The Western Canal Water District held its board of directors meeting at its Richvale headquarters on Tuesday, July 20, 2021. I’ve been to the district headquarters and it is so different than the San Joaquin Valley. The day I was there it was a bit hazy and although it is flat and you have clear views to the horizon the Sutter Buttes weren’t visible. The effect was like being at sea. The headquarters is located in a rural area and as far as you can see it’s rice paddies in every direction. The paddies were full of water the day I was there. I imagine as the grain ripens the effect may become more pronounced as the plants grow tall and even the berms between the paddies are no longer visible. I suspect a gentle breeze would make it look as if the entire world was swaying in unison. It must be beautiful, unless it makes you seasick.
Chairman Greg Johnson called the meeting to order at 9:00am and we all joined together with a flag salute to this great nation of ours. The minutes were approved with one correction. General Manager Ted Tremble gave the financial report and it was approved.
Tremble said Lake Oroville is rapidly approaching the hydropower dead pool – when the water level gets so low hydroelectricity can’t be generated. He was asked just how low that water level is and replied that figure isn’t certain as it has never happened but at the current rate the estimate is mid-August for a shut off of the power. Releases will continue but the in-Delta regulatory requirements will take most of that source until Shasta releases kick in.
Tremble reported on the Sites Reservoir JPA meeting. The cost estimate is now $3.93 billion, an increase of 30 percent. Water from the Tehama Colusa and Glenn Colusa Canals will be the source for the off stream storage. Tremble broke down the cost categories and said a WIFIA loan for $600 million comes with a $400,000 application fee, if I heard correctly. He said the drought is shining light on the need for more storage. The cost is running about $750 an acre foot. He said much of the money is coming from out of the area. Investments from Met Water and other south of Delta interests are stepping up. He gave the Sites Reservoir a 75 percent change of being built by 2031. Nice to get some good news now and then.
Someone spoke saying that the NGOs are a difficult bunch to get buy in from. The Audubon Society folks said they haven’t seen enough data to convince them California needs more storage. The Sites Project is a model of environmental concerns being address. Someone else said they were speaking with the Natural Resource Defense Council who said they aren’t 100 percent against the project, that’s like an endorsement almost.
There is a bunch of water coming from the river valve that will be colder and there is concern about its impact on the rice crop. Tremble said he’s been working with Land IQ’s Joel Kimmelshue on monitoring the situation. The water temperature is expected to be 45 degrees. If I understood correctly the river valve is somehow connected to Oroville Dam. Cold water has to be released to help salmon smolt and that is the reason for the release. It was asked if the water could sit at the Thermalito Forebay and warm up but there was no answer.
Tremble said there was a meeting with Northern California Water Agency’s Todd Manley and California Fish & Wildlife’s Chuck Bonham to look at aquatic weeds and fish passage. It didn’t sound like Bonham’s position was helpful or even possessing common sense. It was said Bonham’s strategy was based on hope and his orientation is so fish-centric. It appeared Bonham is not willing to adapt any mitigation or alternative route for the fish until ever drop is squeezed from water rights holders. It sounded like a simple, temporary fish ladder could ensure the lives of 10,000 or more fish per year.
Tremble reminded the board three seats are up for reelection and there is an August 5th deadline to get candidate forms submitted. Attorney Dustin Cooper explained as this is a water district votes are based on acreage owned. In this case the vote is based on one vote per acre. Apparently all the seats are district wide and one of the seats is a two-year term and two are four-year terms. So, if you own 100 acres you get 100 votes. The election is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
There is a Tuskin Water District proposed on the north side of WCWD. Tremble said this new district won’t impact WCWD but it is in its sphere of influence. He said getting infrastructure to the area would be expensive for Western Canal and there is room for the Western Canal to grow to the west. The only immediate annexation before the district is 10-acres on the edge of the town of Nelson. There was a gentleman present who is a proponent of the new district and asked for Western Canal’s support for the application. It sounded like the board was willing to go along or at the very least not oppose the formation. The thing LAFCo wanted to avoid is an overlap of sphere of influences and the board will look at this at the next meeting.
Craig Meyers, Assistant GM reported Lake Almanor has dropped to 825,150 a/f and releasing 272 cfs. PG&E is holding back water which was deemed a good thing. There are exceptions to recreational releases. September is a big power month and on average warmer than June. The Western Main Canal is down from 900 cfs to 800 cfs if I heard correctly. From April to June 109,000 a/f has been diverted and that leaves 110,000 a/f to go in the remaining allocation.
CPA Kalah Horton gave the verbal audit report. Audit reports are as difficult to write about as I imagine a cricket game would be to write, if I were ever to try to write about that sport. Sports writing in general is one of the more difficult reporter beats. You really need to like sports for one thing, for another you have to be able to write so that another touchdown or homerun is a newsworthy event. Not one of my strong points. I can sling adjectives around and probably do so too much, but the creativity required to write about audits and make them interesting is difficult to achieve. I can tell you this – I’ve never in 20-years heard an audit of a water related district that pointed to any malfeasance or dereliction of duty by district staff. These water entities are under the watchful eye of the farmers. One doesn’t farm for long if one can’t manage funds. I don’t know how many farmers I’ve met driving brand new pickups and living in beautiful homes who aren’t going broke. Anyway, Wester Canal’s audit was good. Smooth, I believe Ms. Horton said.
Anjanette Shadley reported she is now on the Association of California Water Agencies Joint Powers Insurance Authority board and there’s good news, rates are going down a bit. She said there was a decrease in payouts due to the virus slow down and the reserve fund is up so ACWA could pass along some savings. A director, I don’t know their voices well enough to say who, asked if directors could get health insurance through ACWA since his rates keep going up instead of down. The answer is it can be done but it is an involved process. To be clear the director wasn’t asking for the district to pay his premium he was just curious if that option was available. Someone else asked if ACWA JPIA is the same as ACWA. Shadley said it is and it isn’t. You have to be an ACWA member to purchase insurance but the ACWA JPIA as an organization has a different board and there is no comingling of funds.
Dustin Cooper gave the attorney report. He said the State Water Board resolution for racial equity is problematic and a cause for concern. He said the goal is laudable but the resolution is troubling. The problem statement in the resolution is an admission that the Water Board and the water community in California has been a source of racial inequity. The goal of the resolution is for the Water Board to dismantle racial inequity. Cooper said this can be an issue with the reordering of the water rights priority in the state. He said it is a difficult issue. He said he sent an email to NCWA’s David Guy to see what his opinion is on the subject. Cooper said the resolution is vague about how to remove racial equity from the water system. There is a threat to property rights. You can call anything racist. Doesn’t mean it is. This resolution as written could set some bad things into motion.
There is a fire going on. It was difficult to follow this conversation as I don’t know the local geography. However, there is some talk about PG&E being taken over from the state as punishment for “causing” fires. The board then took a break at 11:00am before continuing.
Let the Sunshine
Jamie Sanchez, Brighter Solutions Energy gave the board a proposal for installing solar energy for some of the district’s electrical needs. He said there is a return on the investment in six years if power rates continue to rise at the current amount. There was a good deal of talk about wattage output, fees and policy.
Sanchez was still talking when I had to leave to go to the Westlands WD meeting. WWD is now holding in person meetings. More about that meeting in a future report. Be good to each other.
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WESTERN CANAL WATER DISTRICT
2003 Nelson Road, Nelson Ca 95958, P.O. Box 190 Richvale Ca 95974-0190
Directors: Greg Johnson – President, Eric Larrabee – Vice President, Bryce Lundberg, Daniel Robinson and Josh Sheppard
Management and Staff: Ted Tremble – 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.