The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, November 11, 2020 meeting remotely from Wasco on GoToMeeting. SWSD General Manager Jason Gianquinto took stock of who called in verses who attended online. It looked like more than 40 folks joined the meeting.
Board President Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order at 12:30pm on the dot. A quorum was present and as the meeting began Waterhouse acknowledged all the veterans who are serving and have served our country. He apologized for not being able to salute the flag together due to the virus. Good for him.
There were no public comments, the agenda was deemed to be in good shape, the minutes and the treasurer’s report were also accepted. The power behind the SWSD throne, Marsha Payne took roll call of all the votes. Controller Bobby Salinas gave the financial report and the accounts payable, which were also approved.
The next two action items dealt with considering participating by percentage in the Delta tunnel project. Gianquinto said the first item was an agreement in principal and folks from the Kern County Water Agency available to speak if needed. The board was also asked to fund a portion of the design costs and as a KCWA member SWSD was asked to vote on the KCWA’s participation in the Delta Conveyance Joint Powers Authority. The new KCWA GM whose name I haven’t memorized, didn’t catch when he spoke and can’t find anywhere on the KCWA website and I apologize for not recording it here, along with KCWA Director Ted Page and Assistant GM Brent Walthall were available to address questions. The new GM is well spoken and sounded like he knows what he’s doing.
Gianquinto went over the details saying KCWA had to have an idea of who wanted to participate and on what level. He had a difficult job because the Delta tunnel yield and cost hasn’t been established yet. So no one really knows how much water will flow south and how much it will cost. Attorney Steve Torigiani said the agreement in principle being requested opens the way for an agreement as to quantity and costs but doesn’t bind Semitropic or KCWA to amounts of either water or money.
Gianquinto said if Semitropic agrees to participate it will actually pay KCWA on a twice yearly payment schedule. There is a provision for circumstances where the project goes forward and the planning costs can be reimbursed to Semitropic. KCWA is looking for a two year commitment from Semitropic to this program. Gianquinto said once the project gets through CEQA there is an option to reduce participation but there will not be a clear path to increase participation. Kern County gets about 25 percent of the current Table A output in the State Water Project which is how participation amounts will be decided. Waterhouse said he thinks 20 percent participation is the way to go. To go 100 percent would cost $13 million. Gianquinto presented different percentages and costs. He said the 20 percent figure looked like a good option. He said the KCWA will do well in with Article 21 supply allocation in the State Water Project. He also broke down the allocation across the KCWA members. All these figures are based on models. Things got a bit confusing as cubic feet per second by turnout was the unit used to explain the allocation scenario. He said getting Article 21 water for recharge is a much needed boost for SGMA balance. Getting the Article 21 water direct from the California Aqueduct turnouts is the key as using other conveyance facilities don’t have the capacity. He said Kern County’s recharge capability can make the difference for Article 21 supplies. Waterhouse said the cost of Table A Water don’t pencil out without the Article 21 Water. There were spread sheets and this is public record so if you need the finer details they are available. In the State Water Project Table A water is contract water and Article 21 water is extra wet year flows above and beyond.
Grower Kevin Assemi asked about options and made a couple of good points. Gianquinto addressed them saying this approach is like betting more conservatively instead of going all in at poker game and thus being able to play longer. Gianquinto was asked by someone else if Semitropic decided to reduce its participation after CEQA could that difference be picked up by someone else in the KCWA. That gets pretty complicated and involves assessments paid and how the KCWA and landowners were involved.
The bottom line is the board felt the 20 percent participation was the right number. Torigiani asked to fashion the motion to include agreement to be predicated on general manager and legal review. The board agreed to the participation of 20 percent in principle.
The last item in this matter was the JPA membership. KCWA would have a specific board seat on the JPA and as a KCWA member Semitropic would be liable as a supporter. The JPA document had at least 16 sections. The board agreed to support KCWA in this JPA. Gianquinto invited the KCWA guys to speak up and they all thanked each other. Next was a standard resolution to file a list of delinquent tolls and charges. The board agreed.
Alonzo Gutierrez of Wildwood Animal Farm sent a request to be readmitted to SWSD deliveries after paying some disputed fees. Gianquinto asked if he could speak with Gutierrez after the meeting to work out a mutually satisfactory outcome and the board was good with this. Here’s a case of a business that sent in the wrong paperwork and by working with the district there’s a good chance things can be made whole. We shouldn’t be pulling the nuclear trigger as a first resort. Good for them.
GEI asked for a Task Order to provide engineering support to update the district’s ag water management plan and the board agreed. Next Isela Medina, district engineer told the board High Speed Rail wants to cross over a Semitropic pipe. This pipe will have to be upgraded and Lyles Construction advised getting new valves ordered now or the line won’t be finished in time for spring water deliveries. Staff asked to be allowed to order them now and the board approved.
There was a 2:00pm Public hearing scheduled to consider the resolutions of fixing service charges and water use charges. Waterhouse opened the hearing and Torigiani conducted the staff portion of the hearing. He said the charges are for State Water Project surface water in 2021. This is an annual hearing if I understood correctly. Torigiani presented as evidence a letter to water users which was sent to impacted growers. Also presented was proof of the publishing of a legal notice of this hearing.
