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Westlands Water District November 17, 2020

Ger Bennett BannerThe Westlands Water District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, November 17, 2020 remotely from its Fresno headquarters on Zoom. It’s 3:00pm where I am and I just had a big plate of ribs. I think it’s only fair to warn you I’m a little sleepy. So, if you read something in this report like, “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzkkkkkkkkkkk” it just means I nodded out for a moment. It does not mean the meeting was boring or someone was cussing. Before the meeting began WWD General Manager Tom Birmingham told those waiting Director Ryan Ferguson would be joining late. Bobbie Ormonde took roll and Chairman Daniel Errotabere called the meeting to order at 1:00pm. There were no corrections or additions to the agenda and the minutes were approved.

Birmingham said on November 3rd Kevin Assemi won a seat on the board. I had an opportunity to congratulate Assemi and he was very thankful and ready to serve. He congratulated the incumbents who retained their seats. Birmingham also said he’s been attending WWD meetings in one capacity or another for more than 30-years and he’s never seen anyone serve with more diligence, grace and intent to serve Westlands growers any better than Director Larry Enos. Errotabere agreed, acknowledging being a Westlands director can often be a thankless task and Enos graciously thanked everyone and asked to get on with the meeting.

Birmingham’s report was first and Russ Freeman gave his portion saying WWD is expected to use 420,000 a/f this water year. There could be more than 10 percent of its contract in carryover from last year in addition to more than 100,000 a/f of rescheduled water. There have been requests for 118,000 a/f of supplemental water but it doesn’t look like that much will be available.

Tom Boardman said there was some precipitation last week but not much. Only two units are pumping at the federal Jones plant. The state Banks plant is also pumping minimum. Precipitation is trailing significantly for this point in the year. There is a system moving in and he’s hopeful things will pickup and get back on track. The federal side of San Luis Reservoir is losing storage and that is way behind what the US Bureau of Reclamation was expecting.

Birmingham said the district is preparing an analysis of the federal elections and is looking very carefully of some budget projections from the senate. There will be a press conference tomorrow with WWD and DWR about the Yolo project. Errotabere added the Family Farm Alliance has also prepared an analysis of the impacts if there is a change of administrations.

There was no ACWA report as Director Ferguson is transitioning onto the Regional Six ACWA Board. Director Frank Coelho Jr. reported the legal affairs committee met earlier today and there wasn’t much to report. There were no O&M committee or personnel committee reports either.

Director Todd Neves said there is a recommendation to appoint Zachary Just to the new CV Salts committee. The board agreed.

Freeman reported on SGMA matters and said the subsidence monitoring stations have been set up around the GSA. The task of fitting wells with meters is well underway. About a third of the wells will be monitored in phase one. The goal is to have all wells in Westlands monitored by the end of 2021. The subsidence network is expected to be operational by the end of this year.

Ormonde walked the board through the Finance & Administration committee finding of savings and therefore no rate increase is needed in all areas. The 2021 rates and charges were approved. I recommend you consult the public record and packet reports for greater detail, if its greater detail you want. Enos said the F&A Committee recommended paying the bills and there were no comments or questions from the board or the public so the board approved. The board also looked over the financial statements and approved.

At this time Birmingham reminded the board to request public comments to the F&A report before public comment. There were no comments. The next item was Public Comment and there was none. The meeting then went into closed session and before the open session adjourned Birmingham made not that Directors Neves and Don Peracchi were recused from the closed session item involving the Mendota Pool Group. The meeting then went into closed session at 1:37pm. Probably the quickest Westlands meeting I’ve ever attended.

But before we go I’d like to ask if you noticed a good deal of dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “T’s” in Westlands meetings? Perhaps more than takes place at other district meetings? It would be easy maybe even a little fun to smugly poke at them for being that way. It occurs to me Westlands is often the target of the media and environmental law firms. I think after a while anyone would grow tired of being that whipping boy. I suspect Westlands places a greater emphasis on proper procedure as it protects from exaggerated claims of opacity or malfeasance.

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Westlands Water District

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

Board: Daniel Errotabere-President, Frank Coelho Jr. – Vice President, Jim Anderson, William Bourdeau, Don Peracchi, 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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