The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its Los Banos headquarters on Friday, November 1, 2019. Chairman Jim O’Banion called the meeting to order at 9:00am; much nicer than the old 8:00am – just makes a big difference on the freeways. Ex Con General Manager Chris White introduced those not officially on the payroll, also known as members of the public. They had to vote to add an item to the agenda to allow the December meeting to change to the date of December 13th due to ACWA. Then something very special happened to a very special lady. Patti Baldini was honored for working for Ex Con 25-years. Wow, good for them to have her. If you know her you know what I mean.
Financial & Water Reports
Joanne White gave the financial reports and they were approved. Next Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying there are studies concluding today about water lose through Reach Four of the San Joaquin River for the restoration program. Shasta Reservoir is drawing down to flood level by the first of December. San Luis Reservoir usually gains water in October on both the state and federal side but due to Fall X2 restrictions that didn’t happen this year. The state pumps at the Banks plant will be shut down and the feds will be pumping at the Jones plant. Millerton Lake and Pine Flat on the SJR and Kings River are drawing down to make room for flood flows.
Chris White spoke about X2. He said they don’t want to release too much from it as it will impact fish on the Sacramento River. But they need to push the salt back at the X2 line. He said the new biological opinions (despite the usual handwringing from the press) give some solid gains to the fish, especially smelt. The old pre-biops was based on the calendar – didn’t matter what was happening with the fish. Now it is based on real time monitoring conditions in the Delta. They will actually keep on eye on the fish and if they need the pumping cut back then it will be. If not, the South of the Delta recipients benefit. Could a lawsuit screw this up? It could if there is a specific injunction by the courts, yes. If that injunction isn’t granted a much more circuitous legal route will take place. Attorney Paul Minasian said as much. It will take a federal district court action to pronounce an injunction, that will be appealed to the 9th. It won’t go further than that, like the Supreme Court until that trial is completed.
Next White gave his report saying the Mendota Pool fish screen is making progress. He said attorney Tim Berliner is working with the Bureau on easements and doing a fine job. San Luis Canal Company GM John Wiersma said it is time to get some answers on the issues impacting the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. White said Congressman Jim Costa is sponsoring a bill that includes funding for Sac Dam and that’s appreciated. Assemblyman Adam Grey toured the area. There’s a 8,000 a/f transfer with Rose Dale Rio Bravo WSD about to wind up this month. There are also transfers involving Triangle T WD and the Santa Clara Valley WD. White said FEMA is taking its time (actually I wrote that, he didn’t say it but I know the feds can take time on occasion) for the Los Banos Reservoir. Director Chris Cardella asked rhetorically, if most districts in the Valley have to push this hard to get something done? Nothing seems to get resolved completely and he commended staff for the amazing amount of work that goes into this. The consensus is yes; everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as expected.
Ex Con GSA
Central California ID GM Jarrod Martin spoke on SGMA saying there is a discrepancy between the Chowchilla and Madera Sub Basins data that is being worked out. He said to expect $40,000 from grant money for a subsidence study. White added on the coattails of the US Bureau of Reclamation’s work on the Friant Kern Canal the San Luis Delta Mendota folks have got the Bureau’s attention on the Delta Mendota Canal. Martin said there is now a Bureau bunch dedicated to subsidence and they’re getting up to speed. He also said there has been good public comment and input from the local municipalities, NGOs and DACs. He said the this interaction has been beneficial in working with these stakeholders. The Ex Con GSP should be adopted at next month’s meeting. Firebaugh Canal WD Director Mike Stearns asked what is happening with Merced County’s SGMA efforts. Martin said sub basins are supposed to address neighboring sub basins. If one isn’t playing well with others a GSA could comment directly to DWR but SGMA is new, the areas can very well be gray and interpretations vary. By the way, not to degrade the reporting of others but the discrepancy in Kern County was more growing pains under new legislative territory than any deception or war breaking out. There is always unintended consequences in legislation and certainly one written as loosely as SGMA.
