The Western Canal Water District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. They are meeting in person and on a conference telephone call from its Richvale headquarters. It’s the best of that type of hybrid meeting so far. I miss the video to see who’s talking but while waiting for the meeting to be called to order at the scheduled 9:00am time the hold music was not the usual smooth jazz, ear pudding. Someone had written and recorded a song about waiting to get on a conference call and he hoped he wouldn’t be on hold all day. One must love it. Each district has its own “corporate culture” often expressed as cooperation or not between the board members, the staff and the district’s constituents. WCWD has a feeling of neighbors working together.
We started by saluting the flag of the United States of America, one nation under God. Good for them. Director Eric Larrabee welcomed everyone. And the minutes were approved.
I believe it was General Manager Ted Trimble who announced the Local Agency Investment Fund’s return has hit a new low of less than one-quarter of one percent. There may be some shifting of funds from LAIF to other investment vehicles. On the brighter side the board was happy with the insurance coverage and value of ACWA’s JPIA. The bills were presented and approved.
Trimble began with the status of Lake Oroville. He said there is more than one million acre feet in storage and going down. At the current rate he said by the end of August there will be river valve supplies only. Not sure what this is but the river valve might be synonymous with a dead pool where water levels are so low diversions can’t take place in regular conveyance facilities. He reported releases from Lake Shasta will take over more Delta outflow at the end of August when the cold pool for salmon should be ready.
There was talk about the river valve. It blew out 10-years ago. We all remember the emergency spillway problem but this is different. It is what sounded like a cowabunga valve but it’s actually a Hal Avunga valve, maybe. Whatever it is, it’s sticky and the board is concerned DWR hasn’t been on top of the maintenance and now they are looking at a serious situation. Rice irrigation ends in August so they got two and half months to go. I was at the WCWD headquarters once on a hazy day. As far as you could see on every point of the compass was rice paddies. You kind of feel like you’re out to sea.
Trimble said he attended the latest Sites Reservoir meeting. He said there is a good deal of optimism and momentum. He said when we’re in a drought like this our farmer friends to the south would dearly like to have Sites online. There is more work to be done with the local entities impacted and of course the state. I believe it was Larrabee who said it will be interesting to see how Sites is integrated into the Cooperative Operations Agreement between DWR and the US Bureau of Reclamation. The COA determines how much of the Delta flows can go to the state DWR or the federal CVP.
Trimble reported the Northern California Water Association’s Todd Manley has been working on the Butte Creek salmon plan. There is a weir that needs to be fixed so fish aren’t trapped. There are also aquatic weeds that are messing things up. This project sounds like a worthwhile effort involving lots of different players from the state to the locals. I heard the name Chuck Bonham, head of California Fish & Wildlife mentioned, sounded like Bonham was on board. It was said the project could accommodate up to 20,000 fish for spawning. They’ve been getting 8,000 fish which is far better than the 100-200 they used to get. Far better than the 500 salmon named in the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. It’s been a while but the last time I checked it was costing more than $2.5 million per fish on the SJR. I suspect the Butte Creek project has a better ROI.
Trimble reported both Butte and Glenn Counties have fired up their drought task force. He said Glenn County has had wells go dry in the Orland area and they are being proactive in getting the needed resources to this area. He said Butte County hasn’t had any wells fail yet but the area north of Chico could be vulnerable. Larrabee said the potable water is going for $3,200 per a/f. Someone said in Colorado potable water sold for $10,000 per a/f during a drought back there. Someone else said you have to remember that’s Rocky Mountain Spring Water.
I’m not sure but I believe staff I think Craig Meyers, reported on Lake Almanor water levels. I didn’t have a board packet and I apologize but I don’t have the grasp on the system up there in the Sacramento Valley. Meyers said the district hasn’t hit peak flows yet and most growers are taking maintenance flows for their rice paddies. WCWD also wheels refuge water it sounded like.
Anjanette Shadley, Assistant GM Administration & Communications reported on her outreach and said someone, I think named Shelly is doing an outstanding job in a position that has been difficult to fill.
Pam Tobin was on the call and she announced she is in the running for President of ACWA. She asked the WCWD board for its support. Tobin had a long list of accomplishments including a term as ACWA’s Vice President and a board member of the Sacramento Valley’s San Juan WD. She said she also has crazy good strategic finance and coalition building skills. The board passed a resolution endorsing Tobin for the new ACWA President.
Cathy Green is running for VP and she said her vision for ACWA is having the organization live up to its motto of “bringing water together.” She had the usual check list of goals. She’s currently on the ACWA board. She’s served on the Orange County WD board. She was also the Mayor of Huntington Beach with a medical and legal degree. She defended the Voluntary Agreements and said she believes local control is better than bureaucratic control. She also said this isn’t the first drought. The water rights have to be respected.
At this point, 10:10am I changed horses to listen in on the Kings River Water Association’s executive committee and came back at 10:40am.
I’m guessing attorney Dustin Cooper was giving the attorney report and I tuned in to hear him say the State Board is going to try to curtail pre-1914 water rights but Western Canal is fairly immune as it can shift its supplies’ color from pre-1914 to what sounded like DWR carryover and not subject to the State Board’s curtailment. Trimble said in 2015 the State Board dipped into pre-1914 rights back to 1903. WCWD received its rights in 1902. The State Board sent enforcers back in 2015 and it sounded like those guys were not on the receiving end of a warm welcome.
