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Westlands Water District May 19, 2020

Ger Bennett BannerThe Westlands Water District held its board of directors meeting remotely, using Bluejeans.com on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. The meeting began at 1:00pm on the dot. The first thing to happen was General Manager Tom Birmingham suggested Bobbie Ormonde take the role call. All the directors were present and accounted for.Conterra

President Dan Errotabere started the meeting by opening up the Equalization Hearing for WWD’s 2019 Benefit Assessment. Districts act as taxing agencies and are required to hold equalization hearings. The amounts per parcel are filed with the county and included with property tax collections. There was no one from the public commenting and Resolution 111-20 passed. I thought I heard the rate will be zero this year, but I recommend you check with Westlands about that. The hearing was adjourned and the regular board meeting began at 1:12pm.

The first comment was Birmingham suggesting the San Luis Unit/Westlands Water District Financing Authority meeting should be opened concurrent with the WWD meeting or maybe not. I think the SLUWWDFA approved its minutes. Birmingham told us as this is a separate entity from Westlands it would need to hire legal counsel. Director William Bourdeau asked why not have WWD’s attorney John Rubin act in this capacity and Birmingham said this would prevent a conflict of interest. I didn’t recognize the name of the new attorney they hired but evidently his firm as a long time relationship with the district. That part of the meeting adjourned.

The WWD board then moved to item 12. You may remember pre-coronavirus panic concerning WWD swapping its contract with the US Bureau of Reclamation to a 9d contract. As it turned out the world did not swerve off its axis killing all life on earth. But WWD needs to cough up $226.7 million plus for a lump sum payment to get even. Financial advisor Robert Porr presented the board with bonding options to raise that money. Initial analysis shows Westland growers could save $48 per a/f this year. Bond rates are down and that is attractive according to the cash gurus. One of the big parts of my job is deciphering initials. POS was repeatedly referred to and to me that is shorthand for something not nice and a derisive appellation towards people, places and things. Perhaps someone reading this would like to send me an explanation as to what it stands for and just for kicks what it means. In the meantime the board approved the bond plan to pay off its federal obligation.

Next the board approved more meeting minutes and Birmingham gave his report. Russ Freeman gave his water supply report saying the storage losses of 1,800 a/f for restoration flows, I believe, due to Delta pump slow down. The Bureau has increased the allocation to 20 percent this year, up from 15 percent and Freeman said he this may well be the final allocation. The Exchange Contractors have a supplemental supply that should now have enough to work it. There will be a very small evaporation lose.

Tom Boardman gave his water report saying the Judge Dread, I mean Drodz ruling cased some loss of supplies but the Bureau kicked the allocation side due to improvements in the Shasta watershed weather yielding better supplies. Birmingham said we were straddling a critical and non-critical water year at Shasta. That situation caused a great deal of anxiety for south of Delta contractors because it didn’t make clear whether or not Ex Con would get a full allocation first. Birmingham said the Exchange Contractors have been extremely flexible and went above and beyond to work with the Bureau to make the transfer agreements for south of Delta possible. Birmingham said all the San Luis Division contractor should be thankful to Ex Con.

Birmingham said there is nothing happening with the voluntary agreements since the lawsuit by the state against the biops.

Shelly Ostrowski gave a legislative update saying the federal side is pretty much attending to the latest trillion dollar House bill is being dealt with. On the state side budget cuts shouldn’t impede any GSP evaluations.

Kat Boren reported WWD’s digital presence is increasing month after month. Birmingham said there was a staff written and produced video that made a good impression. He said it was a very good video.

Ostrowski said WWD needs to issue an RFP for new lobbying/consulting services in Sacramento. I don’t know what happened to the current firm but the board is looking for new blood in that area.

Director Frank Coelho reported the district’s legal expenses are running ahead of budget. He also said there is more to come in discussing a possible pay raise for some lucky lawyer.

Freeman said EDP Renewables wants an easement for a transmission route to a substation near Tranquillity, California. There was some discussion and questions of a real estate nature. The board approved the 14.3 acre easement.

Next Director Todd Neves asked for a total of four resolutions for 82,000 a/f of transfer water from the Placer County Water Agency, Forest Hill Public Utility District, Georgetown Divide PUD and El Dorado ID. The board agreed and approved all.

WWD Engineer Kitty Campbell gave the SGMA report saying there wasn’t much to report but for the 17 comments the GSP received. They are now under review and responses being prepared. The Westside Sub Basin’s GSP recommended an advisory committee and a technical advisory committee. Both committees will include a WWD board member. The recommendations for the advisory committee was pretty thorough and included Amanda Monaco from the Leadership Counsel. Good for her.

Director Larry Enos asked Rubin about some procedure regarding allocations of the five percent allocation increase. What happened was Ormonde said this can be completed in a week if I understood.

The finance committee report was next and Ormonde covered assessments and delinquencies of the 2020 Benefit Assessment Roll. She said sometimes Fresno and Kings Counties don’t have the proper contact information so the liens accrue until the land is sold.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2020 by Don A. Wright

Westlands Water District

3130 N. Fresno Street, Fresno CA 93703 Phone:559/224-1523

Board: Don Peracchi, Dan Errotabere –President, Jim Anderson, William Bourdeau, Frank Coelho Jr. – Vice President, Larry Enos, Ryan Ferguson, Stan Nunn & Todd Neves.

Staff: Tom Birmingham-General Manager, Jon Rubin-Attorney, Jose Gutierrez-COO, Russ Freeman-Deputy GM Resources, Diana Giraldo-Public Affairs Representative, Shelly Ostrowski-Associate GM Water Policy, Kitty Campbell-Supervisor of Resources, Bobbie Ormonde-VP of Finance & Administrative Affairs

About:  Without irrigation, farming in the Westlands area of California would be limited and ineffectual. The history of Westlands is one of continual adaptation, careful water stewardship and advanced technology. By maintaining a fierce commitment to sustainability, the Westlands’ comprehensive water supply system continues to adapt, educate, and surpass conservation goals. Throughout its history, Westlands Water District has demonstrated a lasting dedication to water conservation and recognized that the long-term survival of its farms depends on the effective management of California’s precious water resources. From www.wwd.ca.gov

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