The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at Columbia Canal Company headquarters in Firebaugh on Friday, September 6, 2019. It was a beautiful morning with high clouds over the Sierra Nevada Range and the Valley’s east side. The air was cooler than usual and the view was good considering it’s harvest time. The Coastal Range was clear as a bell from west of highway 99. The CCC’s new shop was clean, probably could have operated on someone if you had to. There will be a BBQ after the meeting. Every once in a while one of the member agencies hosts the meeting. And CCC has this nice, new shop to hang out in. On a very positive note Firebaugh Canal Water District General Manager Jeff Bryant’s granddaughter is doing very well. Lot’s to thank God for.
Chairman Jim O’Banion called the meeting to order at 9:00am. We began with a flag salute. Many years ago O’Banion asked me to lead the flag salute and it took me by such surprise I almost said the Lord’s Prayer. The minutes were approved and Controller Joann White gave the financial reports and that went pretty quick. The board approved her report as well.
Provost & Pritchard consulting Engineer Rick Iger reported Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking at pre-disaster grant awards. Orestimba Creek and the Los Banos Reservoir projects could both qualify for FEMA funds but they have a backlog of environmental reports to go through. Ex Con Executive Director Chris White said this may necessitate some budget shifts while waiting for the grant money to come through – if I understood correctly.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying 380 cfs of restoration water is being released into the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam. About 90 cfs is making it the Mendota Pool. Storage for this date is way up: Shasta is 127 percent of average, San Luis is 141 percent, Millerton is at 174 percent and Pine Flat is right at 173 percent of average. Hoffman said Delta outflow is 11,778 cfs for the X2 line. The federal Jones Pumping Plant and the state Banks Pumping Plant are both impacted by the Fall X2 but in different ways. The federal Fish & Wildlife has different guidelines than the state Fish & Wildlife.
White gave his report and the saying the San Joaquin River Restoration Program will require a meeting later today with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Bureau of Reclamation about fish screens, syphons and such. There was a design project almost ready but a large insurance company (not going to say which one but it’s named after a founding father with probably the most famous signature of all time) bought virgin range land near Red Top and planted orchards wall to wall and began pumping until subsidence shut them down. It’s far from being the only case of subsidence; just one of the most blatant. It’s a bit grating to hear the company talk about all the good work they’ve done to address subsidence – and they do good work – without mentioning what caused the problem in the first place. Anyway, this subsidence has impacted the levee along the East Side Bypass. The Bureau only has as much money as it has. White said former Bureau Regional boss David Murillo made it a point to accomplish what it can accomplish with the money available. CCC GM Randy Houk said the Bureau is working on seepage by purchasing land in the district. That’s not the same as repairing seepage.
White continued by saying he’s been working with Austin Ewell and Valley Congressmen TJ Cox and Jim Costa on getting some language in a bill to benefit Sac Dam. Assemblyman Adam Gray will be touring Ex Con and that’s exciting. I liked what Gray said about being elected to office in Sacramento. Gray said there is more to it than just drafting laws; it includes managing a very large government. Something that gets lost in the utter silliness in the State Capital.
Central California Irrigation District GM Jarrett Martin said something I’m hearing up and down the Valley. He said all the local GSAs will be working together to gather data in the first five years of SGMA.
White reported Santa Clara Valley WD, now known as Valley Water is willing to work with Ex Con on water transfers and exchanges. There has been give and take in the negotiations but they appear to be paying off. Good for them. Bryant said he and other members of the SJ River JPA in charge of drainage into the river sat down with the Bureau the other day and made some progress in discovering what the Bureau wants and how to go about getting it. White said in a related matter getting a final biological opinion USBR Mid Pacific Director Ernest Conant told a group at dinner recently the courts traditionally give deference to the agencies. There will be lawsuits but Conant, a very experienced water attorney was optimistic the biops are sound science.
