The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, November 10, 2021 board of directors meeting from its Wasco headquarters and on GoToMeeting online. This is going to be Miss Marsha Paynes’ last meeting and that just kind of breaks my heart. People are not always kind to reporters but Marsha is always kind to me. I think she and former General Manager Wil Boschman will never be replaced and not just Semitropic but irrigated ag in the San Joaquin Valley is going to be a little more of a lonely place without them.
Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order at 12:30pm and we saluted the flag virtually. There were no public comments and the board agreed to continue with the teleconference parts of the meeting that required waiving the Brown Act. The minutes and the treasurer reports were approved.
Controller Bobby Salinas gave the financial reports and that lasted about 30 seconds and was approved. The board paid the bills and passed a resolution to order the filing of delinquent tolls and charges. The board was quiet but for a slight rustling of paperwork while the bills were reviewed.
Next Gianquinto read a resolution/proclamation about Payne’s contributions to the district, staff, board and landowners of Semitropic which improved the welfare of everyone during her 24-years of working on their behalf. The board unanimously approved but with some reluctance as no one wants her to go. The district presented her with some gifts and asked her to speak. She said she’d try to do so without crying and Gianquinto said there have already been tears shed. Boschman hired her in 1997 and she thanked everyone for the blessing of working with such good people. Director Rick Wegis said he went to Shafter High School with Payne and said she was just as sweet and efficient then as she is now and he congratulated her on maintaining her integrity.
Gianquinto said there isn’t much to report at this moment but all heck could break lose if DWR starts handing out critiques of Groundwater Sustainability Plans next month. GEI Engineering consultant Larry Rodriguez said all holiday leave has been cancelled at his company. Maybe.
The WM Lyles gentleman wasn’t able to give his report live today but it was in the board’s packet. Gianquinto said there has been some PG&E testing that needs to be redone.
GEI was the next report and Rodriguez said the report was also in packet. He said he’d run through it quickly. He said October wasn’t the busiest month so far this year but next month there needs to be some updates to the 2002 agreement with the district. Gianquinto suggested just date changes. Rodriguez continued saying the Prop 218 report is underway. The firm M Cubed worked as a subcontractor for GEI on this. The landowner water budgets and tiered pricing have been just about completed if I understood. He also said the groundwater model is wrapping up the calibration process and just needs a couple of tweaks here and there. And although he said he’s said it before he thinks it’s about ready to go.
Rodriguez continued some more talking about the Poso Creek Project under the Irrigated Regional Water Management scenario. He said Kern County seems to be in a continual drought so a new drought contingency plan is being prepared. He said catching Central Valley Project 215 Water and State Water Project Article 21 Water will be included as part of the drought plan. This isn’t new but it will require more coordination during the wet time. Rodriguez said they are also pursuing grant opportunities.
Former state senator Dean Florez was supposed to be next to give his political report but he was silent. Just before Waterhouse was about to move on Florez did get on board. You could hear what sounded like distracting men’s room sounds in the background. I don’t know if the sounds were from Florez or someone else on the dial in or online portion of the meeting needed to mute. Florez said Newsom disappeared for Halloween but he’s back. Florez said he went to the Glasgow climate claim shindig with Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot and had a talk about water in California.
Gianquinto asked Florez about the More Water Now initiative. Florez said it is a bit of an outlier. He said participation would not be a bad thing. He said politically it is seen as some attempt to make hay about not allocating enough money to water. Which is true the state doesn’t invest in water in a responsible manner. Florez said although he hasn’t delved deeply (I guess he hasn’t read it) but he said the real question is whether it’s good for Semitropic. He said it looks like just another ballot move but during a drought it could take off. Ok, everyone has an opinion.
Florez said Assemblyman Rudy Salas is challenging Congressman Dave Valadao and Salas used to work for Florez. I hope he’s had other experience besides being a political staffer, it be good to have less professional politicians and more folks with business experiences not connected to special interest. I don’t know much about Salas and I’m not saying he isn’t a qualified candidate. In general he doesn’t rub folks the wrong way and may be less of a left wing crazy than most of the folks in Sacramento. Leticia Perez is not going to run for reelection to the Kern County Board of Supervisors and should run for Salas’ seat. She’s not considered a moderate in the Valley but Florez made it a point to say she is considered a moderate in Sacramento. Oh by the way, keep in mind Florez served as a Democrat when he held office.