Steve Chedester, Ex Con Director of Policy & Programs gave his report saying there is a MOA between Ex Con and the Bureau about fish screens at Mendota Pool. There has been a meeting with a grant official about Temperance Flat. The JPA members want to give a presentation to Ex Con and SLDMWA in the near future. The question is what would you do if you got storage space at Temp Flat. Once that’s answered there will be a chance to figure out how to put this into practice. Next Chedester spoke on the Voluntary Agreements between the State Board and the tributary rivers. The VAs are complicated, at least as much so as the State Board’s plan and some of the results are not expected until later. The SJV Water Blueprint is moving well. Casey Creamer has replaced Tommy Esqueda as the Executive Director. An economic study is being conducted by Prof. David Sunding and it looks like it will be ready by the end of the year. White spoke about the SJR Restoration Agreement saying more next month. White also said there is little to report on subsidence in the Red Top area fit for open session. He did say capacity in the Chowchilla By-Pass has been reduced due to subsidence by half. Subsidence on Sac Dam has slowed. Flood danger along the By-Pass is a possibility. The Bureau wants fish screens on the By-Pass turnout and everyone else wants to take recharge as fast as they can.
A New Dam
Next Andy Neal of Del Puerto WD spoke about the Del Puerto Dam saying there has been good press coverage following a press event I wasn’t invited to. Good for them. Evidently the Cattle List Public Relations company is in charge. Neal said the EIR should be out by December. He’s preparing for some big November meetings with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau over 404 Permits. I’m not sure what a 404 permit is but there are so many permits and studies needed to get things going forward. You have to check for flora and fauna as well as historical and anthropological impacts and who knows what else; seismic, climate change, air quality, transportation, extraterrestrial lands strips. There is an independent technical review workshop on the 13th with the Bureau and this will help move things towards WIIN Act money. Neal said Bob Martin of SLDMWA was asked to comment on the material to be presented because Del Puerto really values his opinion. White said this project is actually moving forward and that is a good one for the good guys.
Sacatomatoes & the Delta
Consultant Dave Cory began to speak about the Regional Board and was booed before he even said anything. He said the CV Salts has been pelted by the enviros over the basin plan amendment. He said the State Board directed the Regional Board to make revisions. Much of the detail argued over was clarification of various rules. There are hamstrings built into the plan that could literally ban farming in an area. The State Board wants no further nitrate levels to rise within 35-years. There is no technology or other means to make this happen. State Board Director Dee D’Adamo pushed back but staff said it wants to inspire others to achieve the impossible. Oh my. Cory said the only thing worse than CV Salts is no CV Salts. He said now that nitrates have been assigned this level of inspiration CV Salts will start working on salt again. Mesopotamia, North Africa and Anasazi all had their societies collapse due to too much nitrates. I’m sorry I meant salts. Maybe, as Cory said, reasonable opinion will prevail and he’s got a positive attitude as far as dealing with salts. Somehow or other the talk turned form salts to air quality. Removing almonds in the Central Valley now requires a land owner to pay $750 per acre in permitting fees.
Under the legislative report item White said the stalemate between the House and the White House is holding up WIIN Act appropriations but the lobbyist does have an optimistic view, perhaps more like a guardedly optimistic view.
Minasian gave his report saying ag water drainage shouldn’t cause immediate problems but there are bad and worrisome developments but not even FCWD GM Jeff Bryant wanted to talk about it in open session. Minasian said the Bureau is willing to allow drainage into the SJR until the shoe drops. He recommended staying crispy alert and he expects the feds have an extremely good argument that the state can’t preempt federal action like the raising of Shasta Dam. He also said keep a watch on what SLDMWA does legally about the enviro splash back on the biological opinions and Ex Con may want to team up on this issue.
Bryant said there will be a FCWD growers’ meeting on May 14th. Wiersma said SLCC deliveries have been normal and the Henry Miller Reclamation District’s website will be unveiled this week and they’ve hired a new associate engineer. Martin said deliveries at CCID are also on average but there is some traction on road permits from Fresno County and he hopes to get some projects underway. Columbia Canal Company GM Randy Houk said weather permitting there will be some refurbishing of the system during facility repairs.
Closing Statement Regarding History
Under informational matters White said to look forward to upcoming events such as those that happened a long time about. In 1863 Henry Miller came into the local and brought 10,000 acres. In August of 1962 President John F. Kennedy and California Governor Edmund Brown pushed the plunger that caused an explosion that started work on San Luis Dam. SLDC Director Jim Nickels recalled being there and saw the explosions. He remembered the police escorts bringing the dignitaries from the airport.
The meeting then went into closed session.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights.net strives to provide his clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights.net does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete. Waterwrights.net’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright
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.