The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, May 20, 2019. Chairman the real Jim Costa called the meeting at 9am. There had been a finance committee meeting earlier. The minutes and the agenda were approved. Under water supply updates it looks like there could be flood releases on the San Joaquin until way into June. Lower Tule River Irrigation District General Manager Eric Limas reported there are plans to place the equivalent of 20,000 sandbags on Lake Success to increase the storage by 10,000 a/f if I understood correctly.

The financial report was next and it was given and approved without comment. Well of course the guy who gave the report had comments.

SVWA Executive Director Dan Vink said there are Friant Kern Canal matters South Valley avoids out of deference to the Friant Water Authority but there are issues it behooves the SVWA directors to be apprised of. Delano Earlimart Irrigation District General Manager and former FWA engineer Eric Quinley explained how the FKC repairs will take place. It has been decided to pursue the parallel canal fix where a new, apparently subsidence adjusted channel will run on the east side of the current canal. The existing turnouts would remain but the old canal will be blocked on both sides creating a “turnout pool” feed by a pipe from the new canal. The amount of land acquisition is more than 100 acres. Vink explained there are various options but they involve environmental documents, permission to access the property for surveying and other matters. The new canal will be designed to allow further expansion to raise the embankments and allow for more panels to deal with future subsidence.

FWA Chairman Chris Tantau was present and answered a few questions like the environmental and other right of way work is ready to start. The way to pay has been a hassle. Upstream contractors such as Fresno ID have been very vocal about not wanting to pay for something they didn’t create. Downstream contractors have been upset as well because they didn’t cause the problem but are being adversely impacted more than anyone else. Tantau said an ad hoc committee of directors representing four sections of the canal are meeting and there is progress being made. Senators Diane Feinstein and Cory Gardner of Colorado are working on western water bill that includes $670 million for surface and groundwater storage and supporting conveyance such as the FKC. The bill is going by the name “Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act.” It also funds $100 million for water recycling projects and $60 million for desalination projects.

LTRID Director Tom Barcellos said Congressman Kevin McCarthy has dropped a bill, HR 2695 to rename Success Dam after engineer Richard Shafer. He asked for letters of support from the districts to be sent to McCarthy’s office. I can’t think of a better idea.

Friant has been wrestling with new methodologies of how to share costs. Vink said at one time Friant’s Executive Director Ron Jacobsma had developed a spread sheet to deal with cost sharing. He said Jacobsma, an accountant by trade, was the guru of this issue. Vink said this reworking of the methodology isn’t linked to the subsidence on the canal but rather reflects the need to update cost sharing allocations after the additional colors of water are added; Class I & II and the occasional 215 water have been augmented by Unreleased Restoration Flows and other impacts. Quinley gave the board a presentation about the new way of figuring water. This explanation was involved and required a giant screen TV spread sheet. I’m not quite sure how to convey to you the way the cost will be calculated. And I don’t understand it anyway but Vink commented it looked fair and reasonable.

This sort of moved things around to how to pay for the FKC repairs. Tantau said Fresno ID, Orange Cove ID, Arvin Edison WSD and Delano Earlimart ID are on the ad hoc committee. It seems the best guess is all the Friant contractors will pitch in $50 million and then retake a look if more is needed. Quinley said there are 27 contractors but one Friant Division. Just about everyone in this room seemed to agree that all the Friant contractors should pay something. It was built cooperatively and if something upstream should happen they’d want to have help. If a district doesn’t help should they be allowed to transfer water up or down the FKC past the damaged portion? Attorney Alex Peltzer said while a 218 election might be required to pay for this it could be a smaller amount if the repairs are linked with water supplies. I asked him if there is a contractual obligation for Friant members to pay for repairs and he said yes and no. It’s all a moving target as Friant and the US Bureau of Reclamation’s roles have changed since the JPA was adopted.

Vink said he got an opportunity to have dinner with Bill Lyons the former California Secretary of Agriculture under Governor Grey Davis. Lyons is now working with Governor Gavin Newsom and doing a great job. He also reported SB 1 has gotten the attention of water folks throughout the state. If you don’t know about SB 1 get educated. LTRID Director Josh Pitigliano reported on the recent tour of the Delta and said it was a great tour. Vink added the pumps at the Jones Pumping Plant were not designed to turn on and off. He said it is more than just farmers verses fish. The farmers and wealthy landowners up there don’t want saltwater intrusion and none of them want the Delta tunnels. Pitigliano said two take away messages; they can actually save more endangered fish when the pumps run more and the greatest killer of salmon and smelt are non-native predators such as striped bass.

Next Vink talked about the Voluntary Agreements. He said South Valley has been talking with FWA but haven’t found satisfactory common ground. He said the new Pacific Regional USBR Manager Ernest Conant has had to recues himself from this and the Bureau doesn’t have a clear direction. He said trying to work with FWA and the Bureau isn’t a good use of South Valley resources. He advocates holding back and developing alternatives as the situation develops. Peltzer said the San Joaquin River restoration water is recirculated at the Banta Carbona and this is approved on a year by year basis by the State Board. The tributaries have sued but they have lost and just recently dropped an appeal. Vink said the project description of the Friant Delta Outflow Goal from the Bureau needs to be acted upon as a voluntary agreement. This isn’t voluntary if the Bureau just gives away water without Friant’s consent. The goal of 50,000 a/f maximum of SJR water should be the deal. I thought this was agreed to at one time – a done deal. Vink said this has been a foggy mess to work through. He said having actual environmental benefits as opposed to just sending another acre foot of water under the Golden Gate Bridge would be far more palatable. He said using Friant’s 50,000 a/f for flood plain habitat would be a case in point. Peltzer said he spoke with DWR at the recent ACWA conference and if I understood they liked that idea.

Vink said there has to be a better way to streamline Bureau actions, more to come.

The meeting then went into closed session.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright

South Valley Water Association – Dan Vink, General Manager. Alex Peltzer, Attorney. Eric Limas & Jarno Mayes 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.