The Friant Water Authority held its Executive Committee meeting on Monday, June 14, 2021. The meeting was held at FWA’s headquarters in Lindsey and on the God Awful Microsoft Teams remote meeting. It took me until 10:45 am to get on a meeting scheduled for a 10:30am start. This is no reflection on Friant but rather my longstanding mistrust of big tech especially Uncle Bill and the Micro-minions. I’m certainly no expert but as a layman who attends many meetings online I’m a Zoom supporter so far and put me in the camp of those advocating after in person meetings come back the online option is retained. Gas is $4 a gallon and it would be nice to get together and it would be nice to save some money.
The agenda listed closed session first. Then in open session the approval of the minutes, public comment and some budget matters dealing with the Friant Kern Canal repairs. The plan to repair the FKC is now in place, at least the process is scheduled and the steps identified. This in itself is liable to shorten Friant meetings considerably until the next big crisis and we pray there won’t be one.
They were on item three when I tuned in; a memorandum of understanding between the County of Tulare, the US Bureau of Reclamation and FWA. Attorney Don Davis explained this MOU will clear the way for the County’s blessings. Several roads and bridges owned by the County will be impacted and this agreement spells out what the County can expect. Davis said by the end of the negotiations the County seemed to be on board having been reassured by both Friant and the Bureau it property and the needs of its citizens will be taken care of. The committee agree to recommend to the board to sign the MOU.
COO Doug DeFlitch reported ranking of the technical skills for the “Best Value” process is about to take place. In order for the bidding contractors to give a more fully researched bid there will be another meeting in Sacramento and the deadline extended two weeks into July. Director Edwin Camp asked if the bidding deadline is extended two weeks is it possible to start the work two weeks earlier. DeFlitch said it’s not quite apples and apples, there is the technical side and the money side.
CEO Jason Phillips said while it may not translate to reducing the time two weeks he’s been told by the Bureau it shouldn’t extend the start date. He said spending extra time on this portion should clear up enough questions to shorten other negotiation and preplanning. The board said DeFlitch and his team are doing a great job. Someone asked if they could do a great job faster. That was pretty good. A client once told me you can have it quick, you can have it cheap and you can have it crafted with exquisite value and care – and you can have two out of three.
Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral reported the projects included in SB 559 are looking at a milestone tomorrow. The State of California’s government has a constitutional deadline of June 15th to pass its budget, that’s the day after this meeting. Amaral said the legislators will pass the budget on time or else they won’t be paid. However, the budget will be light on details and continued funding decisions are still pending. However, Amaral said things are going the way Friant would like it for the most part.
Phillips said the goal is to have an agenda out this week for the upcoming off site meeting of the board. I don’t know if this is really a retreat as that is usually in November. There will be a closed session included. There will not be any remote viewing options, be there or be four sides of equal length and a 90 degree angle at each intersection.
Phillips said he’s been making the rounds at the home board meetings. He got an earful from Lindmore Irrigation District. He intends to visit Orange Cove ID and invited OCID’s General Manager Fergus Morrissey to call him if he’s not welcome.
Phillips said he’s been talking to the media and government officials about the drought. He said there needs to be a blueprint to help the Valley with overdraft of groundwater. Getting through 2021 on minimum surface water allocations could collapse with the loss of just 50,000 a/f. With SGMA in full force take away another eight million a/f in less than 40-years. There is some money in Sacramento and the land repurposing bill passed through the Assembly without a no vote. Phillips said there is a lot of money in AB 252 but if things go full speed ahead with only land retirement that’s all we’ll get. He realized there will be a need for land retirement but we also have to work towards a water plan and not just taking land away.
The other issue he gets questions about is the 20 percent allocation of surface water. Phillips said the state doesn’t know how to operate the system during a drought. He said the State Board is way behind in how to do this. He said the State Board members are trying to do right but they have been dealt a bad hand. He said 2017 and 2019 were wet and that should have been a prequel to the next drought. It was said Michael George the Delta Water Master is up to speed on this and he’s informing the State Board. That’s good to know, George has a steady hand
DeFlitch said Friant Employee Appreciation Day will be at the Wyndham Hotel this Friday from 9am to 2pm. That was that and the meeting ended at 11:21am.
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FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.friantwater.org
The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 17 districts to operate and maintain the Friant Division of the Central Valley Water Project. Water from the San Joaquin River is diverted at Friant Dam at Millerton Lake to the Madera/Chowchilla Canal to the north and the Friant/Kern Canal to the south. More than one million acres of mostly family farms and numerous communities get their surface supplies from the Friant Division.
Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, COO Doug DeFlitch, CFO Wilson Orvis, Government Affairs & Communication Alexandra Biering, Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell, Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral, Director of Technology Christopher Hunter and Attorney Don Davis.