Ex Con Director of Policy Steve Chedester gave his report saying he hopes the final design for the Mendota Fish Screen will be complete by 2021. He said there’s nothing new from Temperance Flat other than transfers of documents from the old JPA to the new JPA. There will be a workshop later this month for participants. Friant and Ex Con are the only members but Westlands WD is keeping an eye on things. The Re-initiation of Consultation on Long Term Operations, ROC on LTO (such a cool acronym) is the official name of the biops. Chedester keeps tabs on this as well and he has reason to believe it will be wrapped up before February 2020. The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint is working towards an eight county economic study on water policy’s impact on the Valley. The VWBp is its own entity now and moving forward under its own steam. Donations still expected. There will be a workshop tomorrow Saturday, September 7th from 10am to 2pm at the Wonderful Conference Room at Fresno State’s Jordan Ag Building to give recommendations to the California Water Resiliency Plan. It will include an attempt at pizza for lunch.
Next the board looked at transfer agreements between Ex Con and: Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD – 15,000 a/f, Triangle T WD – 6,000 a/f and Valley Water for 5,000 a/f. The answer from the board was yes, yes and yes. White spoke about the terms with Valley Water. It’s a pilot project and looks like a win-win for both entities. Ex Con will provide 5,000 a/f in San Luis Reservoir in November. Valley Water will carryover that water into 2020 with the option to purchase 4,900 a/f on or before February 29, 2020. There’s lots more to it than what was mentioned but the board said OK.
The next item is Del Puerto-centric. Del Puerto, meaning of the door. Del Puerto WD is looking to build a dam on Del Puerto Creek in Del Puerto Canyon. It will take a good deal of work, not the least the state’s inelegantly named Division of Safety of Dams also known as DSOD. The engineering firm of Woodard & Curran has been retained to get things going. White and others met with DWR’s Karla Nemeth and will go before the California Water Commission later this month to try and get some Prop One bucks. It was mentioned the traditional recreational component of DPC Reservoir won’t likely include the traditional boating as the water level will fluctuate greatly throughout the year.
Consultant Dave Cory gave his report and asked someone to open the big roll up door on the shop to allow the noise from truck traffic to drown out his talk. Cory reports on the State and Regional Board carrying on and it’s usually not good news. The CV Salts is a state program to help deal with salt build up but it now deals far more with the fear of nitrates in groundwater. The enviros’ twin siblings the social justice warriors are opposed to almost everything. As an industry agriculture is working on helping supply clean drinking water to the disadvantaged communities of which they also often live in or near. Cory said efforts for this have been disrupted by the state legislature that couldn’t find it politically expedient to deal cooperatively with ag. There is a slice of the elected who truly desire to inflict as much financial pain on farmers as it can. Sad but true.
Next SB 1. White said it’s ready to move with the poison pin intact to kill the voluntary settlements. It will kill the transfers from the Sacramento River and try to preempt federal projects, forcing them to abide by state rules. This will be a nest of lawsuits. The Valley’s congressional delegation wrote a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to veto the bill unless changes are made. The bill is on the assembly floor.
Under the attorney report Paul Minasian said the Urban Cities from San Jose to Marin County want to take over PG&E’s distribution and it will impact Ex Con power costs. That was it for open session.
Under the four entities report Martin reported there was a slightly higher than average delivery totals this year. Bryant reported the SJR drainage group JPA elected new officers. He’s been working with LAFCo to rejuvenate the Silver Creek Basin group. He said some of his growers have been converting from row crop to orchards and FCWD has been working with them to help transition into the proper irrigation methods. Houk said the new shop is ready. The canals are in shape and waiting for winter. There will be some work done on the main canal and the district is ready for recharge. He’s glad to see the surrounding districts are taking advantage of recharge opportunities. San Luis Canal Company Director Jim Nickel spoke for GM John Wiersma saying the deliveries are about the same as the past five years.
Under informational matters Joann White is putting together a photo shoot for November or January. It’s hard to heard cats and farmers. The meeting then went into closed session followed by BBQ. Good for us. Note: it ended up being lasagna, Italian salad and some killer cake. I witnessed many of the otherwise sober men stagger away from the table to full to make another reasoned decision. I don’t know what happened to the BBQ. CCC Director Chris Cardella introduced the chef and I’m very sorry I didn’t get his name but he does catering.
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SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
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.