The Tehama Colusa Canal Authority held its Wednesday, October 6, 2021, board of directors meeting from its Willows headquarters and by teleconference. Before we get started with the TCCA meeting, I was told yesterday Mr. Jim O’Banion, Chairman of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority had passed away on Sunday. Of all the meetings I attend, I’ve been attending Ex Con for the longest – 20-years. Mr. O’Banion was chairman before I got there. As yet I don’t have a copy of his obituary but I know a few things about him. He was also on the Central California Irrigation District board and a dairy farmer. His brother Jerry was a Merced County Supervisor. He brought a passion to his leadership at Ex Con and I have no idea who can replace him. Well, he won’t be replaced of course but O’Banion set a high mark for the next chair. May our Lord’s peace be upon his family and friends.
The meeting was scheduled to begin at 9:00am and Chairman Ken LeGrande called role and there was a quorum although not everyone was able to attend either in person or by phone. The first item for action was a resolution, No. 2021-04 authorizing teleconference meetings for a little longer. The Goobanator authorized emergency modifications of the Brown Act that sunset at the end of last month. The government is OK with remote attendance if the district passes a resolution. Every agency, county and city in California has to do this or meet in person under the old Brown Act rules. This legislation has flaws like just about everything that comes out of Sacramento. The law allowing this waiver requires this resolution will have to be brought up every month. By the way, there is something bad happening in America in regards to free speech and public health. Masks are giving people a false sense of security and discussion about this have been shut down on public internet forums such as Fakebook. General Manager Jeff Sutton said this resolution was written in a way that other TCCA members can use it at their home boards, if I understood. The board passed the resolution. Now I can listen in for the rest of this meeting. Hurrah.
Next the agenda was approved and under public comment they thanked me for the invite to last Saturday’s party. That was thoughtful.
Updates & Reports (Three Ladies & A Guy)
There was a jump in the agenda and representatives from the four counties TCCA operates in gave the board an update on SGMA. They are in a less stringent timeline for compliance, in other words they have until the end of this year to submit their Groundwater Sustainability Plans, two years after the San Joaquin Valley. If I understood Lisa Hunter, Glenn County, the current drought wasn’t included during the writing of the plans but there was a preface added making note of that. In the meantime Hunter said the various subbasins are working together.
Please be aware when names are mentioned that I haven’t attended a TCCA meeting live and I’m just guessing who’s speaking. Anyway, Hunter said funding for each subbasin is pursuing funding a little differently. Someone asked if any of the earlier GSPs have been approved yet and Hunter said four have been reviewed with two approved. Since the subbasins are not in critical designation DWR has a longer time to review the GSPs, I’m pretty sure that’s what I was told. Hunter said they are keeping an eye on the how the GSPs from the San Joaquin Valley fare and are learning from it.
Questions of water transfers came up and it was mentioned the amount of monitoring data that has been collected from such transfers is extensive. Such a trove of data should be helpful and the engineering firm MBK has this compiled. It should be available to the counties as all the parties endeavor to work together. It sure sounded like the counties in the Sac Valley, like most of the counties in the San Joaquin Valley are trying to help the growers as opposed to the state and some federal administrations.
Mary Fahey, Colusa County said a GSA covering the Colusa Subbasin has been formed and a large document has been developed for the folks to have a look at. Fahey explained the chapter on minimum threshold is ready for a draft along with a proposed project and financing section. She said the GSAs in the Sac Valley are doing an excellent job in coordinating across lines. Most of the ag counties in the northern end of the Valley have been working together for some time due to NCWA, Northern California Water Association, and the IRWMP programs.
Fahey said, “We have a great foundation to start with and I think everyone has done a fantastic job.” She said Colusa County has been dealing with domestic wells going dry. There are 18 households receiving water tank deliveries and this is being paid from the county’s general fund with the hope of some grant money coming in. She said they suspect there are more dry wells but folks are mostly dealing with it on their own. However, she’d like folks to report it if their wells go out.
Sutton said he’s been a part of the Glenn County drought task force and asked Hunter to comment on that effort. Hunter said there are 215 well incidents reported with 150 dry and the rest having trouble. There are bottled water distribution events and if you filled out a statement your well is dry you get cases of bottled water. They said they’re giving out 12oz. size bottles. There has been some discussion about the benefits of the larger one gallon size bottles. There is also a shower voucher program. If I understood most of the dry wells are centered around the community of Orland. When covering districts in the Sacramento Valley it’s helpful to open Google Earth but you have to be disciplined or you can get lost following roads and creeks hither and yon and miss part of the discussion.
Bill Vanderwaal, Yolo County and Nicole Bethurem, Tehama County were also listed on the agenda but I don’t believe Ms. Bethurem was able to be present. Director Hal Charter, Colusa Water Conservation District spoke up and said there needs to be an extraction fee after a certain amount of withdrawal. The idea of well monitoring didn’t sound popular but as a wise lady named Lauren Layne once said in regard to SGMA, “He with the most data wins,” when the inevitable lawsuits and enforcement conflicts begins.
Vanderwaal said the GSP draft from Yolo County has been put online for comments. He said the recharge projects are under discussion and there is a lot to that. Where to locate, how much to recharge, how to measure recharge and extraction and how to account for it. A monitoring well network has to be established.
The minutes were approved as were the financial reports. There was some question of what category to place an outlay within. I wasn’t sure why but that will be discussed later during closed session. It did have something to do with public outreach regarding the Sites Reservoir project.
