The Friant Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, August 26, 2021, at the Visalia Convention Center and on MS Teams, one of the worst online meeting platforms. I appreciate many of you writing me to express your agreement on that subject. Wilson Orvis, the new CFO was present and although I understand he was here last month I didn’t know it was him for some reason I don’t recall. So, face with a name.
The first action was the pump back project on the Friant Kern Canal and Water Resource Manager Ian Buck Macleod gave the report. The $3.3 million project with US Bureau of Reclamation is for facilities, about 80 cubic feet per second originally, to reverse flow on the FKC. Water from the San Joaquin River goes to the Delta and is transferred down the Delta Mendota Canal to the San Luis Reservoir then down the California Aqueduct, east through the Cross Valley Canal in Kern County and back up the Friant Kern. The project specs are now up to 500 cfs and the cost has gone up to $10 million. Water quality is still an issue as it is at the further downstream end of the system. But design is doing well except for the portion on Deer Creek that is dealing with the same subsidence issue creating a need for the FKC to be rebuilt along that portion. Things have changed for this project. If I understood correctly the original agreement with the Bureau has timed out. Staff asked the board to approve allowing Orvis to de-obligate Friant from the old agreement and enter into a new agreement. That was approved.
Orvis gave the board an update on the fiscal year 2022 general member budget. Director Josh Pitigliano, Lower Tule River Irrigation District said there are efforts to take Friant’s water away and there needs to be the resources to deal with this. He said this budget does that. The board approved but for the City of Fresno which abstained. The lovely Mia Swenson took the roll and invited Delano Earlimart ID to vote and to his credit GM Eric Quinley politely abstained so as not to call attention to Swenson’s error. DEID is no longer a member of FWA. On a side note Arvin Edison Water Storage District Director Edwin Camp asked how long one must be a voting member of Friant to receive a name plate. Someone had placed a hand-drawn, folded over, paper name tag in front of him.
Macleod gave the water operations report saying the water year is almost finished and Shasta inflow is perhaps the lowest on record and Millerton Lake is also very low, fifth lowest on record. Releases at Shasta are dropping off and it looks like the Sacramento River temperature management is barely eking out enough water. Folsom Lake is at minimum releases trying to meet a carryover goal. Some of the Yuba Transfers is making its way through the Delta and has helped with federal CVP storage in San Luis Reservoir which shares space between the state and the feds. DEID was able to move some of its recapture water. Overall the worst case scenario isn’t happening. The Negative federal balance at SLR won’t be as bad and the Friant Division CVP’s 20 percent allocation is still holding and may well make it through this year. Quinley said the upstream hydropower has had its challenges as well and that impacts inflow.
Alex Biering said SB 559 is up for a vote today and she said there are attempts to amend the bill and if they are too onerous the author state Senator Melissa Hurtado has the option to pull it and try again. There is $100 million in the budget right now that can go to canal repairs. Originally SB559 was written to provide funds for FKC repairs. Other water conveyance systems are also in need of repairs and have now got a piece of the legislation.
CEO Jason Phillips pointed out the Leadership Council, Community Water Center and Clean Water Action submitted opposition to SB559 on the grounds that the bill does nothing for groundwater and disadvantaged communities. That is an absurd statement. Surface supplies are the source of groundwater recharge for ag, but also for rural communities. Not one of the opposing NGOs contacted anyone from Friant about the matter. It’d be interesting to see where their funding comes from. I know they get a good deal of government grants.
Johnny Amaral reported on the federal side of the coin saying the $1 trillion infrastructure bill has made it past the Senate but the far left in the House wants another few trillion pork dollars more in a reconciliation bill before it will approve the current infrastructure. Several democrats in the House wrote a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi stating they must vote on the infrastructure bill first and save all the green new deal and social engineering funding for much later. Amaral also said he and Phillips joined Hurtado at SLR to commemorate President John F. Kennedy’s original dedication of the CVP and he it was good to have someone actually working for the good of the Valley and dedicated to helping solve water issues.
San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint
Consultant extraordinaire* Austin Ewell gave the board an update on all things SJVWBp. He said there is a new governance structure being implemented and Kyler Crocker has been hired to reach out to Valley communities. The SJV Water Collaborative Action Program is made up of NGOs, water interests and environmentalists. Side note, the Leadership Council, CWC and Clean Water Action are participants. This is the project under Tim Quinn at Stanford and Fresno State Universities. The Bureau has provided information on basin studies and it feels the Blueprint could be a good fit for some of this funding.
DeFlitch thanked Porterville ID Director Eric Borba for bringing goats to Friant’s attention. Goats are being used to mow the slopped sides of the FKC. This is a particularly difficult task. Mechanized equipment could end up tearing holes or other problems and the goats, although in my experience the Billy’s can be smelly, don’t tear stuff up like a tractor towing a mower attachment and can reach the hard to get at spots.
San Luis Delta Mendota
Amaral reported on the results of the recent strategic plan retreat. He said the 2017 plan has been updated. The mission and vision statements along with the goals and objectives have been amended or changed as there have been new challenges introduced since then . There isn’t yet a confirmed list, but there is a list of objectives and strategies to achieve the objectives. It is now up to the board to start refining this. Water supply reliability and affordability are two items Amaral pointed out as priorities. Staff has suggestions but he would like the board to get comments back within a week so the plan can begin to implement this. Jeevan Muhar, GM Arvin Edison wondered why Amaral got to review things for a month but the board only gets a week. Someone suggested joining Borba along the canal in the peaceful evenings while herding goats as a good time to develop comments. Phillips said they’d like to be able to prepare some action items so cooperation will be appreciated. Borba welcomed everyone to join him – but he really doesn’t herd goats – I bet he’s fun on a snipe hunt.
Phillips said his only statement is congratulating Orvis for accurately predicting the meeting would adjourn before lunch. The cheesecake was very good, with the graham cracker crust. And that was that at 11:50am.
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*Extremely talented but he was sockless. His report was so good he knocked his own socks off.
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FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: email@example.com 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.