The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its Tuesday, February 2, 2021 board of directors meeting remotely on GoToMeeting. While I was waiting for the meeting to begin I was reminded of how much time I save by not driving to these meetings. That’s not a bad thing because I save money on gas as well. But as I sit here I am wondering how much productivity came from saving time and money. I bagged up all the peripheral trash from the two waste baskets near my desk – the ones that look like paper waste Jenga, the bathroom, the one in the bedroom. But I didn’t take it out to the trash can down by the gate. The bag is sitting in the kitchen by the household garbage receptacles also needing to be taken to the trash can by the gate. The trees in back have been denuded for a couple of months now and what was lawn as late as December is now a carpet of semi-decomposed leaves. What’s to matter with me? I own a rake. I’ve got to set more deadlines. Deadlines have been one of the great motivators in reporting and a procrastinator like myself needs them like a flower needs a carbon footprint to survive.
The Meeting Begins
Whilst considering my lack of accomplishments Chairman Don Mills saved me from what was becoming a sour contemplation by calling the meeting to order at 9:00am. There was a full quorum and under public comment Mills asked how many people in the room have a grandson appointed captain of the (I think high school football) team and the only to raise their hand was Director Jeff Ritchie. Good for him and his grandson.
General Manager Mark Larsen made a few announcements saying KDWCD has been making contributions to beneficial organizations such as the California Farm Water Coalition and the related Cultivate California project. These two are ran by Mike Wade and his crew and epitomize worthwhileness. There were other organizations that promote students interested in pursuing ag educations. Dan Keppen’s Family Farm Alliance is another organization deserving support. This FFA has made a good deal of headway in helping to keep tabs on federal legislation impacting the Western US. And one of my favorites, the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint. Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency Executive Officer Eric Osterling said the Blueprint has been reaching out to GSAs and working on conveyance at a high level and not really drilled down. If I understood Osterling correctly there was just enough talk about the efforts paying just enough attention to DACs and habitat to raise concerns with some folks. Once it was explained the Blueprint is going to need widespread support those concerns dissipated. The Blueprint is looking to take a balanced approach as all of the Valley (and really all of the state) will benefit from updated infrastructure. Other contributions were mentioned such as the Farm Bureau and the board agreed with Larsen’s recommendations and approved the contributions.
Water Master Vick Hernandez reported the recent storm behaved as though there was an invisible wall between Fresno and Tulare Counties keeping the storm from moving south. He said at the tail end there was some very wet snow falling on the Kaweah watershed and the situation has improved. The first storm had snow at low elevations and there really wasn’t that much runoff. Yesterday was an unseasonable warm 70 degrees on the Valley floor but it has remained cold at the higher elevations. The lower snow melted and soaked right into the hills. Good for them. Those hills have fractured rock aquifers and that had to help.
Larsen said there has been snow seeding flights during these past rain and snow events. The snow seeding team checks in before the flights to make sure they aren’t going to create a flood situation. The Kaweah and Kern Rivers share the costs of seeding. He said the Tule River watershed situated in between the two gets the benefit without the cost.
The company that provides the service is out of Reno and I think the owner’s name is Rick Stone. Larsen said the aircraft looks like it’s going on a military mission with flares and such hanging off the wings. The plane flies into the cloud and blasts silver iodine which provides small particles for snowflakes to form around. He said it increases the yield by 10 percent or more at times. Larsen said Stone is a physicist and not always easy to understand. Engineer Dennis Keller said this ends up costing about $15 per acre foot. Both Keller and Larsen said they can hear the flights from their homes. The plane flies through the worst part of the storm and has to drop down now and then to shed the ice. Larsen posted a photo of a plane with ice all over its nose cone. Someone suggested all new KDWCD directors be required to ride along on these flights. It’s mostly former military pilots who landed on aircraft carriers so while there’s a lot of skill required there’s also a lot of skill provided. Mills said whether there are storms or not KDWCD needs to keep this going. He said there are now fly zones that have to be negotiated and flights over park lands and if this ever stops getting new permits might become a moot point.
Central Valley Project
Keller reported there has been no declarations of supplies yet. He said there is a small threat to the Friant supplies. The precipitation patterns of this last storm were a bit out of the ordinary. Gains at Folsom Reservoir are still low but there is a glimmer of hope for some westside allocations on the CVP. Keller said the snow at Huntington Lake was very wet and icy. The roads through there were so bad special snow removal equipment was brought in.