Now the State Board has a tattle tell website where neighbor can report suspected violations on neighbor. As if that wasn’t Soviet enough there may not be restrictions on who can report who. Imagine social and enviro justice warriors or even Antifa going around ratting out everyone. My comments, not the WCWD staff.
Cooper said in his opinion there is room for some curtailment but there is still supply in the system and as long as it doesn’t exceed demand they shouldn’t curtail. State Board is looking to curtail pre-1914 in August. I think that was it for legal talk in open session.
Trimble reminded the board it bought a Samsung copier about five years ago. He said it was $2,000 cheaper than the other brand they were looking at and now they know why. Samsung no longer supports or builds copiers and this one breaks down. They need a new one and if they wait until after June the price bid for new copiers goes up 10 percent. They won’t be purchasing Samsung anymore. Copiers aren’t cheap like desk top printers, which with the event of widespread home schooling aren’t cheap anymore either. On a slightly related note you hear a lot of criticism against big oil, what about big printer ink? Even gasoline doesn’t cost that much. The board voted to replace the copier. It wasn’t clear if there will be an unveiling ceremony.
Cooper said there are transfers allowed but DWR isn’t coming up with storage and conveyance costs. Makes it difficult to bhttps://waterblueprintca.com/udget. These are groundwater substitution transfers if I understood. There are also South Feather River and Thermalito release transfers and they are going to Santa Clara Valley Water District, also known as Valley Water. Evidently Valley Water is screwed this year as its Anderson Dam is seismically shaky. Valley Water is paying some of the highest prices in the state for water if I understood.
Also, if I understood correctly Cooper said there will be a hearing in Paradise to discuss how to bring the water system back. He said there are environmental NGOs trying to hijack the proceedings.
Cooper was in a court room in Monterey yesterday for a proceeding involving the City of Marina, the county and Cal Am Water Company about a desal plant and SGMA. They want to put in the water treatment plant to desal brackish water. This is a case of seawater intrusion, one of SGMA’s undesirable consequences. He said on the way home he took the Pacheco Pass route and he can confirm there is some water in San Luis Reservoir but it’s pretty low.
The next item was a consideration to approve a surface water assignment to Richvale ID. I believe it was for 600 a/f and this sounded routine to me. RID shares a border with Western Canal and it seemed like it was the same landowner in both districts.
Shadley reported the water management plan has been updated to reflect new SGMA requirements. She said NCWA had a groundwater committee meet yesterday. She advised more domestic well protections be included in the GSP. It would be a great service to the folks in rural areas who don’t have the geotechnical expertise. She said a well is just like any other part of a home, it’s up to the owner to keep it up. But it is a much more specialized skill set. The GSA’s minimum thresholds and measurable objectives are out for public comment. The situation in this area is nothing like the San Joaquin Valley. The groundwater levels and drawdown are not likely to cause an undesirable result under SGMA.
Shadley said there is more pumping this year and what happens if the reservoirs aren’t filling up next year is of concern. It sounds like the conditions up there are more prone to concerns about groundwater dependent ecosystems. The example of vernal pools came up but since there are no vernal pools in the area it might not have been the best choice. The question is are GDE created by moving water or do they have to be stand alone?
They talked about GSPs and how DWR has returned a review on four so far. Two of them were approved and two have 180 days to get revisions completed. They did talk about Kern County and I think the perception of pumping ramp downs differs some what depending on if you’re in a critical basin or not. The folks in the part of the Sacramento Valley where WCWD sits are not as concerned about SGMA. Nor have they been living with it and won’t until 2022, therefore they are not nearly as versed in the matter as the San Joaquin Valley that is looking at the permanent retirement of one million acres of irrigated farmland. One thing we can all agree on is there is a plethora of initials and acronyms that comes with this legislation. It was very interesting to hear the different perspectives in the Sacramento Valley.
Someone said they listened into a meeting where NGOs were advocating for the GSAs to pay for the protection of domestic wells in the San Joaquin Valley. They spoke with Don Cameron who said that is how its shaping out. There was concern about this causing a great deal of infighting within the GSAs. Yes it can cause trouble. In the San Joaquin Valley some of the NGOs are reputable in that they are trying to help the folks purport to be helping. Other NGOs know there is a big bucket of taxpayer financed money the state wants to grant and they are making a path for getting their snouts to the trough. The meeting then went into closed session.
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WESTERN CANAL WATER DISTRICT
2003 Nelson Road, Nelson Ca 95958, P.O. Box 190 Richvale Ca 95974-0190
WCWD is in the Butte Water District GSA DWR #5-021.70
Directors: Greg Johnson – President, Eric Larrabee – Vice President, Bryce Lundberg, Correen Davis and Josh Sheppard
Management and Staff: Ted Trimble – General Manager, Craig Myers – Assistant GM Operations & Maintenance, Anjanette Shadley – Assistant GM Administration & Communications and Dustin Cooper – Attorney,
Western Canal Water District (District) was formed by a vote of landowners on December 18, 1984 as a California Water District, and currently encompasses a land area of approximately 67,500 acres, of which approximately 59,000 acres are irrigable. The District purchased the “Western Canal” water system from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), who had acquired it from the Great Western Power Company. The canal was originally developed by the Western Canal Company, which began operations in 1911.