it up in a more formal hydrogeological paper. There is some grant money coming in but not much.
White gave the water transfer committee report saying there have been only minor changes to update language in drainage policy. AB 3030 is now SGMA. Transfer policy has also had some language updates. San Luis Canal Company has almost 12,000 a/f of transfers. Firebaugh Canal Water District has five transfers. Director Jim Nickel SLCC suggested expanding the drainage policy to include more area as there is more seepage along the SJR. The board approved this policy change. Nickel’s has property negatively impacted by the river restoration and knows what he’s talking about. The board went along with this proposal. FCWD General Manager Jeff Bryant has some land fallowing transfers and fallowing pilot program. One orchard was pulled out/the equivalent of fallowing for all practical purposes and the water will be used for a fallowing transfer. I understand this has precedence as the same thing was done during the drought. Tri Angle T Water District is working on a transfer involving Central California ID, SLCC and CCC. The water transfer committee recommended the board approve and the board approved.
Mendota Pool Group
The Mendota Pool Group has been working with Ex Con for as long as I recall. White said he doesn’t see MPG pumping this year. Chedester said the MPG submitted its report to Ex Con and is working on a 20-year EIR/EIS. They were going to only complete NEPA and ignore CEQA. Ex Con advised doing both and MPG agreed but it has slowed them down. MPG says the EIR/EIS will be completed by the end of August and asked for an extension. This is the third or fourth year they’ve been late. The agreement now has mitigation placed by Ex Con. Randy Houk, GM CCC said one of his growers developed a 30-acre recharge basin and on the day before they were ready to open their gates the Kings River Water Association announced an end to flood flows. MPG initiated some mitigation and the agreement reflects this so Ex Con was willing to extend the transfer one more year, or really until the end of this year. O’Banion asked what happens next year if the MPG comes back asking for the time extension. Chedester said the MPG has spent far more time and money on its EIR/EIS than Ex Con did. It was surmised poor oversight may be at fault.
White said the Water Resources Plan hasn’t had much to update. Déjà vu, they’re looking at storing water at Del Puerto Creek. The proposal is for an 85,000 a/f reservoir. The board approved hiring Woodward & Curran to develop the study.
Boards & Legislators
Attorney/consultant David Cory gave his Bay Delta/Regional Board report saying the new Irritated Lands Program has been sued by the social warriors. It was difficult to tell if this was harmful or not. It was a very short report. Usually Cory has the unpleasant duty to report all the doom and gloom manufactured in Sacramento. Chedester gave there are 30 groups of CVP and State Water Project contractors along with NGOs meeting to get voluntary agreements to the State Board regarding unimpaired flows. The Compass Resource Management LTD firm has been asked to help facilitate. The progress has been glacial but it looks like Governor Gavin Newsom has put his clout behind the efforts. It will cost Ex Con $15,000 to hire Compass – that’s its share. The board approved as this won’t hurt the budget.
White reported on legislation starting with state bills. AB 636 by Assemblyman Adam Grey to rein in the State Board. SB 487 is asking for DWR to fund NASA snow surveys. Bill Diedrich was present and said SB 1 by Traci Atkins is nothing but bad news. It poisons so many wells and is an anti-Trump political measure that does nothing for the people of California and is all posing. Diedrich said AWCA doesn’t believe it can be stopped so it took a needs to be amended position. SB 559, funding for the Friant Kern Canal repairs wasn’t covered but Friant hasn’t reached out to Ex Con for support.
White, Chedester, Martin, Bryant, Houk and SLCC’s John Wiersma all went to Washington DC from April 8 until yesterday. They met 16 times with congressional staffers and elected officials. They even met with Congressman Jared Huffman, former NRDC attorney. The goals were to educate folks about who Ex Con is, help keeping the SJR restoration on track and providing information about the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir project. They also met with USBR Commissioner Brenda Burman where it was mentioned perhaps adding a sturgeon ladder to Sack Dam might better be decided at a higher level of the SJR restoration staff then some arbitrary decision. Bryant said his take away was the members back in Washington DC now know how Ex Con is and what projects are good. He also said Austin Ewell’s help with the congressional visit was very good. White said there is a proposal to retain Ewells on a $5,000 month per month plus expenses to help with federal contracts. The board approved. Good for them. Houk did say he’ll never fly on Frontier Airlines again.
Minasian gave his report and said the Delta tunnels are in suspension and there is no sign of any progress. FWA has sued the USBR about giving SJR water to Ex Con instead of the Delta water, to be simple about it. The State Board is on a mission to take care of what SB 1 is trying to accomplish in adopting a state wetlands policy. Last Tuesday the State Board took a step back from staff on this matter. It provides some breathing room. Wade Crowfoot is being very quiet since his appointment by Newsom. What does this mean? Crowfoot used to be talkative. Minasian said he doesn’t see the pattern yet. He said him and Hoffman had a talk with State Board staff about metering requirements. They were told anyone taking more than 10,000 a/f have to take measures every 15-minutes and set up a website to display the results. The State Board staff wanted all the Ex Con turnouts on the Delta Mendota Canal be metered. That could easily cost $500,000 per turnout if I understood. It appears State Board staff was wrong about this. There is a great deal of criticism of the way the State Board manages its staff. As with so many things it depends where you live and how much money you make. Nineteen out of 20 Californians live within 40-50 miles of the beach. It is probably the largest concentration of wealth in history. This population is also extremely disconnected from ag and the Valley in general. But if you farm your water will be subject to State Board so you want that board to keep staff in line.
I missed the four managers reports and AWCA will meet next month in Monterey from the 7th to the 10th. The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
Main Office: 541 H Street, P.O. Box 2115 Los Banos, CA 93653 Office 209/827-8616
DWR SGMA Identifier #5-022.07
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