The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, October 2, 2020 remotely from its Los Banos headquarters. The GSA meeting was first and went into closed session. It came out of closed session at 9:06am and Chairman Jim O’Banion called the Ex Con meeting to order. Executive Director Chris White called roll and things got moving. The agenda and the minutes were approved and there was no public participation but for White introducing others on the conference call; a good, healthy bunch of folks.
Joanne White gave the accounts payable report and the board agreed it pay its bills. She also gave the Finance Committee Report which was also approved. XO White led the board through the 2021 draft budget. An interesting note is one of Ex Con’s water projects will begin yielding supplies this year and that will impact next year’s budget in a positive way. Good for them. The board approved adopting the draft budget pending home board approval.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report showing storage on the San Joaquin River upstream from Millerton Lake is 363,927 acre feet only 60 percent of maximum storage but 119 percent of average. There has been a good deal of concern about the impacts of the Creek Fire on the SJR watershed and operations. The reservoirs monitored as being a part of the Upper San Joaquin Basin are: Edison, Florence, Huntington, Shaver, Mammoth, Redinger and Bass Lake.
Hoffman also said Ex Con demands are down to 2,012 cubic feet per second. The releases from Millerton Lake are 436 cfs with 100 cfs making it past Sack Dam. Shasta is at 2.2 million a/f which Hoffman said is pretty good. San Luis Reservoir is at 972,000 a/f with the fed portion being 358,000 a/f and some good pumping will help.
Hoffman said Millerton Lake is pretty low, about 60,000 a/f below where it should be. If the lake’s dead pool gets too low the water won’t reach the Friant Kern Canal turnout. There are plans for Southern California Edison to go up to Mammoth Pool and open a valve to help release more water. The upstream reservoirs were evacuated during the Creek Fire. The Delta is getting 11,000 cfs inflow and 2,500 cfs outflow and exports of 6,700 cfs are being pumped.
White gave his report saying the San Joaquin River Restoration Program has been taking some of his time. The Sack Dam Fish Screen project has been taking up efforts. Jarrett Martin Central California Irrigation District General Manager said the fish screen focus is getting input from the National Marine Fisheries Service to sign off on 30 percent design completion. John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company said the work has been to come to agreement on where to place the fish screen and the fish passage location is inching forward. White said the last meeting with the Bureau brought up whether or not the US Bureau of Reclamation has to hold title to the SJR restoration facilities although the applicable law doesn’t call for it. Martin said he’s spoken with the state’s boating division about the amount of hyacinth in the Mendota Pool. He said he’s working on hogging out the weeds and the state will come in and spray. White said Ex Con is working with Congressional staff on the problem of aquatic weeds so that some funds can be made to help address this issue. On the SGMA side of things John Hancock Farming has agreed to help with more of the subsidence in the Triangle T area. That’s good since Johnny caused a good deal of it by converting range land to orchards without a significant surface supply.
Next White said for the last three years Ex Con has had an agreement with Rosedale Rio Bravo Water Supply District to move 15,000 a/f to Rosedale for banking. The contract is pretty much the same this year as in the past. There are provisions for certain circumstances as laid out in the contract available as a public document. The contract was approved by the board.
Engineer Andy Neal was going to talk about water resources but didn’t unmute. That led to consultant David Cory giving his report on the mischief flowing from Sacramento. Cory said the Regional Board will be sending out comply notices for the salt control program. Recipients have to either discharge less than 700 EC or maintain the current salt control program but fund a study. This is going to cost $1.5 million per year for the next 10-years. This translates to about a dime an acre annually. So, if you help fund the plan and don’t make things worse the state will allow you to continue farming. Another 10 to 15 year project is the Prioritization & Optimization Study which means the old brine lines and salt sinks will get another look over. There is a real danger for land to be over salted from irrigation. This has impacted the Mediterranean and Middle East altering the course of history. Cory said it looks like a rational salt policy is being put in place for the SJ Valley.
Del Puerto Report
Neal unmuted and reported on the Del Puerto Canyon Dam project. He said answering USBR questions about operation modeling has been the biggest part of the past month’s efforts. He said that’s been going well and previous work has been independently verified. He said this has been time consuming but it looks like the preliminary work has progressed to the point things can be moved from Bureau offices in Sacramento and Denver to Washington DC. It also looks like the USBR Commissioner is ready to take a look and get engaged. They have also worked with Patterson City Counsel candidates on the facts of the project. Patterson is directly downstream from Del Puerto Canyon. He’s also been talking with enviros with some success. Funding is always the question but he’s working with Clean Energy Capital to come up with ways to pay for things.
Legislative & Attorney’s Report
White said the legislative report is in the packet. Attorney Paul Minasian said the Stanford Vina lawsuit has been submitted to the US Supreme Court but it sounded to me like the chance of it being heard is small. There was another topic he touched on about the State Board’s water quality control plan for the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers. There are proponents wanting both Valley’s pitching in money and water from state, federal and growers to projects the enviros like. Supposedly in exchange for this there will be better reliability in moving water through the Delta. However, this idea has been around since before Governor Gavin Newsom took office and the financial condition of the country was much better. Minasian warned to be watchful the government doesn’t pull out support and private sector gets stuck with the bill.
Four Managers Report
Martin said a bridge in CCID will be closed for repair. Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal Company said the asbestos in the burned out office has been removed and work will go forward. They are also applying copper sulfate for weeds. Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company said he doesn’t share the optimism of the SJR Restoration the other member have. Wiersma said SLCC is into making things like new again. He said not only canals are being attended but the office is being remodeled.
Under informational items the board recognized a card sent by Aldo Sansoni thanking everyone from Ex Con for their kind remembrances of Miss Virginia who passed away recently. Certainly our prayers are with the Sansoni family. The meeting then went into closed session and that was that.
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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
From the Exchange Contractors’ website: www.sjrecwa.net 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.