The Fresno Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting at its Fresno headquarters in person on Thursday, July 8, 2021. This is the first water agency meeting I’ve attended in person in I don’t remember when. It was nice to see that absence does make the heart grow fonder. It was a pleasure to see all these folks after a long while. It was interesting to see people sharing photos of their families before the meeting started. I wish instead of closed session we could have all sat around and visited.
True to form Chairman Ryan Jacobsen called the meeting promptly at 3:00pm and we all joined together to salute the flag of our great nation. There were no conflicts of interest or fussing with the agenda. Under public presentation I urged the board to continue offering the option of online meetings and of course in person. At $4 or more per gallon. . . The consent calendar was approved and Controller DeAnn Hailey gave the financial report. Her presentation was out of the park and the board agreed to approve the report and pay its bills. Good job.
Assistant Manager Adam Claes gave the water report saying Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River is 41 percent of average with runoff being 24 percent of average. The Friant CVP Class I is still 20 percent. Claes said there is a chance of the US Bureau of Reclamation triggering a call on San Joaquin River water for the Exchange Contractors but folks are working together to prevent that best they can. He also said this is the third driest year on record for the Kings River. The driest was the 2014-2015 water year.
FID Engineer Laurence Kimura reported the district’s recharge basins have taken all they are likely to see this season. When the system was turned off and deliveries stopped there was some drainage and that was all sent to recharge. There was one basin that had not received water before. All the water has soaked in but for what may have evaporated.
Kimura reported High Speed Rail still has its woohoo wrapped around an axel when it comes to land use. The district is trying to reach some reasonable accommodations. Kimura also showed a slide of groundwater levels as they relate to surface water deliveries for the past 12 years. General Manager Bill Stretch said the data presented shows the groundwater levels are not recovering as quickly. Kimura even put up three hydrographs from across the district. Interesting to me the east side where I live the recovery is better. The south side appeared to be the worst for groundwater recovery, but it also started at a lower level.
There is a pipeline on the Anthony system that leaks and the landowner wants to go halves on fixing it. I think 1,700 linier feet of PVC will be needed. The board agreed to work in cooperation.
Claes reported the Enterprise Canal started seeping significantly. He said there needs to be a lining project this fall to get this taken care of before there is a catastrophe. An engineering consultant toured the impacted area and while there isn’t a smoking gun like a gopher hole, there was nothing to give a solid reason why. Claes said it could be extraordinarily dry conditions could have cause the soil to crack or micro crack enough to trigger the seepage. He said there will most likely need to be some lining in areas of 100-200 feet in length. Also, this is an opportunity to dredge the canal bottom. This is the canal that brings water to the surface treatment plants so the cities will have to shut down earlier than usual. This is also a storm water channel and the work has to be completed before the weather changes. Claes showed the board how the budget can be moved around to allow finance for this.
Director Greg Beberian said he would like staff to take a look at the conveyance agreements with the cities. He said he believes this event could be extraordinary maintenance and the cities should pay for part of the repair. At this time there was an earthquake. Literally there was an earthquake at Lee Vining registering at 4.8 on the scale. Other reports showed another earthquake east of Lodi registering at 4.9. They were less than a minute apart. Our chairs bumped up and down a little and the light fixtures swayed. As long as the roof and the walls stay attached we’re ok. Anyway the board approved the need to fix the problem on the canal and thanked the crew for cramming an entire season of work into a one month delivery season.
Claes showed the board photos of the work the staff did. Earthwork, pipe repair and replacements, venting and many other tasks were completed. There were more than 420 work orders logged. He said the new truck ordered last October showed up finally. This short season didn’t allow for a million mile year. Claes pointed out there should be a long maintenance window this year so the district will be ready for a wet year hopefully.
The charming Kassy Chauhan told the board about SGMA matters. She said Provost & Pritchard consultant Ronny Samuelian continues to remind folks not to count on grant money. Amen brother. The North Kings GSA, of which FID is a member, is looking to ramp up the outreach program.
Chauhan said DWR has evaluated four GSPs. Two passed and two didn’t. The two GSPs that passed were the Santa Cruz Mid County Basin GSA and the 180/400 Foot Aquifer Basin GSA – that’s its weird name. All four of the GSPs came from GSAs with only one member and one aquifer, kind of closed systems. They are the easiest to make determinations about. This has been pretty well received because it does signal how DWR will approach GSP reviews. If a GSP isn’t approved there is a 180 day window to straighten it out. DWR understands this isn’t much time and will provide helpful suggestions.
The NKGSA advisory committee approved staff to get involved with drought preparedness response with other entities in the area. Reviews of well permits in Fresno County taking place in NKGSA are proving to be a valuable tool. Chauhan said the boundary flows are the next big step in quantifying where the water is going. Beberian pointed out the well field on McMullen Grade Road is pumping 24/7 and sending the water to James ID further to the west. So the most overdrafted GSA in the Kings Subbasin, the McMullen Area GSA, is having water pumped out from under it and sent to a different subbasin that is in pretty good shape. Many years ago the McMullen area had so much groundwater artesian wells and very high water levels were inhibiting farming. James ID agreed to take the extra water as a favor. Depending on which side you’re on the agreement fortunately or unfortunately didn’t include provisions for ending the agreement. There was even a court case that sided with JID. I guess that’s one reason why lawyers read things over again and again.
Chauhan asked if there were any other earthquake reports before she began the Annex Building file reorganization update. Jacobsen commented that Kimura now has bragging rights about shaking up the meeting with his report.
Chauhan said the file reorganization is moving forward and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. She said there was an ad hoc meeting yesterday where the Prop 218 funding was discussed. A workshop will be held for the board to get them up to speed on unmet needs. FID is also updating its rules and regulations handbook.