Greg Allen of REDtrac reported there are 3,000 authorizations for PG&E data gathering on pumps. Less than half of these apply to the data needed for the project. He said there is a contingent of well owners who send in everything they got whether it meets the criteria requested or not and that has to be sorted out. Another group sends in the requested information. Good for them. Another group is observing radio silence. Gianquinto asked how to get them to share data. SWD Engineer Isla Medina said it has been easier to get a paper form filled out and just ask the landowner to sign. However, in some cases the landowner doesn’t have an online PG&E account and that becomes the only option. Gianquinto suggested inviting the landowners with the most important data to come to the office. Allen said PG&E has been very helpful but its hands are tied by the PUC. He said there are other ways to get the data but it’s labor intensive. Allen said having meetings with landowner has benefits. The landowners can get paid quicker by participating. There will be an offer to landowners to come into Semitropic headquarters with REDTrac and PG&E to fill out the forms properly.
Waterhouse asked Allen’s opinion on what’s going on with natural gas. Allen said PG&E gas is cheaper than So Cal Gas and each year for the past few years gas prices have been dipping. He advised hanging on for a while if you can get a lower price by hedging. However, gasoline, diesel, electricity prices and inflation doesn’t look good. Sometimes energy seems as counter intuitive as water.
Gianquinto reported there is no expected change on the State Water Project this year. Governor Gavin Newsom included all the counties in California as being in a drought emergency but didn’t force any cutbacks. There has been some improvement at Oroville Lake since the last storm. Even so DWR is expecting to make a zero allocation on the SWP initially but it could go up to 25 percent before it’s over. The last big storm hit the American River watershed very hard and didn’t share the wealth with the Shasta watershed nearly as much. So, the CVP inflows are less than the SWP.
As for pumping into the California Aqueduct there is so little flow there are no opportunities to dilute anything within the canal. Pumpers that contribute to the Aqueduct are asking for waivers on the less urgent constituents.
Gianquinto said he and Waterhouse spoke with Nicole Parra who is challenging Salas for the Democrat primary to run against Valadao. It was said Parra has her talking points down and it’s hoped she’ll also have listening points down the next she meets. As for the Kings River appropriation matter they expected there would be some word by now but that hasn’t happened yet. This could be a very long procedural action. I’ve had folks tell me it could last for years. The State Board doesn’t appear to have a sense of urgency in regards to this matter. Who knows, that might be a good thing in the long run.
Medina said High Speed Rail wants to shut down a part of Semitropic that could negatively impact recovery pumping. Semitropic is insisting on certain milestones from High Speed Rail before any work will be allowed. HSR has to complete its project within a very specific window in August.
Roots in Your Pipe
Gianquinto said Semitropic has had pistachio roots damaging pipes and creating leaks. The district needs to develop a policy on this matter as this is only going to increase as more pistachios are planted. The district has a one foot easement around its pipe but only pistachios have caused this problem. There are no almond trees tearing into pipe.
Attorney Steve Torigiani reported ACWA will be sponsoring some legislation to tighten up on cannabis growers stealing water. There is some legal maneuvering that will put any more kinds of workers into prevailing wage categories at special districts. So there is other legislation in the works to counter act this. Waterhouse said prevailing wages are so harmful to disadvantaged communities trying to build infrastructure. One wonders why this isn’t addressed. Those unions are very powerful in Sacramento.
Waterhouse reported the Water Association of Kern County had its annual banquet last night. A special award was given to Dana Munn, former GM of Shafter Wasco ID and Kern River Water Master. Munn is having health issues so his son accepted the award and gave one of the best speeches ever given at this event. It was also mentioned Boschman has had some improvement in his condition and Waterhouse asked everyone to keep both Munn and Boschman in our prayers.
The two o’clock hour finally arrived and Torigiani conducted the public meeting. He said a lot of stuff but after a 218 election water costs had to be adjusted. Torigiani has done this kind of thing before. There are exhibits and such that have to be presented to the public. Gianquinto said the SWP would be $67 per a/f and there will be costs for additional use charges and variable costs at $60 a/f.
That concluded the hearing presentation and the board had no questions or comments and there was only the sound of crickets from the public. There were no written comments received. The meeting closed and the board approved the proposed costs.
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SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT
1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • firstname.lastname@example.org
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