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Glenn Colusa Irrigation District September 7, 2023

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By Don A. Wright

The Glenn Colusa Irrigation District met at its headquarters on Thursday, September 7, 2023 and by telephone. It was a bit difficult to identify the voices, so my apologies in advance to the participants if you end up misidentified. As much as I like to see all public meetings held in person for the sake of the public, management and directors – it makes for better communication. But it sure would be sweet if all the public meetings held in California were provided with a Zoom option. But that would probably require a state with a strong tech industry having an agenda of helping society improve and not just agree with whatever wishful thinking made its major stockholders feel good about themselves.

The Meeting

The meeting started at 9:00am. Consent agenda approved. The minutes were also approved. At the August 21st board meeting there was a public comment that required staff response.Lidco Inc.

Someone (Ed?) speaking for staff said he’s spoken with growers and there has been a rumor that GCID wants to lock up every gate in the district and that isn’t true. They do want locks on the main canal to help efficiency. The only reason to lock a lateral gate is if a grower continues to open a gate and it disturbs the flow in the system. There will be a “rigid flexibility” and if a grower needs to shut down in the middle of the night that can be accommodated provided they contact the ditch tender in advance. Likewise should a check blow and a grower had to shut the gate as an emergency that can be accommodated as well.

It will be more efficient to have the water operators to run the system and this isn’t something new. It’s been the district rules but it sounded to me the rules were not being enforced until recently. A grower spoke saying the only gates most of the landowners touch are private gates, no headgates. That’s’ true but there are more than 150 gates on the main canal and there have been some who fiddle where they shouldn’t.

This grower said he understands the procedure better now and he sees the concept of “rigid flexibility.” Another person spoke up saying he recommends the policy be clearer about what is the main canal gates and the lateral gates. There seems to be some confusion.

Another grower said he appreciates the need for water operators to run the canal but he operates within three districts. He said there are water operators, not all but some, who lack the ambition to stay on this. If there’s a problem it needs to be dealt with as soon as absolutely possible. He pointed out one employee sits in the shade, but I’ll not repeat the name, but he believes the unionization of public employees has contributed to this situation.

The response was, “Kids aren’t what they used to be,” and the work ethic is different. I was surprised to hear this. The speaker agreed you can’t teach ambition but they are working on training the water operators. I believe GCID ditch tenders are called water operators. It was suggested the district conduct a poll of the growers to grade the water operators. That appeared to sound reasonable to all.

I think it was Chairman John Amaro said there was a lot of changes this year with the policy and of course the amount of supply. Even the most efficient and ambitious water operators found it difficult to keep up. A lot of lessons were learned and not all of the policies worked as planned. A grower suggested a grower contingent be included in a water policy review group. There are Water Users Workgroups with three or four growers per each director’s area and all are welcome. Water conservation is being pushed down by the state and that has changed some of what the water operators do and it has been difficult to keep up with. He sees water measuring becoming more and more exacting and the district will continue to adapt including better management of the facilities as a goal.

Action Items

The next item was for the board to consider a private drain siphon under the main GCID Canal at mile post 43.45. When you grow rice you have to drain the field or harvest in the mud. It sounded like the drain siphon was clogged with debris and district staff had to clean it several times as that is part of the district’s agreement concerning the private drain.

Staff proposed a few alternatives. It would cost about $50,000 to refurbish or replace the siphon if district staff does the work. It would be twice that amount if an outside contractor was hired to do the work.

A director asked about storm water conveyance as opposed to harvest drainage. It was said there are plans on file for flood water to go to that drain. The landowner said the drain has been there for 103 years and they’ve never had a problem until the district changed things this year. He sounded annoyed and challenged most of the statements made by staff. He said he told the district in advance its solution was not going to work.

Director Don Bransford said the question is – is the district still responsible for cleaning the new drainage situation? He said he believes the district should be responsible for this. He said there is no legal record of an easement or permit as far back as the records go. There are other title questions on old infrastructure and easements in the Sacramento Valley. It sounded like the board preferred spending $50,000 on building a new drain siphon than on attorney fees. Director Blake Vann commented that with all the old drains from one side of the canal to the other the district needs to fix this. The board approved fixing the drain.

Next the board considered replacing gate hoists and actuators for the Willard Check. There have been two actuators fail and normally this would just be a budget item but with the supply chain for parts being uncertain staff feels this needs to be dealt with immediately. No one wants this gate to malfunction next season. The parts should buy the district another 20-years and the board agreed.


There were repairs throughout the district including the attempt to control moss from some kind of micro organism treatment. Didn’t work well if I understood correctly. A letter will be sent to landowners along one of the laterals informing them there will be a dewatering so the gate checks can be refurbished. Good for them. I believe I hear that project totals a dozen gates and the board directed staff to personally contact each of the landowners and growers along that lateral.

Water Ops  

If I heard correctly there was 8,000 a/f less water used this year than last due to improved check operations. It was a bit difficult to hear that report and there was of course more to it than I’ve laid out here.

The engineering report was next and it was said design for a weir has been completed and work should start soon. The district’s old survey equipment is about to fall apart so some new gear and training to use it has been keeping folks busy. Two new laptops running at $10,000 and another $50,000-$60,000 for other survey tools is in the budget.

There have been meetings with the US Bureau of Reclamation but that report will have to wait for closed session – which was next at 10:17am with three items dealing with lawsuits and a labor negotiation. That was that. Go be good to each other and yourselves.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2023 by

GLENN COLUSA ID – President John Amaro, Vice President Logan Dennis, Donald R. Bransford, Peter Knight, and Blake Vann.

Staff: Thaddeus Bettner – General Manager, Zac Dickens – District Engineer, Kevin Nelson – Superintendent, Louis Jarvis – Finance Director, Andy Hitchings – Attorney Somach, Simons & Dunn.


344 East Laurel Street, Willows, CA 95988


DWR SGMA # 5-021.52

From the GCID website: Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) is dedicated to providing reliable, affordable water supplies to its landowners and water users, while ensuring the environmental and economic viability of the region. As the largest irrigation district in the Sacramento Valley, GCID has a long history of serving farmers and the agricultural community and maintaining critical wildlife habitat. The District fulfills its mission of efficiently and effectively managing and delivering water through an ever-improving delivery system and responsible policies, while maintaining a deep commitment to sustainable practices. Looking ahead, GCID will remain focused on continuing to deliver a reliable and sustainable water supply by positioning itself to respond proactively, strategically and responsibly to California’s ever-changing water landscape.