The Tulare Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, September 14, 2021, online with Zoom. Zoom opened easy, got right into the meeting. Before the meeting began Director Dave Martin was concerned about the lack of breakfast burritos available to the press and of course that’s very appreciated. Chairman Dave Bixler called the meeting to order at 9:03am and away they went.
Under public comment Director Mike Thomas asked about Skytem and its applications beyond the Valley. General Manager Aaron Fukuda said this magnetic array flown about with a helicopter can tell how far salt intrusion along the coast had made its way inland. It takes a special pilots license to fly the Skytem, similar to guys that wash high power lines and trim trees with helicopters. Wow.
Also they told me this meeting will last longer than yesterday’s five minute Friant. That is a mixed blessing. But it does give me more room to post ads. And this is off the subject but all news, whether online, newspapers, radio or television is the stuff that fills the space between ads. That’s the business model unless you’re a nonprofit.
Water Master Marco Crenshaw said we’re on fire and out of water. Lake Kaweah has 28,000 a/f out of a possible 150,000 a/f. Millerton Lake is at 250,000 a/f out of a possible 500,000 a/f. Inflow for both reservoirs are at all time lows with corresponding releases. One the San Joaquin River there are other reservoirs operated by Southern California Edison for power production and they will have to have some releases soon for flood space. Crenshaw showed a map outlining the water temperatures in the Pacifici Ocean. He said it’s still very early to tell but if the warm water moves up to the Alaska/Canada coast it could be dry for us again. Martin asked how long the Pacific temperatures have been charted. He was curious about what the trends could tell but that data isn’t as processed yet, if I understood. That hot spot is known as The Blob and it usually precedes a dry year. But not always, same for the La Nina and El Nino years. It’s not a fool proof indicator but nothing is – sorry climate change fanatics.
Wayne Fox, Superintendent reported cleaning up turnouts, weed abatement and general maintenance is ongoing. He said some of the equipment on the system like gates are being re-galvanized or replaced. There is still one TID employee on loan to the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District and the ponds in the Cities of Tulare and Visalia are being inspected.
Fox also reported the district has two vehicles scheduled to be replaced due to increased California Air Resources Board regulations. The vehicles’ compliance won’t expire for more than a year but replacements for new trucks is taking a long time. Fox showed three options for a semi-tractor and they started at $150,000 up to $180,000 for a new Kenworth and Peterson trucks. The semi would be difficult to rent as it pulls all manner of equipment on a trailer often during emergency situations. It was interesting to hear how the trade in value can be shattered by CARB rulings. The district could lease a vehicle but it would be a $35,000 difference over purchase but the payments will be less and they may be able to buy it back for a reasonable price. I believe Martin is on the equipment committee and wanted to bring this to the board before making a recommendation. Fukuda said all the districts are getting hit by these CARB rules. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what this state regulation is costing the people of California? The board decided to table the item until more information can be gathered.
Next Controller Kathi Artis gave her financial reports. The board approved and agreed to pay its bills. TID paid more than $3 million for water this year. On dry years the cost of water goes up but the district has less surface water to sell. This month is the first time TID’s contribution to the Friant Kern Canal repairs comes due. It’s a hefty check and this is a complicated transaction. TID can convert its share into a long-term loan. There are other options and scenarios involving the US Bureau of Reclamation and there is a 1.3 percent loan option. Before anyone soaks their panties in gasoline and goes around daring someone to strike a match of indignation over this low rate, it was based on the Treasury Department set rate. This wasn’t some special deal for farmers.
Artis reported the audit is going well and Fukuda spoke about the long-range financial plan. TID had a model built to plug in various scenarios. Some of the options show include a $12 million cap for reserves and how to do that without too large an assessment. It shows the option of setting a high assessment and backing off those high rates until a static situation comes about. Then Fukuda put up a series of spread sheets and you’re welcome to get a board packet from TID if you want more detail. It’s public record. There are 1,400 landowners being assessed in TID. Fukuda believes when the time comes for a 218 election engineer Matt Klinchuch, Provost & Pritchard has a lot of 218 experience and should be a good choice to provide those services. He also said TID’s Beth Holmes would be the best choice for the balloting needs as she knows everyone. Attorney Alex Pletzer would be retained as he knows TID’s system better than any other lawyer. That section of the meeting took a long time to discuss.
