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Semitropic Water Storage District January 13, 2021

Ger Bennett BannerThe Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, January 13, 2021 on GoToMeeting. The nice thing about GoToMeeting is it has chat and doesn’t fill the screen with superfluous images of nasal cavities and such.

Chairman Dan Waterhouse welcomed everyone at 12:30pm and said although the meeting was online and there will be no flag salute Waterhouse suggested we all place a hand over our heart for our country and say a prayer for these trying times. Good for him. General Manager Jason Gianquinto welcomed everyone, there was no public comment and the minutes were approved by Secretary Marsha Payne polling the board for votes.

Finances

Controller Bobby Salinas gave the treasurer’s report and it was approved. Cash flow statements were next and Gianquinto pointed out there is a projected cash flow or 2021 but it is still early in the year. Things can change with the weather and banking needs – water banking needs. While reviewing the expenditures Greg Ursery (sp?) was recognized for 40-years of service to SWSD, or rather an expenditure of funds used to recognize Ursery’s outstanding work record. Gianquinto said he must have started working there when he was 10 years old. It was said with respect, he’s a hard working man and an asset to the district. Good for him too.

Someone asked about the cost of new fencing. There was a break in but nothing stolen. One of the directors said he’d had, I believe, three trucks stolen in the past year. The financial reports and accounts payable were all approved. So if Semitropic owes you money check’s in the mail.

Action Items

Engineer Isela Medina presented the board with a $100,000 task order from GEI. There was another task order for GEI for $12,000. And there was yet another task order from GEI for grant management for $22,000. So that’s $132,000. GEI bills its labor expense with a 3.5 multiplier to cover costs. GEI engineer Larry Rodriguez said that actually saves the district some money. That one flew over my head and wasn’t going to interrupt the meeting and find out how that works. Some board members said that sounded high and asked if other engineering firms do this. Rodriguez said some do and some don’t but it is less than the standard billing rate. Gianquinto said the multiplier is used to cover overhead. Rodriguez said GEI will provide an itemized breakdown in its billing for SWSD. The board approved paying the task orders.

The next item was also a task order involving GEI. Medina said they’re asking for an extra $30,000 for GEI to conduct peer reviews for High Speed Rail. HSR will reimburse the district for this expense.

The firm of Woodward & Curran made a proposal to perform the environmental compliance work for the Leonard Extension project’s NEPA documentation. Medina said the price is less than $85,000 but staff is asking for that amount to cover any unforeseen situations. Medina said this will extend a pipeline to an area of the district relying on groundwater. It will also provide a tie in with the Shafto Wasco ID system and Central Valley Project water could be made available by doing so. Medina said there have been two grants that have covered $2.5 million of the costs on this project. The board approved.

The next item was a resolution in support of a US Bureau of Reclamation/Cal FED grant for this project. Medina said they’ve found an opportunity to fund the next phase of the Leonard Project. The deadline for the proposal is January 18th. A resolution is needed as part of the application package and the board provided.

Land IQ can tell you a field’s evapotranspiration by looking down through a satellite. SWSD wants to take advantage of that technology and continue to use the services. Semitropic and Land IQ have been working together since 2014 I believe Gianquinto said. It costs less than a dollar per acre and he said he has been extremely pleased with the results. The board voted to extend the contract unanimously and without comment, so I guess they all agreed with Gianquinto’s assessment of Land IQ.

Joe Rosso provides legislative analytics and lobbying under the name of Strategic Policy Advisors LLC in Washington DC. Gianquinto said Rosso wasn’t able to get traction under the Trump administration but hopes to do better under the Harris/Biden administration. Rosso wants $5,000 per month to keep doing what he does for another year. A Director asked if there has been any cost benefit study on what Rosso does and he understands that is an intangible. Gianquinto said Rosso has been helpful in securing federal grant money. Waterhouse said he hopes Rosso can help on the federal side with the mess in the Delta. The board went ahead and authorized the contract.

Directors Phil Portwood, Rick Wegis and Tom Toretta have no opposition in the upcoming election and therefore they were appointed back into their seats.

Kern RCS’s Brian Hockett runs the mobile irrigation lab. It’s a unique service and it is supported by the irrigators. He was asking for $10,000 to help keep things going. The board enthusiastically agreed.

Next Gianquinto told the board about Amendment No. 41, a water management amendment to the water supply contract between DWR and the Kern County Water Agency. Semitropic doesn’t contract directly with DWR for State Water Project supplies. KCWA represents its members when dealing with DWR and SWP supplies. Gianquinto gave the amendment details and they involve transfers between SWP contractors. He said this will provide greater flexibility in transfers including Article 21 Water. The board went along and approved giving KCWA its blessing.