She also reported Senator Diane Feinstein didn’t send any congressionally funded projects to the Stream Group. The Stream Group is FID, the Cities of Fresno and Clovis and Metropolitan Flood Control and there is a big flood basin area known ironically as Dry Creek to the northeast that captures season rain flows from creeks. Director Jerry Prieto suggested next time getting non-government agencies involved with Feinstein, like Nisei Farmers League. Beberian asked if Met Flood is territorial and the answer is not so much. It’s more the Army Corps of Engineers as this is a flood control project. FID attorney Jeff Boswell said FID had control of that basin 30-years ago and it was a shame they still don’t because the district has more flexibility than just flood control. Met Flood has blocked off the road that goes through the basin with large concrete blocks and anti-personnel mines. There are housing tracks right up to almost the foot of the dyke. I used to ride my horse back there behind the dyke and it was great. Someone blew up the bridge on the old road as a test explosion for another bomb hidden in a copy machine used to extort Harrah’s Casino.
While I was waxing nostalgic about the Dry Creek Basin Chauhan reported on CV-Salts and the nitrate control plan landing in the area like a rock in a dry canal channel. This started with a shift from the Regional Board dealing with salts to nitrates in drinking water. That concern started with a law firm claiming to be an enviro organization threatening and sometimes following through on the threats of suing counties in the Valley that permitted more dairies. The firm’s claim is the nitrates were going to cause Blue Baby Syndrome. I’m not saying there hasn’t been a case of BBS in the Valley but I’ve searched for years and never found one. If you know of one please share it with me.
Chauhan said staff is following the state and federal budget closely for infrastructure funding. The sexy part is going to municipalities but since districts such as FID play a major role in bringing water into their areas ag water entities should be recipients of at least some of the funding. She said she’s keeping track on Senator Melissa Hurtado’s SB 559. Funding for the Airborne Snow Observatory program is being sought in the state budget. It occurs to me the entire state benefits from the information obtained by the ASO but only ag is being asked to pay.
Long time engineer and water guru Richard Schafer’s passing continues to reverberate throughout the Valley. He was a major cog in the Valley Ag Water Coalition and not easily replaced. I first met Mr. Schafer at Cawelo WD in Kern County. He is the one who told me the average civilian Army Corps of Engineers project takes at least 20-years to complete.
The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint and the SJV Water Collaborative Action Plan are moving forward and trying to engage with many interest groups. Chauhan updated public relations happenings. Stretch and Claes have both been featured speakers on the news and at the Rotary Club. FID is happy to speak to groups.
Rhymes with Myna Cooties
Human Resource Director September Singh reported by telephone on the latest virus response. She said the variant virus is having a very minor impact on the Central Valley and recovery is giving her cause for hope. She has also worked with the ACWA JPIA, which is the go to for district insurance. There has been an update on the Brown Act, the act that governs how much a public agency must present publicly. She said directors can still attend remotely until the end of October. It sounded to me that after that date the old rules of announcing director’s remote locations and public access to that location.
Singh said the Special District Risk Management Authority Credit Incentive Program is holding a conference at Lake Tahoe that promises to be so boring you don’t even want to go.
Stretch started his report by saying how happy he is to see everyone in person. He said the workload type is shifting. More in-person meetings is actually reducing the overall number of meetings. It’s easier to just Zoom online than zoom up and down the highway. He said he looks forward to meeting with the directors for the workshop on how to meet the districts unmet needs. There are a lot of areas to prepare for before FID goes for another 218 election.
Stretch said Claes has been working double time with the Mayor of Fresno’s office about the homeless issues. Everyone likes waterfront locations and none more than the homeless along FID ditch banks when it’s 112 outside. Stretch said the wrestling with HSR has to do with pipeline maintenance and related issues. That is taking up a lot of time. Another cost that doesn’t get mentioned often.
Stretch reported he and Director George Porter attended a two day retreat recently in Atascadero for the Friant Water Authority. He said it was a little slow with a focus on the FWA mission statements. Porter said he stayed in a gorgeous hotel. There was a closed session that didn’t allow the managers to attend. There was a lot of Brown Act discussions about in person v. online. Stretch said the final brief on the Kings River Fully Appropriated Status is due tomorrow and from there the hearing officer has a few months to make a ruling or extend the hearing into Phase B.
On a final note Stretch thanked the FID staff for going above and beyond in dealing with the virus situation.
Director Chris Woolf said the Pacific Legal Foundation and attorney Howard Sagaser have just achieved a major ruling from the US Supreme Court in labor law in favor of property rights. The rest of the directors just reported they were happy to be back in person. The meeting then went into closed session at 5:11pm. And that was that.
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Fresno Irrigation District – The Fresno Irrigation District is located at 2907 So. Maple Avenue, Fresno CA 93725 phone 559/233-7161 and meets at 4:00pm on the third Tuesday of the month at district headquarters. FID is part of the North Kings GSA DWR # 5-022.08
Ryan Jacobsen – President, Jerry Prieto – Vice President, Greg Beberian, Christopher Woolf & George Porter
Bill Stretch: General Manager
Adam Claes – Assistant General Manager – Operations
September Singh – Assistant General Manager – Administration
Laurence Kimura – Chief Engineer (you had him nailed down good)
Jeff Boswell – In-house Legal Counsel
Jim Irwin – Water Master
David Burrows – Water Master In Training
Michael Prestridge – Superintendent of Construction & Maintenance
DeAnn Hailey – Controller
Kassy Chauhan – Special Projects Manager/North Kings GSA Executive Officer
Donna Aday – HR and kind words