Keller also said the heat of the Creek Fire caused a lot of the soil to kind of melt and that prevented erosion and is also expected to inhibit plant regrowth. Some experts from the USDA spent more than a week studying the situation and have a report out. Something very similar happened a couple of years ago on the Kings River watershed. The board then approved renewing the 215 Water contract. That’s a contract to allow flood water from the San Joaquin River to be used in KDWCD.
Former Friant chair and KDWCD Director Chris Tantau updated the board on what’s real and going on with the Friant Water Authority and the Friant Kern Canal. The FKC needs about half a billion dollars in repairs. FWA is working to find funding. Tantau said at this point to get things rolling the Friant members are being asked to put up an aggregate of $50 million. Temperatures are being taken on that proposal. There are also millions of dollars coming from the feds and the Eastern Tule GSA, ground zero for subsidence. Keller said Sacramento is starting to look at funding for all the major canal repairs needed throughout the state. Groveler Gavin Newsom vetoed SB 559, a bill by State Senator Melissa Hurtado that would have contributed funds on the FKC saying there needs to be a more holistic approach. Tantau said if the FKC doesn’t get fixed the costs for contractors upstream of the subsidence is going to increase significantly because they’ll be sharing more of the costs more of the burden as the downstream contractors’ obligations shift to them. There may be more about this in closed session.
Larsen said things are moving forward in a positive direction. He said it is time to nail down the contract with Hot Spot Ag to get the diversion measuring and monitoring system finalized. He said he and attorney Aubrey Mauritson have been working on this and it’s just about ready. There will be some cost sharing agreements with related agencies and it looks like about a $274,000 deal. Good for them. He thinks things can be wrapped up by the end of the week. This agreement will include riparian and pumping monitoring.
Mills commented on how specific the contract terms are. He asked if a vote is needed and Larsen said the contract isn’t complete yet. He emphasized Hot Spot has been very patient and when the trigger is pulled the completion of the task – well, those in the boardroom were pretty amazed by the schedule. But there are a couple of points that have to be worked out on the cost share with the riparian interests. The board was good with this.
Larsen updated the board on the Airborne Snow Observatory. He said funding has always been a challenge and the board was asked to approve a grant application and it did so.
Mills commented the one silver lining on not getting as much rain has been work on the Hannah Ranch Project was able to continue. The camera showing the entire boardroom was placed on the screen like a slide. The image included the big screen at the end of the room where the presentation was being given. It was not a bright spot in remote viewing as the big screen looked like a glowing white rectangle.
Larsen fixed this right away and Keller and him tag teamed the presentation. There were photos of cranes that cost $50,000 to hire working at setting materials and such where it goes. The first segment of pics where of installing a coffer dam. Keller said this is the third time or more this dam was used. He said it costs $250,000 to put the dam in and $100,000 of that is cranes installing and removing things. The dam was placed on the FKC so work on the turnout can continue while the canal comes back online. Keller said there is a special 72” (I believe) stainless steel pipe being fabricated in Texas. It will be transported to Bakersfield and coated before installation.
Keller said there is a map somewhere that shows this area as highly likely for an Indian burial ground. The map’s sources are unclear and it’s doubtful the tribe would use a swampy flood area for a burial ground. The corpses would keep washing away. It’s only a 12-foot wide strip that was evidently not disturbed when the canal was built. He said he doesn’t see this as a tribal issue rather a busy work federal issue. Also the FKC is more than 50-years old so it is considered an antique and that requires an additional permit. I am all for respecting traditional tribal property and the archaeology honoring our American Indians, good for them. However, just because the concrete on the canal completely cured I don’t get the significance. Maybe I’m missing something.
The dam itself weighs 90 tons and that and a couple of anchors on the top of the bank hold it in place. Thirty-eight feet of the canal’s panel will be cut out and the turnout installed. Once the turnout is finished the flow on the canal will be halted to reduce pressure and the dam lifted out by crane, spending the other $50,000. The board had to approve a change order and it did so.
On Highway 99 just south of the Fresno Madera County boarder was a storage yard for equipment used on the High Speed Rail project. For well more than a year there at least four or five cranes bigger than the ones shown in the presentation. If two cranes cost $50,000 for two days what was the charge of leaving like items idol for years on end? Is it any wonder HSR costs $13 million a foot? Ok, I don’t know how much it costs to build HSR per foot but I would be surprised if a couple of dozen yards worth wouldn’t buy me the new Dodge 1500 I want.