The Engineer’s report was next on the agenda and that went so fast I missed it due to a brief phone call. The Mid Kaweah GSA report was next. Fukuda is the MKGSA manager and Martin sits on that board. Johnny Gailey is the Executive Director of the Delta View Water Association. This is a group of White Area landowners and he said establishing a transitional water allocation too late and it can be blown through in a very short time. Fukuda said the Tule Subbasin is further along the SGMA trail to sustainability. You don’t get double cropping there like you do in the Kaweah Subbasin. He said the time has come to dial back pumping, it’s dry and even a wet year will only be catch up. Fukuda said he’s receiving a few calls daily and not one grower in TID is telling him to not cut back on pumping allocations. Not because they want it but they realize the seriousness of the situation. There has to be a message sent to everyone in MKGSA and the other GSAs in the subbasin this will happen and happen soon. Gailey said you have to make the call now while folks are scheduling for next year. He was adamant about this, dairies need to know what they can plant for feed and as uptake to their nitrogen program. Fukuda said the East Kaweah GSA is ready to announce a pumping allocation. He said the MKGSA board will receive a presentation on an emergency groundwater allocation and pumping cap proposal at today’s meeting. He said growers will have to cut back to farm every year or stop farming. Martin said the dairy guys planted trees and they may have to pull them out and plant corn.
Fukuda said Friant Water Authority has been on top of things regarding the Friant Kern Canal repairs and the external affairs team have been aggressively monitoring the legislation. Fukuda said the FWA management has gone above and beyond to hang on to the 20 percent CVP allocation and that hard work should pay dividends for years to come.
SB 559 was highjacked by the legislature and all manner of unacceptable provisions and state Senator Melissa Hurtado pulled it and it is now a two-year bill. There is some money for canal repair in the budget. There’s a joke going around to rename SB 559 to SB 916 and the folks will think it benefits Sacramento. Or maybe 408 and even the San Jose Mercury News’ editorial board will tamp down its more selfish instincts.
Fukuda said there is a new TID member, Fox had a grandson. Good for him. TID Engineer Jeremy Barroll will be taking one of the necessary engineering tests to become fully licensed in California and it’s been called a meat grinder. Praying for success there and look forward to reporting such.
The office well had a 60 horsepower pump installed. Why such a big pump? TID has a tank reservoir that is required to provide fire protection for the headquarters. This saved the district $60,000 over a sprinkler system but regulations require the reservoir tank be filled in like a half hour max.
Fukuda said he found some grant funds available for e-mobility on the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control Board website. This means there could be money available for new audio visual and online upgrades for the office. The board passed a resolution and Fukuda can now apply for the grant.
Patrick O’Doud is running for the ACWA board vice president. He’s on a Salton Sea committee or board (didn’t catch which one) and Dudley Ridge Water District board. I asked his stance on the State Board’s proposed office of racial equity and that wasn’t known. But O’Doud is know by some of the TID folks and the board passed a resolution of support.
Director Rick Borges began and reported on Friant and other organizations he attends. He said the Kaweah, St. Johns Rivers group heard from Eric Osterling of the Greater Kaweah GSA and they are working up pumping allocations. So don’t think they’re sitting idle on the subject.
Martin gave his report saying he got a mixed message from the Kaweah Water Foundation. He said it was an online meeting and he got the impression TID is the only one really pushing for the goals and willing to pay money for them. He said he got frustrated enough to shut his mic off before he said something he’d regret. Ok, Martin is one of the better natured men out there so it must have been something going on at that meeting.
Thomas gave his report but unfortunately I couldn’t hear him at first. I think he was reporting on the Watchumna Water Company meeting and said a very large backhoe broke. It was the largest backhoe you can purchase before the equipment is reclassified as an excavator. There are no new parts available and this is common throughout the country. They found a rebuilt rear end for now. Director Scott Rogers didn’t have anything to report. Rogers is the strong, silent type.
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TULARE IRRIGATION DISTRICT
6826 Ave 240, Tulare, CA 93274 Office: 559/686-3425
Board: David G. Bixler- President, Richard S. Borges, Jr.-Vice President, Scott Rogers, Dave Martin & Michael Thomas
Staff: Aaron Fukuda-General Manager, Jeremy Barroll-Engineer, Kathi Artis–District Controller, Wayne Fox–Superintendent, Marco Crenshaw–District Watermaster & Alex Peltzer-Attorney.
About: The Tulare Irrigation District was organized September 21, 1889. The original proposal for the formation of an irrigation district covering 219,000 acres, extending from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Tulare Lake, was eventually reduced to 32,500 acres. The District continued in this status until January of 1948 when the so-called Kaweah Lands” (approximately 11,000 acres) were annexed. In October of 1948, approximately 31,000 acres, compromising the area served by the Packwood Canal Company were annexed to the District. A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation contract was signed in 1950 providing an annual supply of 30,000 acre-feet of Class 1 water, and up to 141,000 acre-feet of Class 2 water from the Friant-Kern Canal. The District and the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District have coordinated efforts to enhance the recharge of groundwater within the Kaweah Basin. During high flow times KDWCD may use the recharge basins with the District for recharge purposes. Further, KDWCD has historically provided for a financial incentive program through which the District sustains the level of groundwater recharge from supply sources into the District. This historical program was recently reinstated by both districts in lieu of the District’s plans to concrete-line this canal to conserve the surface water. TID is a member of the Mid Kaweah GSA DWR#-5-022.11