Rich Robertson, US Bureau of Reclamation spoke. The TCC is part of the Central Valley Project thus the Bureau report. He spoke fast. He gave a report on cfs releases and something about testing wells. I think he mentioned some 215 water but again, really fast. I did hear him say what we used to call the Mid Pacific Conference in Reno will be held live in January. It will include a feature on how to handle M&I drought and health and safety so if the worst case scenarios come true. I had a lot of fun there one year, hope I can go again. There was other talk about other items. If it rains a great deal this workshop might be shuffled around. Sutton added if you want a 215 contract get started now. I don’t know who wouldn’t want a 215 contract. Also, even through the sudden cross talk it sounded like their Warren Act contracts were good through 2022 and won’t have to be renewed until 2023.
Sutton teed up the O&M report first. He said water quality is looking good and with the change in seasons that may be it for any treatment this year. There is some aquatic weed problems exacerbated by the drought which sounds counter intuitive – less water less weeds – but this is California and much about water is counter intuitive. I’ve been told folks have seen water run uphill if you shake enough money at it.
Sutton also kindly praised his staff for their hard work saying they make his job much easier. He said deliveries will be between 170 and 220 cfs through the end of the season. There will be a maintenance period where the canal is drawn down and work completed. He said when it starts raining there will have to be water brought back into the canal to stabilize hydro-pressure. But the Bureau is trying to save some carryover from Shasta and discouraging diversions. He said so far the members and the authority have been able to communicate and coordinate well.
TCCA has been working on road grading, fence repairs, painting and other such tasks that go with running a canal 140 miles long. A new dredge is needed, evidently you can’t even get parts for the old one anymore. I think, and you might want to double check this, Glenn Colusa ID or the USBR owns the old dredge and Sutton is proposing TCCA buy a new one and more or less rent it out to the members. That should save the individual members money and maybe pay for itself as far as TCCA is concerned. I heard a price of $750,000 for a new one. Ouch. Sutton said things are moving forward with the Bureau’s Mid Pacific Conference and ACWA wants to meet in Pasadena this fall provided LA County doesn’t get too scared of cooties paid for by Dr. F.
Sutton said GCID’s wells in some areas hit all time lows. GCID was also sued by Aqua Alliance over the giant garter snake and won. Sutton said had they lost then the was a case that there could be no fallowing and a full allocation would be needed every year to benefit the snake.
Sutton said a lady named Natalie has been wonderful to work with during this nightmare of transfers this year. He said 2022 is new territory. They’ve never started a new year with such a small carryover. He asked members to submit ideas as soon as possible in how they would like to see things go based on different possible water quantities. He expects a possible Warren Act amount of 19,000 a/f if I heard correctly.
CDM Smith, I’m guessing it’s a consulting firm of some type, engineers or attorneys had an item. Sutton said Smith would be contracted to prepare a 2022 Water Transfer Program CEQA and associated enviro docs. The board agreed.
Sutton said item E. regarding the 69KV switchyard at Red Bluff is a serious amount of power and needs some serious maintenance. He was considering contracting with WAPA but there are some questions from not only TCCA but also the Bureau. So, while WAPA is most likely by far the best choice in experience and cost the contract needs to be altered some before it’s ready for the board to vote on. So, this item was pretty much tabled for now.
The WIIN Act contract conversions resulted in lawsuits and the OEBATFB* plaintiff
requested a summary judgement. At question is are the defendants required to prove the Bureau can convert the contracts without redoing the NEPA/CEQA findings.
Sutton said the Sites Reservoir Project has had some budget modifications on the project workplan agreement. It sounded like $80 million in grant money came in due to Sutton’s ability to persuade through his superior dance skills. Or maybe because someone worked really hard to bring in a USBR grant. Like I said above there are challenges to covering a meeting of folks you’ve never met by phone. But, good for them. This has triggered more interest from investors so there are other benefits beyond the immediate cash infusion. Sutton pointed out Senator Diane Feinstein got this included in the continuing resolution. He said it looks like the Bureau is getting a little more excited because of the increased Shasta temperature pool flexibility Sites will provide. Even some Sacramento politicians have made it a point to voluntarily get educated.
There was a question about federal infrastructure funding being discussed in Washington. Particularly the Shasta Dam raise. It’s a no brainer project but the Bay Area enviro/trust funded/Sacramento complex is dead set against it. And that’s how the meeting ended its public session portion at 11:10am. The agenda showed an employee evaluation, four cases of existing litigation, one anticipated case of litigation and four real property negotiations. Go be good to yourselves and each other.
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* Obstructionist/Enviro/Bay Area/Trust Fund Babies
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TEHAMA COLUSA CANAL AUTHORITY: 5513 Highway 162, Willows, CA 95988 Telephone: 530/934-2125 www.tccanal.com
STAFF: General Manager – Jeffrey Sutton, O&M Chief – Jeff Yancy, Administration Lisa Dicharry
DIRECTORS: Chair – Kenneth LaGrande-LaGrande WD, Vice-Chair – Halbert Charter-Colusa CWD, Linda Hayes-Corning WD Glenn Kelley-Cortina WD, Tom Charter-Davis WD, Jonnalee Henderson-Dunnigan WD, Wade Mathis-4M WD, Sandy Denn-Glenn Colusa ID, Joel Mann-Glide WD, Ron Lee-Holthouse WD, Wade Danley-Kanawha WD, Larry Brockman-Kirkwood WD, Jim Jones-Orland Artois WD, Dan Jones-Proberta WD, Bart Fleharty-Thomas Creek WD & Blake Vann-Westside WD.