Gianquinto read the legal obligations needed and Torigiani noted there have been no public comments or questions received. Waterhouse invited anyone to comment and no one did. That left everything open for the board to take action to set charges. The Buttonwillow and Pond Poso Improvement Districts were the subject of today’s resolution. The board approved. Torigiani reminded the water users the SWP charges will be billed in eight payments.
Back to the Agenda
The next item was approving the issue and sale of Semitropic Improvement District warrants, series 2020. Gianquinto said there are two options to get what is really a short term loan. Salinas told the board two options for this $1 million loan; Wells Fargo with its variable rate with a $25k closing fee and no prepayment penalty. Valley Republic Bank had no closing fees but an early payoff penalty. Waterhouse said there is a potential for some volatility in the market with the possible change in administrations. He felt the fixed rate would be the prudent route especially since there shouldn’t be any need to spend this until June or July. The board agreed to go with Valley Republic.
Gianquinto said a landowner requested to be removed from the general project service charge for a solar project. The board agreed solar probably wouldn’t exceed the native yield and so they approved the request pending a GM review of the project.
Neither Gianquinto or GEI consultant Larry Rodriguez had much to report. However, Rodriguez said 14 out of the initial 20 projects have been either completed or are moving forward without too many problems.
The WM Lyles employee reported the surface water plant will remain operational for a little while longer before a seasonal shutdown. There will be some further testing with PG&E tomorrow. He said construction on the pipeline mentioned earlier will be completed by March.
GEI was next on the agenda and Rodriguez gave a work update on what his firm has been up to.
Next the Great Will Boschman gave his report on groundwater storage services saying evaluations on a new banking site have been slowed by the Big C virus. There is a firm wishing to perform a well head treatment pilot project at Semitropic. He said as for the state government things have been slow.
Former state senator Dean Florez was next on the list to give a consultant report and said there will be lots of changes in Sacramento and there is a change coming up in the Department of Interior if Biden gets the office. Florez said Senator Kamala Harris had toured Semitropic but there is no one on the transition team dealing with water from California. The missing piece is who Newsom will appoint to the vacant senate seat. Florez said Alex Padilla is one of the more moderate folks to be mentioned for this position. He said it would be good to reach out to Padilla and educate him on water. He’ll be calling federal lobbyist Joe Russo about this when there’s a sub-committee meeting. Florez considers Padilla a friend. Florez said on the state level there will be a new ag chair at the senate. He said it is hopeful to get a good person but getting someone really good like State Senator Melissa Hurtado in that position isn’t likely. He said it could be a problem. He said there will be some immigration reform in a new administration. Florez also said to expect David Valadao to return to Washington DC. He thinks his lead over incumbent TJ Cox is too big to overcome. Gianquinto said he spoke with Russo and he will speak to the board at next month or the January meeting.
Waterhouse asked if Governor Gavin Newsom is still committed to the Delta Tunnel and California Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot is on the short list for the Department of Interior Secretary. I don’t know all his positions and beliefs and he does run with questionable company but I once met and interviewed Crowfoot. He was a genuinely gracious man, so maybe not so bad news. Florez added there were a lot of Obama people that left Washington when President Trump won, went to California and now want to go back. That could shake things up in Sacramento.
Greg Allen of RED Trac gave his report saying the well monitoring program is moving ahead and as soon as irrigation starts up again cost allocations can be completed. Someone congratulated Allen on a good new story, I haven’t see it but good for him.
Gianquinto said it looks like Kern County could fall back into the purple hue virus-wise and Semitropic will continue to take all precautions to stay healthy. He said the State Water Project’s Clifton Court Forebay was down for maintenance but exports have started again as that work was completed earlier this month. He said this year is shaping up to be a replay of 2014, if I heard him correctly. There is snowpack on the Sierra Nevada which occurred before any appreciable rain which is backwards, it usually rains first. He said Santa Clara Valley WD is dealing with its banking needs and Semitropic is helping it get the recovery it desires. He said water from San Luis Reservoir will be banked at Kern Water Bank. He said he had a good time with Geoff Vanden Heuvel on a panel for dairymen.
Gianquinto said the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA is looking at Provost & Pritchard and GEI for data management and Land ID for ET. Medina said some canal lining work should be complete by the end of the month so the final walk through could be finished and try the pump back.
That was the end of the open session and it was 3:07pm and that was that.
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SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT
1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • email@example.com
Board: Rick Wegis – President, Philip W. Portwood – Vice President, Dan Waterhouse – Treasurer, Todd Tracy – Secretary, Jeff Fabbri, Tim Thomson, Tom Toretta
Staff: Jason Gianquinto-General Manager, Bobby Salinas–District Controller, Isela Medina–District Engineer, Executive Secretary-Marsha Payne, Consultant-Will Boschman, Superintendent-John Lynch & Attorney
About: Semitropic Water Storage District is one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The District delivers water to nearly 300 customers for the irrigation of approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also supplies energy to a variety of users and provides groundwater banking and storage services. Established in 1958, Semitropic Water Storage District covers an area of more than 220,000 acres. It began as an irrigation district for the purpose of securing State Water Project supplies to reduce groundwater overdraft. From www.semitropic.com