The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, October 13, 2021, meeting at its Wasco headquarters on GoToMeeting and in person for board and staff. Looking over the agenda before the meeting started and it’s long. There are 19 action items, a bunch of other stuff and 13 informational items. There are also like a dozen closed session items. And I just ate so I can already feel the sleepy creeping in. So, if a sentence reads like thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis, I probably had momentarily passed out while typing. It happens.
At 12:33 pm according to my computer clock Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order. We all saluted our flag. Waterhouse said there were no visitors at the HQ and there were no public comments.
The first item was approving a resolution to waive certain Brown Act requirements due to the airborne menace so the meeting could take place. The always lovely Marsha Payne polled the board and the motion to approve passed. There were no changes to the agenda and the minutes were approved. That knocked out three action items. To my surprise the treasurer’s report was approved without discussion. Wow, four items just like that.
SWSD Controller Bobby Salinas gave his financial report. This included income, cash flow and such. As an entity that runs a banking service some of the bills are pretty high. For example: you and I could split Semitropic’s monthly PG&E bill and kick back for a couple of years. Split a year’s worth and we could retire and buy everyone in our family printer ink.* Salinas’ report was approved.
General Manager Jason Gianquinto introduced the next item and it has to do with budgets. The board needs to set water rates and adopt some resolutions. Salinas said due to the dry times and uncertainty a five percent allocation will be the base. Both Metropolitan Water District and Santa Clara Valley Water District have given notice they intend to pump next year. Semitropic is part of the State Water Project. When surface deliveries are tight districts have less water to sell and the incomes derived from that service go down. The board approved the budget and the annual investment and reserve policy. The policy is the same as always.
The next item was approving the 2022 non-contract water rate. Engineer Isela Medina presented the board the reasoning staff followed to arrive at the rates. There are energy and pumping costs and other considerations. If I understand correctly the cost will be $135 per a/f. The board approved this rate.
The board was asked to amend the wheeling charges for 2022. Medina said there are administrative charges of $.50 a/f set back in the 1980s. The conveyance portion is $18 per a/f and that is based on PG&E costs. If I heard correctly that power cost has gone up by two million bucks.
GEI is the engineering firm Semitropic likes and GEI wants to get into it with High Speed Rail over some peer reviews for future conflicts HSR has caused. For $50,000 GEI will take care of that headache and the good news is HSR will reimburse the district for that expenditure. The board approved.
Gianquinto gave the broad a presentation about the California Aqueduct Reversal Project he said he completely stole from Provost & Pritchard. He said there is an unfortunately high likelihood of a very low allocations next year. Semitropic stores some of its water downstream in the Kern Water Bank and the Pioneer Project. The project would be mostly small, temporary pumps to move that water upstream in the Aqueduct through about seven check structures. Most of the cost is going to be setup. DWR is working with Rain For Rent on a $5.5 million deal. Gianquinto said the westside districts will pay this but $250,000 and Semitropic will get 25cfs. This is just Semitropic’s portion of much larger project.
Now here’s something classic California water weird: at the same time Semitropic will be getting water pumped upstream it might be pumping water back into the Aqueduct. That even surprised some of the seasoned board members. Gianquinto explained (and I hope I do him justice) the carryover at San Luis Reservoir is going to be so small Met won’t be drawing on those supplies first. Most of Met’s carryover is stored further south in Pyramid and Castac Lakes. Met will draw on that first which means there could be times with very low flow on the Aqueduct and the districts need to be prepared for anything. Gianquinto said to think of this as a hedge. He said being a team player on this one has benefits to the district. It may allow Semitropic a much greater deal of flexibility in making its deliveries and meeting its obligations. He said it is a shame it’s even needed but he doesn’t expect any allocation on the SWP in the first quarter of 2022. We heard yesterday it will take a 140 percent water year in 2022 to catch up with the losses from this year’s drought conditions. Waterhouse and Gianquinto both, wisely I think, advised to mount up on this one. Most of the land on the westside is Wonderful and Sandridge Farms and this project will help them and there is nothing wrong with this. It’s legal and provides jobs and taxes and such. The board approved the plan.
A Poso Creek LLC Banking agreement needed an amendment. Gianquinto said PC LLC said it needs to go from $40 in and $40 out. The amendment would be cost neutral with $10 in and $70 out usage fees, $80 a/f either way. This is for first priority contracts. It also provides incentive for bankers to make deposits. The board approved.
A farmer named Allen Shows has found the banking feature he signed up for isn’t meeting his needs and he wants to sell 100 of his units to Mid Valley Farms. The board approved.
Maricopa Orchards has a solar farm and it wants to lease some property from Semitropic. The solar is already there. It looks like the property must be contiguous for PG&E to give them credit. The lease is $300 plus per acre for I think 10 years on 100 acres.
GEI wants to charge Semitropic for applying for a US Bureau of Reclamation grant to help with PCCP pipe replacement. Medina said this smells like success. The board agreed to kick $15,000 to GEI to write up the grant under deadline.
MKN is seeking a task order to provide engineering support during construction of High Speed Rail. There is another firm, J Calton Engineering that also needs some green to work on HSR facility relocations. Medina explained how this will help the district by taking these task off of staff. The cost is $25,000 for both and the board approved.
The last action item was a resolution to support filing an application with the Bureau’s WaterSMART grant for groundwater extraction improvements. Medina said last month the board approved GEI to fill out an application and some funding was realized. Now the district needs to drill another well and there is more grant money available. However, the board must pass a resolution or the Bureau doesn’t want anything to do with them. The board approved.
