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Exchange Contractors October 5, 2018



The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday October 5, 2018. Ex Con Chairman James O’Banion called the meeting to order at 8:00 am. I’ve been attending the Exchange Contractors meetings for many years. I’m sure Chris White has been on time before, but who notices when you’re on time? When you come in late you get noticed. Well, White was on time today. This is his first meeting as the new Executive Officer of the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Water Authority JPA. Also known by my readers as Ex Con. White now sits at the end of the table opposite O’Banion. What happened to Steve Chedester one might ask? Chedester has moved to the new position of Managing Director of Policies & Programs. He now sits on O’Banion’s left hand where White used to sit. In my opinion Chedester is one of the best dressed managers in the water business today. I find it interesting White wore a tie today. White will continue in his role of General Manager at Central California Irrigation District until June of 2019. This caused a shift in the budget but it looks like the new organizational moves will leave Ex Con in better shape to deal with the ever increasing challenges faced by folks looking to water their plants.

Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying the pumps at the federal Jones Pumping Plant in Tracy need help. Like each of the six pumps need a million or two dollars minimum to rewind the motors and other refurbishment. These pumps have been running since the 1950s. In 1992 the way the pumps operated changed. The pumps were designed to start and stop once a year. They start hard, there’s no appreciable wind up period. Now due to a myriad of environmental restrictions never imaged by the original design they start and stop many times per year which has greatly messed with the longevity of the pumps. Continuing Hoffman said storage is generally good throughout the reservoirs around the state. San Luis Reservoir is filling and Lake Shasta is releasing. On the San Joaquin River the Madera Canal has been shut down since August and the Friant Kern Canal is sending some water down to Bakersfield.

White gave his report saying he’ll keep it brief as there is a lengthy closed session today. He said San Luis Delta Mendota and CCID are starting design of fish screens for the Mendota Pool. GM John Wiersma, San Luis Canal Company said he needs a bit of a modification on its fish screen. Director Chris Cardella, Columbia Firebaugh Canal Company asked if any of the contractors qualified to construct a fish screen have been identified. The answer is no for now. There also needs to be a study about sediment in Mendota Pool. White said he believes State Lands will go along. The Ad Leadership Class and many others have been on tour through the area. Joanne White* reported the CAST Event went very well. Ex Con and FFA stepped up to help disabled children go fishing. Chedester wasn’t able to attend so he loaned his boat to Hoffman. Good for both of them.

White said Ex Con is investigating how by all the JPA entities joining together could save money on health insurance. Firebaugh Canal Water District GM Jeff Bryant said the ACWA rates didn’t go up this month. Jarrett Martin wasn’t present today because he was visiting death row at San Quinten Prison. White explained Martin is part of the Ag Leadership Class and that tour is a part of the curriculum. Martin is the engineer for CCID and also in charge of SGMA and the Ex Con GSA activities. There will be outreach – that’s the report in brief. There was a water transfer workshop yesterday White said exposed the need for more water transfer workshops. Some ideas are coming in and attorney Paul Minasian will review them. There are a lot of moving parts in transferring water in California. Ex Con is working with Rosedale Rio Bravo WD in Kern County on a banking deal.

Chedester reported on Temperance Flat. He said even before the California Water Commission cut the Prop One funds for the proposed Temperance Flat dam on the SJR there was a group of investors separate from the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority Joint Powers Agreement. These investors were signatory to a MOA. This MOA will take over all things Temp Flat. It will work with the CWC and go forward. Now the MOA will become a JPA and include: Friant Water Authority, Ex Con, Westlands WD and the San Luis Delta Mendota crew. While that sounds redundant with Ex Con and WWD both members of the SLDM they will most likely opt out of a SLDM activities agreement to keep a better input position. This JPA has a couple of edits suggested by Ex Con and provided those are accepted the board agreed to joining the JPA. It was described as a lighter version of a JPA. There are still a lot of room to grow this JPA into a full-fledged binder full of reams of legalese but for now there is even a pretty solid opt out provision. Chedester and White both said if anything changes it comes back to the home board.

Subsidence is a big deal everywhere in the Valley. There was some good news about the efforts to arrest the subsidence rates in the Red Top area of western Madera County. The water levels above the Corcoran Clay layer are rising and the dips below the layer are less extreme. Landowners are and have been cooperating. There are subsidence problems along the Delta Mendota Canal from pumping. Attorney Lauren Layne said there is a case in Siskiyou County that may be short circuiting SGMA. The County is looking to cut back pumping along a river up there – immediately. So that was the end of that cheerful report.

Provost & Pritchard consulting engineer Rick Iger reported on Ex Con’s Water Resource Plan. He said there are problems with the Eastside Bypass are causing trouble for getting flows at design levels. There is also trouble with Madera ID’s agreement with riparian rights holders on the Fresno River. That’s been going on for a long while and centers around the M&Ms; modeling and monitoring.