SGMA

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was the subject of the next item and Gianquinto along with Rodriguez presented the board an update on where the Semitropic GSA is at and where it’s going. Rodriguez said he is looking for comments. This is about implementation and the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA is the intended audience.

There has been 20 land use and management actions identified from the past five years. A slide was posted and it was difficult to read but I’m sure a print version would be easier. No matter, there has been five projects initiated already and are ongoing work. The landowner water budgets are about to wrap up. Tiered pricing and subsurface recharge plans are being developed. The monitoring program is growing as more and more data is acquired it will continue to be refined.

The GSA is working with the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy to study Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems and a plan to address those needs is in the works. As things progress a desalination program may be pursued. Water marketing refinements are ongoing. Some new recharge sites in the Poso Creek area are being developed. There are other projects like infrastructure inter ties and new conveyance projects will help with recharge.

A report on land use and water consumption from 2015-2020 has been written. Taking Land IQ Et rates and other data sources indicate a general decrease in irrigated acres. Rodriguez said the Land IQ data is more accurate than the data brought in by Cal Poly. In 2020 land use for irrigated crops is at 124,000 down from a high 131,000 acres in 2017. This is voluntary withdrawing of acres by landowners and it is hoped some of the incentive programs have helped. Gianquinto said this may not be permanent fallowing but it is the landowners initiating this drop in acreage.

Someone asked if other districts are using Land IQ for continuity and Gianquinto said SWID is also using the service. Grower Greg Wegis asked if neighboring districts are acquiring data in a different way has anyone made sure the figures are apples and apples and not apples and oranges. The answer was somebody is looking into this.

There was a discussion about the implementation of a water budget. Gianquinto said the weather monitoring, determining the actual amount of precipitation has improved greatly. Rodriguez went over the groundwater monitoring system. There is an even dozen wells located at strategic sites throughout the district that give a good representation of conditions in Semitropic. He then showed how the minimum thresholds and measurable objectives were determined and then he went through a butt load of hydrographs.

Consultant Reports

The W.M. Lyles representative gave an update on work his company has been doing. It was about the same as the last time I wrote about this. He said he would be brief. He’s been briefer but he didn’t go on too long.

The GEI report was given by Rodriguez. He said last year’s engineering support contract was $100,000 plus. He said things have moved into more structured task orders and this year’s total isn’t expected to be any greater than that. GEI hired M-Cubed as a subconsultant for review of existing rate structures.

Waterhouse said the great Will Boschman wasn’t present today. Gianquinto said Will had a stroke and is still in the hospital. There is a clot problem that could impact his speech. He’s still in IC and you can’t see him due to the virus. If any of you know Mr. Boschman you also know he is one of the finest men to ever work anywhere. He’s been a good friend to me. Always ready to explain the incongruity of water matters. He is a man of faith and I know he’ll appreciate your prayers.

Lobbyist Dean Florez reported there have been four water bills introduced this past week since the mischief makers have reassembled in Sacramento. Florez said none of them will knock your socks off. The virus vaccine effort in California hasn’t been going well. He said we’re 47th out of 50 in taking care of getting the vaccine to the people who need it. Florez said having Alex Padilla as a US Senator could be good as he might be able to get some decent committee appointment that could help with ag and water. Padilla has an engineering background according to Florez and should do more than Kamala Harris did. Florez said the one tunnel under the Delta shouldn’t be as big a deal with Governor Gavin Newsom as subsidence and other matters this year.

Greg Allen of Red Trac reported there will be power cost allocations wrapping up soon and everything looks good. There have been some problems obtaining authorization from some landowners with securing PG&E bills. He did say the system is working well and he has a good deal of confidence in the data. He thinks once the wells start running he can finish up the Phase II work in a couple of weeks.

GM Report

Gianquinto said the Delta conveyance facility has had 18 SWP contractors sign on. He said Delta exports are increasing but there hasn’t been much inflow to the Delta and water quality is driving things. There was a DWR workshop that gave participants an idea of how the Delta works and what transfers go through. He said salinity and carriage loss were explained in better, understandable detail.

He expects this will be a full recovery year with Santa Clara Valley WD taking its water out. The 2020 banking operations concluded just before Christmas. Recovery wasn’t as great as expected and that was due to a healthy reservoir storage level last year. That’s not true this year and he said to expect a bigger recovery this year.

The meeting then went into closed session and that was that.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2021 by Waterwrights/Don A. Wright.

SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT 

1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • mail@semitropic.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 SalinasDistrict Controller, Isela MedinaDistrict 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

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