The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, June 10, 2021 remotely from its Los Banos headquarters on Zoom. I tuned in a bit late, these things happen, so I missed the opening ceremony, the pageantry of the fireworks and costumes. I understand the synchronized swimming was cancelled due to not enough water to fill the pool. The meeting was scheduled to begin at 9:30am and it’s a safe bet Chairman Cannon Michael called it to order around that time and that the consent calendar was passed.
I tuned in during action items and first three dealt with water transfers. The board approved paying CDM Smith $115,026 for professional services in long-term north to south transfer needs. They also approved a transfer between Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin ID and SLDMWA with a California Environmental Quality Act exemption. Another transfer agreement between Stockton East Water District and SLDMWA was approved, also CEQA exempt.
Next Chief Operating Officer Pablo Arroyave gave the board an update on water year 2021 recalculated rates considering there is no water being provided in the Central Valley Project for south of Delta ag contractors. Arroyave advised holding tight for another month then they’ll see what the rate really is.
The first report was by Director of Water Policy J. Scott Petersen on who was nominated by Biden for federal positions relevant to water matters. He said the US Bureau of Reclamation is seeking public input for some proposed grant opportunities. The deadline is open until June 18th. SLDM has been working with the Family Farm Alliance on comments and will be responding with a submittal. There are provisions proposed to help with reforms on the Endangered Species Act that were started under the Trump Administration and staff from all over needs to engage with the regulators to show how these actually help the critters and need to be continued as ever more regulations come tumbling out of the federal laundry chute.
Petersen went over proposed federal budget items. When it comes to budgets the administration proposeth and the congress giveth, or not. He said the Water Oceans & Wildlife Subcommittee held a hearing on climate change impacting the drought in the Western United States. One of the committee members is Congressman Jared Huffman who was also the enviro/law firm Natural Resource Defense Council’s senior lawyer, so that’s unbiased. There was a long list of folks who testified. Evidently it was an intense hearing and forest management practices were in the mix. If you listen to Governor Gavin Newsom you’d think climate change causes forest fires, more on that some other time. Some other folks brought forth the idea that weather isn’t the only contributing factor to drought, poor water management also plays a part.
Infrastructure investment funded by the taxpayer through the federal government has been bogged down in negotiations resulting in a shift to partisan politics. This in turn may well result in two packages put forth.
Petersen said the State Board is looking into further regulations on the Russian River that if applied to other areas such as the Delta will be a hot mess. The State Board staff comes up with some stuff sometimes. Due process hasn’t been followed by the State Board. For example at 4:30pm yesterday the State Board said comments are due by noon today. Not cool.
On the state side the recall is chugging down the tracks. Petersen said California’s state government is in better shape than anyone could have expected. Again there is tension between the legislation and administration on how to spend the loot. Lawmakers have to get their bills together by the 15th of this month. There is a multi-billion dollar five-year drought funding program being pushed by the gov. SB 559 made it out of the state senate with only one nay vote. Good for Senator Melissa Hurtado. That was the end of the report and Michael pointed out rightly what a great job Petersen did. Not many if any professional broadcast news anchors could have done better.
Executive Officer Fredrico Barajas started his report by inviting Frances Mizuno to talk about transfers. She said the transfer quantities are still a bit shaky at this time. The Bureau has made some progress in permitting and of course the Shasta Lake temperature control pool continues to be in play.
Next Barajas asked Arroyave to speak on the San Luis Reservoir’s BF Sisk Dam raising. He said geo tech drilling on Highway 152 will start mid-month but that will take place at night and shouldn’t impact travel too much. Staff’s keeping close eyes on this vital project.
Barajas said the geo tech contract has been awarded for the subsidence correction project on the Delta Mendota Canal. He said it is very important to get a feasibility study to formulate the costs and then the costs analysis. He said SLDMWA is working closely with the Bureau to maximize funding opportunities and a cooperative agreement. May their efforts go easier than other south of Delta canal repairs, you know who I’m talking about.
Next Barajas spoke about what the gov wants to do with all the Northeastern Hemisphere Cooty regulations. It looks like there is now the option, providing it doesn’t change, the next meeting could be in person. Tranquillity ID’s GM Danny Wade pointed out Cal OSHA may have another idea. It sounds like OSHA may align with the administration. Just to be safe next month’s meeting will be on Zoom. I hope the time soon comes when both in person and remote viewing will be an option.
