The Glenn Colusa Irrigation District met at its headquarters in person and on the phone on Thursday, July 1, 2021. The agenda was short, not even a closed session listed. I had to ask, how are they having an attorney free meeting? As you’ll see in the report you can take the attorney out of the meeting but not the mention of an attorney during a meeting. It is water in California after all. Turns out they had a special meeting last week and cleared a lot of the items off the agenda for this meeting.
Sometimes I think life must be easier in the Sacramento Valley. More water equals less hassle but they still have their concerns and challenges like anywhere else in the state. Districts in the Sacramento Valley rely on the federal Central Valley Project and the CVP ag allocation is zero both north and south of the Delta.
I spent about a half hour on Google Earth before this meeting just following canals. Unfortunately either Google Earth doesn’t identify the names of canals or I don’t know how to access that feature, so I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. But thanks to the California Chapter of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers and the Ag Lenders Society of California I have a map that shows the district boundaries and if you look really, really close you’ll see a canal name or two. Anyway, my point is the Sacramento Valley is much like the San Joaquin in that it is ag based and much of the surface water is delivered by canals. We have the Friant Kern and Delta Mendota and they have the Colusa Tehama Canal and another big north/south conveyance I can’t find the name of.
Take a Google Earth trip up and down the canals of the Central Valley. They bob and weave following the contours of the land. They stop abruptly and go underground through pipes only to reemerge heck if I know where most of the time. I believe my education is lacking and what could be more fundamental to understanding water in California than a basic knowledge of how the plumbing works? It is as I stated above, water in California after all. California, an anomaly, one of the places on earth where you can make water run up hill if you shake enough money at it.
The meeting began at 9:00am with Chairman Don Bransford calling it to order. Things started with the Flag Salute then General Manager Thad Bettner introduced everyone to put names with the phone numbers. The consent calendar was approved which included paying the bills and approving the minutes from last month’s meeting.
The report portion of the meeting started a maintenance report. I wasn’t sure on the details but there was a MOU proposed between GCID and Glenn County which the County Board of Supervisors denied. I believe it had to do with a piping project. The district will try again at the next BoS meeting.
The Water Operations report started with Keswick release numbers and GCID turnouts from the Sacramento River. Groundwater pumping was about 7,000 a/f in June. Parts of the northern portion of the district has some fields waiting for rice water deliveries. It was said there has been good progress for the permanent crops in other parts of the district in getting the water to the fields for now.
There was a special meeting last week and GCID staff was advised on the near-term goals of the district during this very dry year. Up in this part of the state pumping isn’t a dirty word and it sounded like the wells are able to supplement the surface flows. But then later it sounds like that resource is being stretched to the limit.
There were some questions about a district named Sycamore that may require an attorney (what’d I tell you?) to help sort out water rights and allowable diversions. I apologize but I couldn’t find it on the map. Somehow or other MBK Engineering is involved.
A lady named Holly reported on discussions about whether or not to continue meetings remotely or in person or both. It was also reported a motor was disconnected from a pumping station and sent to the shop for repairs.
The cost of an acre foot of surface water has increased from $90 to $100 to incentivize more pumping, if I understood correctly and it feels strange to type such a sentence. Tying into this is a negotiated price structure with the US Bureau of Reclamation to reflect this year’s unique circumstances. The Bureau has released about all the water it can from Lake Shasta due to needing a cold water pool for fish.
The State Board hasn’t issued any curtailment and the usage in the Delta is high and that’s where the Shasta water not being held for fish temperatures is going. USBR Regional Chief Ernest Conant asked the Sac Valley Settlement Contractors to try to cut back more. The board said it’d be tough to cut back any further. It sounded like some of the production of wells is down. It wasn’t clear to me if that was due to underground supply shortage or poor well design. MBK is working on quantifying what GCID is doing as proof of what efforts to conserve water the district is taking on. The board comments sounded like the situation is at the breaking point. There was some talk about increasing the fallowing program in the future but this year’s crops are set. I heard it said the crops look like they will be mature earlier this year and that will help with cutbacks in irrigation later in the year. Sounded like a recipe for more meetings.
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GLENN COLUSA ID – President Donald R. Bransford, Vice President Peter Knight, John Amaro, Logan Dennis and Blake Vann.
Staff: Thaddeus Bettner – General Manager, Zac Dickens – District Engineer, Kevin Nelson – Superintendent, Louis Jarvis – Finance Director, Andy Hitchings – Attorney Somach, Simons & Dunn.
344 East Laurel Street
Willows, CA 95988
DWR SGMA # 5-021.52
From the GCID website: Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) is dedicated to providing reliable, affordable water supplies to its landowners and water users, while ensuring the environmental and economic viability of the region. As the largest irrigation district in the Sacramento Valley, GCID has a long history of serving farmers and the agricultural community and maintaining critical wildlife habitat. The District fulfills its mission of efficiently and effectively managing and delivering water through an ever-improving delivery system and responsible policies, while maintaining a deep commitment to sustainable practices. Looking ahead, GCID will remain focused on continuing to deliver a reliable and sustainable water supply by positioning itself to respond proactively, strategically and responsibly to California’s ever-changing water landscape.