Dave Cory, consulting attorney gave his report on the State and Regional Boards saying his son went bow hunting with him last month in Colorado and bagged an elk. He said he wished he could end his report there but the it turns out he couldn’t. There is a 10-year, $1.5 million per year plan to deal with salinity in the Valley. How to pay for this is now in play. The Irritated Lands Program expects more regulations at the new year. Groundwater protection is a new buzzword to deal with in the not too distance future. There is a huge political push to get water quality sampling stepped up this year. The experts say testing in the spring is best but with the elected officials and bureaucracy getting their nose and nuts in the middle of it might take place this fall. State Board fees are going up and Cory said to expect those costs to be above a dollar an acre. Cory said the SGMA folks across the state need to meet with the Groundwater Trend Monitoring folks so they can avoid duplication of efforts.

On legislative matters White said state lobbyist Dominic DiMare had a heart attack while working out and needs prayers. On the federal side Congressmen Jim Costa and Jeff Denham are working on a bill together to get more USBR water recharged by relaxing the restrictions. There will be more about that in closed session.

Minasian said the Water Fix is hard to follow and in regards to it and the Cooperative Operations Agreement there will be more in closed session. Minasian said there is talk about altering the way grants are awarded by the USBR. Certain sole sourced services such as engineering are not determined by price only. Experience counts for a lot. Some engineering firms are more familiar with the conditions in various locals. If the money awarded for the engineer services was based on the lowest engineering charges it’s a battle to the bottom. Minasian said there is no case on the books saying recharge isn’t a beneficial use and there is no permit required to bank water. The bureaucrats don not like this lack of control. SGMA may change this but the federal legislation mentioned above could also change things. Minasian rightly asked the pointed question about the state bureaucracies and enviros having committed overreach but would a federal law to remedy this result in undesirable, unintended consequence?

The four managers gave their reports. Bryant said he can keep deliveries up until mid-November for a good deal of the district. Eight drip projects and two weir structures are on tap for opening this spring. FCWD received a grant for two miles of canal lining and that will cap that canal from top to bottom. There is a failed railroad culvert Bryant has hopes to fix. Wiersma reported SLCC had a little higher than usual deliveries in September. He has plans to build up some canal banks. White said CCID has been working with SLCC on moving some water into SLCC and that works well for everyone concerned. He also said with the hot days in September deliveries were a little higher than expected but the year’s water usage will hit the estimate just about on target. Randy Houk, GM CCC said he expects to run through Thanksgiving on the district’s east said and work on canal linings on the west side. Cardella asked Houk to report on his imaginary shop. He’s waiting for permits to build a new shop. The problem is FEMA redid the flood regulations and that caused the counties to scramble to get something understood.

The meeting then went into closed session.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide his clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, 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.’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW 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.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright


Main Office: 541 H Street, P.O. Box 2115 Los Banos, CA 93653 Office 209/827-8616 Email:

The Exchange Contractors cover almost a quarter of a million acres in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties.

Mission Statement

The Exchange Contractors Water Authority mission is to effectively protect the Exchange Contract and maximize local water supply, flexibility and redundancy in order to maintain local control over the members’ water supply.


James O’Banion-Chair Central California Irrigation District, Chris Cardella-Vice Chair Columbia Canal Company, James L. Nickel-Treasurer San Luis Canal Company, Mike Stearns-Director Firebaugh Canal Water District


Chris White-Executive Director, Steve Chedester-Managing Director Policies & Programs, Adam Hoffman-Water Master, Joann White-Administrative Assistant, Patty Baldini-Office Assistant, Paul Minasian-Attorney


The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors hold some of the oldest water rights in the state, dating back to the late 1800s. The rights were established by Henry Miller of the legendary Miller and Lux cattle empire. In 1871, Henry Miller constructed canals to divert water from the San Joaquin and North Fork of the Kings Rivers for irrigation of his vast acreage. Today, several of the original Miller and Lux canals are operated by the Exchange Contractors.

Although Henry Miller’s canals served the irrigation needs of his estate in the western portion of Fresno, Madera, Merced, and Stanislaus counties, in order for more growth on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley to occur, more water was needed. In 1933, the United States Department of Interior undertook the Central Valley Project, a vast undertaking to build dams throughout the great Central Valley including the Sacramento, American and San Joaquin Rivers. When construction of the Friant Dam (north of Fresno) was under consideration, feasibility studies showed that irrigation development of the Friant Project between Chowchilla and Bakersfield depended upon water being diverted from the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam and brought to the east side of the valley, via the Friant-Kern Canal.

To accomplish this, the government asked the heirs of Miller and Lux to agree to “exchange” where they receive their pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water from the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers for guaranteed deliveries of “substitute” water from the Sacramento River by means of the Delta-Mendota Canal and other facilities of the United States. This agreement, known as the “Exchange Contract,” along with the accompanying “Purchase Contract,” were reached in 1939 and that led to the name “San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors.” In normal years, the Exchange Contractors are guaranteed 100% of their contractual water allotment (840,000 acre feet) and in critical years the amount is 75% (650,000 a/f).

The Exchange Contractors, however, did not abandon their San Joaquin River water rights. Instead, they agreed not to exercise those San Joaquin and Kings Rivers’ water rights if guaranteed water deliveries continued through the Delta-Mendota Canal or other facilities of the United States. In the event that the Bureau is unable to make its contracted deliveries of substitute water to the Exchange Contractors, the Exchange Contractors have

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