Every big organization needs to evaluate its budget, SLDM is no exception. Barajas said staff and management is going through each line item and considering how cost savings can be achieved. Without water supplies income can contract for everyone and that means tightening the belt.
Arroyave said the federal Jones Pumping Plant will shut down today and CVP water will come through the state Banks Pumping Plant. The allowed export flows are so small only one pumping plant is needed. He emphasized the Bureau sees this as a pilot program to determine if there really is a cost savings on power and other matters. Again, Arroyave emphasized the Bureau’s first concern is meeting as much DMC demands as it can. He said we’ll see if this works or not.Arroyave said Fresno County is well aware of hyacinth at the Mendota Pool and is doing what it can to clean this up. He said funding to the state’s Boats & Waterways is being shifted to the general fund. This will stretch resources even thinner. All this even as there is a budget windfall.
Tom Boardman gave his report saying water levels in Shasta are dropping. The current storage is 1.9 million a/f and that’s the second lowest on record. Carryover of 1.25 million was the agreed amount reached by the State Board and the Bureau. Folsom is also lower this year than it was in 2014-2015 and the Bureau is looking to keep 210,000 a/f minimum to avoid diversion problems. Some water from Folsom is being released for Delta outflow. Both outflow and the X2 salinity line regulations have been relaxed a little, by 1,000 cfs. Boardman said the Bureau is still having a time of it meeting those requirements. That’s one of the reason the state and federal Delta pumping plants are pooling resources. High tides are also influencing Delta operations and putting extra pressure on things. However, there is a slight uptick in storage at San Luis Reservoir. There is some water coming from Yuba County and the Exchange Contractors are working to reduce their demands for surface water. Rescheduled water has also been recalculated and that has an impact. Boardman said there is a projected negative 77,000 a/f on the federal side of SLR. The lowest amount that can be pumped at Jones is 800 cfs, that’s using one unit. Those pumps are big and turning them on and off very much creates enough torque to damage the pumps. They were designed to run. I believe as upgrades are made variable speed drives are being installed.
The Water Resources, Finance & Administration and O&M Tech Committees were all listed but there were no reports.
Reports from different sources were next. A gentleman named Brandon gave the Farm Water Coalition report saying there were one on one interviews between influencers and experts recorded for the virtual meeting. He said the outreach to urban California is ongoing as is outreach to western growers to educate everyone on the value of water. Brandon also said the wasteful use on the Russian River response due at noon today is being worked on.
Director Bill Diedrich reported ACWA is looking for interested folks to serve on Region Six. He said new, energetic blood is needed. He said to contact Ara Azhderian. Director John Varela is on the ACWA nominating committee and he also asked for folks to get involved. Varela could be the Chair for Region Five. Varela represents the last bit of ag land in the Santa Clara Valley and feels ACWA’s ag involvement is improving greatly.
Next Varela said Santa Clara Valley WD declared a water emergency calling for restricted use and increased conservation. It’s looking for 15 percent reduction in usage.
The meeting then went into closed session. Michael said there will be two separate sessions, one for existing litigation and one for potential litigation. It’s unusual to divide things like that but they did and there was no time to ask why. Could be a scheduling thing with the attorneys. It was just about 11:00am when Zoom shut down and that’s as closed as it gets.
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SAN LUIS & DELTA-MENDOTA WATER AUTHORITY was established in January of 1992 and consists of approximately 2,100,000 acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors within the western San Joaquin Valley, San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The governing body of the Authority consists of a 19-member Board of Directors classified into five divisions with directors selected from within each division. The main conveyance is the Delta-Mendota Canal that delivers approximately 3,000,000-acre feet of water within the Authority service area. Of this amount, 2,500,000-acre feet are delivered to highly productive agricultural lands, 150,000 to 200,000-acre feet for municipal and industrial uses, and between 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet are delivered to wildlife refuges for habitat enhancement and restoration.
Board – Chairman: Cannon Michael,
Staff – Executive Director: Federico Barajas, COO: Pablo Arroyave, Attorney: Becca Ackroyd, J. Scott Pedersen: Director of Water Policy