Gianquinto said the recently scheduled water budgets workshops for landowners were not well received and had to be cancelled. He said he wants to try again on October 21st and 27th with one midday and one in the evening.
Gianquinto said he apologizes for the next item but there was a district truck stolen and most of the morning was taken up with that. He said Land IQ has been well accepted but there are issues with landowners who want to fallow. They want their groundwater credits to be based on rain and not satellite ET values. The proposal is to base the ET on precipitation, it would be net and the rest of the native yield credits can be used elsewhere. The landowner will be required to make a declaration the land in question isn’t being farmed or allowed to degrade into a nuisance. The board had a few questions and Gianquinto will take this back and work on it and bring it to the November meeting.
The Kern River Subbasin is working on a groundwater model by Todd Groundwater for the basin native yield study. The first try was 1.5 a/f per acre for all the land overlying the basin. This model is being revised and all the GSAs in the subbasin will have to sign off on this as the earlier number was used in most of the GSPs. Hmm? I’ve heard of this in other parts of the Valley. Some of the models had a +/- of 30 percent accuracy resulting in a 40 percent solid estimate. Or as San Diego newscaster Ron Burgundy said, “It’s 100 percent correct 40 percent of the time.” These things have to be shaken out. While I was writing that last bit of non sequitur Larry Rodriguez of GEI reported on the data management system.
The gentleman from WM Lyles said he’ll be brief.
Rodriguez updated the board on his firm’s carrying on’s. He said he expects to bring a presentation to the board next month to fully update them. GEI has many projects at Semitropic and there have been many task order changes. Too many to list here but he did say the groundwater model GEI is using for Semitropic is at a much finer grid and may be something the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA might find interested and be willing to work together.
The agenda listed BPR, a political consulting firm of former state senator Dean Florez as the next report. Florez asked when the public will be allowed back into the SWSD meetings and was told things are taking off with a soft start. Florez said of the 80 or so bills being tracked about half made it to the Gov’s desk and about half of those were signed into law.
He said as for the bills Semitropic supported or opposed things went well for the most part. The vetoes were not as kind but it could have been worse. Updating the Brown Act is a priority in my mind but evidently not Gavin’s. But on the plus side Gav vetoed the card check union votes, so good for him for that. Florez threatened to prepare a power point for next month’s meeting and go over this in more detail. There are still 40 or so bills held over that could cause mischief when the legislature takes up again. I asked him what was going on with the State Board and its attempts to have an office of racial equity. Florez said there are new members of a more moderate stripe recently appointed to the board. Ok.
Greg Allen, a true Son of Texas gave the Redtrac report. Redtrac is gathering data on the use of power in the district. This information is expected to help tremendously with power bills in the district. I must confess I don’t fully understand how this works. I’ve had it explained but you know, one ear then the other. One challenge has been to get landowners to buy in to giving access to PG&E bills. This is a safe, confidential, relatively low hassle way for folks to have the energy temperature taken, so to speak.
Gianquinto said much of what DWR has been working on has been webinars he called Delta centric, informative and somewhat entertaining. I don’t spend much time on webinars, but I find this intriguing and may have to find time.
The State Board will have a workshop later this month to discuss storm flows into the Delta and how to handle such things. The State Board has emergency rules in place that could prevent reservoirs from filling. We had a pretty decent rainfall last week so the State Board needs to reassure folks they aren’t going to just let that water wash flow out into San Francisco Bay where it will just dilute wastewater discharges.
Semitropic lost a reverse flow pump and staff jumped on it according to Gianquinto. The problem was skillfully resolved with time to spare. Good for them.
The landowner well program is voluntary so we’ll see how much adore there is this coming year.
Something everyone is curious about; findings of the Kings River fully appropriated stream status hearing at the State Board still sound like crickets. I think most folks had hoped to get some kind of ruling by now. This is a new feature of the State Board so maybe it just takes longer than expected.
Gianquinto said Martin Varga and Brent Walthall will be retiring from the Kern County Water Agency. I haven’t been reporting on the KCWA much lately but I know those men are going to be tough to replace.
Medina gave an engineering report saying WM Lyles will be retained to help with relocating facilities in response to HSR. There is a canal and a couple of electrical facilities that must be replaced in a very short, critical window to prevent interrupting services in the district. Otherwise the work will have to be delayed until 2023. The district will be reimbursed for Medina’s time by HSR. Gianquinto added to her report that the district has received millions of dollars in grant money and he blamed her. There is a chart in her report showing the grant awards. Good for her.
Waterhouse said there is a closed session scheduled with some significant issues such as exposure to lawsuits. That was that at 3:00 pm. This was a three and half hour meeting in open sesssssssssssssssssssssssssion and that was enough.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete. Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.
*That was the most expensive thing I could think of off the top of my head.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2021 by Waterwrights/Don A. Wright.
SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT
1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • email@example.com
Board: Dan Waterhouse – President, Rick Wegis – Vice President, Tom Toretta – Treasurer, Todd Tracy – Secretary, Philip W. Portwood, Jeff Fabbri, Tim Thomson
Staff: Jason Gianquinto-General Manager, Bobby Salinas–District Controller, Isela Medina–District Engineer, Executive Secretary-Marsha Payne, Consultant-Will Boschman, Superintendent-John Lynch & Attorney
About: Semitropic Water Storage District is one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The District delivers water to nearly 300 customers for the irrigation of approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also supplies energy to a variety of users and provides groundwater banking and storage services. Established in 1958, Semitropic Water Storage District covers an area of more than 220,000 acres. It began as an irrigation district for the purpose of securing State Water Project supplies to reduce groundwater overdraft. From www.semitropic.com