Osterling reported the GSA is waiting for news on the Prop 68 Grant awards. He said the Prop 218 election is still on schedule but there could be some minor changes on the engineer’s report and that would need to be updated. The 2020 audit is ongoing as the GKGSA is on a calendar year. He said there is some unhappiness with the GEI data management system. There will be a new RFP issued for data management services.
Under funds already released from Prop 68 there is a need for some growers to participate with some equipment testing being conducted by Fresno State University. He said also the ICRS meeting yielded concerns of California Fish & Wildlife being able to assess things accurately.
Osterling said DWR said none of the first Groundwater Sustainability Plans reviewed so far are from the San Joaquin Valley. Funding for Sky Temp mapping has come through from Prop 68. Enough to map the entire Valley if I understood correctly. That’s the helicopter with the giant magnet that can see underground.
Osterling also had some good news about project evaluations. He said the state is aware things are changing as the GSPs develop and there will be flexibility in altering projects submitted. He said DWR has two years ending in 2022 to return the GSP reviews. He has been led to believe the SJV GSPs will be some of the last reviewed. DWR is looking to pick off the lowest hanging fruit. That makes sense to me. Let the fine folks in Sacramento get their feet wet on the easiest GSPs first and gain some experience before tackling the more complex Valley issues. Or not, we’ll see.
Osterling said one problem has been DWR’s release of ET values. It’s always late and ends up being a big data dump right before the annual report deadline. They are now looking at quarterly releases and while the last quarter of data may be a no show at least the GSAs ability to prepare the annual reports won’t be such an onerous job.
The meeting then went into closed session about 11:10am and that was that. Go be good to yourself and others.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2021 by Don A. Wright
Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District
2975 N. Farmersville Blvd.
Farmersville, California 93223
559/747-5601 KDWCD is part or the Greater Kaweah GSA DWR #5-022.11
Board of Directors
Don Mills – President, Chris Tantau – Vice-President, Ron Clark, Jimi Valov, Jeff Ritchie, Mike Shannon & Brian Watte
Office and Field Staff
Equipment Operators – Jesus Sandoval, Chris Bell
Water Master – Victor Hernandez
Office Assistant – Kathleen Halvorsen
Bruce George – Special Projects Consultant
Dennis Keller – Civil Engineer (Keller/Wegley Consulting Engineers)
Aubrey Mauritson – Attorney (Ruddell, Cochran, Stanton, Smith & Bixler, LLP)
From the Kaweah Delta website:
The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD) was formed in 1927, under the provisions of California state law known as the Water Conservation Act of 1927, for the purpose of conserving and storing waters of the Kaweah River and for conserving and protecting the underground waters of the Kaweah Delta. Later the Water Conservation Act, as well as the purpose of the District, was expanded to include power generation and distribution.
The District is located in the south-central portion of the San Joaquin Valley and lies in portions of both Tulare and Kings Counties. The total area of the District is about 340,000 acres with approximately 255,000 acres located in the western portion of Tulare County and the balance, or 85,000 acres, in the northeastern portion of the Kings County.
The Districts lands are primarily agricultural in nature, although the cities of Visalia and Tulare constitute significant areas of urbanization. Farmersville is the other incorporated area. The population of the District is currently estimated to be in excess of 175,000 people with the principle crops being cotton, misc. field crops, deciduous fruit and nut trees as well as alfalfa.
Numerous public and private entities within the District’s boundaries divert water from the Kaweah River and its distributaries. Nearly all of the lands served with Kaweah River water also are served irrigation water from groundwater, primarily due to the erratic and relatively undependable nature of flow on the Kaweah River. All municipal and industrial water uses within the District are supplied from groundwater.
KDWCD and Tulare Irrigation District (TID), which lies entirely within the boundaries of the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, has a long-term contract with the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) for water from the Friant Division of the CVP. TID has historically received substantial quantities of CVP water surplus to the demands of the District which augment the Kaweah River supply.
The District and the Kaweah River groundwater basin have experienced long-term groundwater overdraft estimated in 2007 to be as much as 40,000 acre-feet per year. The District has performed multiple studies of groundwater data to determine the extent and volume of groundwater overdraft within its boundaries. There are currently over 40 recharge basins within the District covering approximately 5,000 acres. While KDWCD owns and operates many of these groundwater recharge basins, it does not provide water banking services for others.