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Friant Water Authority Executive Committee May 18, 2020

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Ger Bennett BannerThe Friant Water Authority Executive Committee met on Monday, May 18, 2020 by remote conferencing. I attended by Cisco WebEx I think – even though Cisco has a poor reputation for tolerant employment practices they are in the running for best audio of the remote meetings I’ve attended so far. Anyway, there was a video of FWA Chairman Chris Tantau and staff at the Lindsay offices boardroom. The closed session occurred first and the open session portion started at 9:20am. There were no public comments and the action item was approval of the minutes from last month. There were no board recommendations, which I heard could be a first.Conterra

Reports were next and COO Doug DeFlitch was the first to go for it. Most folks know subsidence near the Tulare/Kern County boarders has caused a portion of the Friant Kern Canal to sink, limiting its conveyance capacity. He gave an update on the schedule developed and what has happened.

Johnny Amaral Chief of External Affairs reported the recent workshop regarding how to pay for the repairs was well attended. The State of California has a budget hole of $40 billion. Governor Gavin Newsom did an annual May budget review and in Amaral’s opinion there isn’t much chance of any state money for the FKC repair financing this year or next. Not even ballot money. He recommended planning on the basis of zero state money. Or as Friant CEO Jason Phillips put it, “There’s no state cost-share.” Over all the workshop was informative.

Phillips then elaborated on the funding strategies. Funding for FKC repairs has been divided into three zones that reflect capacity downstream of mile marker 88. It’s a little confusing and I recommend downloading the report from the FWA website. My suspicion is it took a group of engineers to come up with the zone program and why zone three was at the top and zone one at the bottom. After all this isn’t called the canal repair project – it’s the Capacity Correction Project. I’m copying from the board packet.

  • Zone One is the conveyance capacity that currently exists without any correction or restoration action.
  • Zone Two is the increased capacity attributed to the construction of the Project that is financed by non-reimbursable Public funding, GSA funding and FWA OM&R funding (including any reimbursable Public funding repaid via FWA OM&R funding.)
  • Zone Three is the additional increased capacity of the FKC about Zone 1 & 2 that would result from the construction of the part of the Project with the funds derived from the Friant Contractor additional funding. Any reimbursable Public funding not repaid with FWA OM&R funding or GSA funding will be considered a contribution towards Zone 3.
  • All clear?

Phillips said this is still in the planning stage. For instance, he said if the Zone three capacity is increased O&M needs to be adjusted and that hasn’t been worked out yet. He said FWA is trying to work out some issues with the US Bureau of Reclamation and he hopes to have something to present the board at this month’s meeting. He said it is important to get this resolved as soon as possible but the agreements between FWA, the Bureau and Friant contractors may not come to fruition in time for the May meeting. I believe it was Director Edwin Camp of Arvin Edison who asked if funding agreements are limited to public sources only. I think I understand, private entities can enter into individual agreements with contractors that could help with funding.

There is a thing called the Friant Operational Guide, also known as FOG. Zones One and Two will still operate under FOG. It is proposed under Zone Three there is a conveyance fee for any Friant contractor using Zone Three that hasn’t helped fund Zone Three. I think this covers a scenario where inter-Friant transfers involving contractors who invested in canal repair and those who haven’t. Arvin Edison’s former GM Steve Collup suggested bringing all potential investors to the table – get the potential sponsors in the room. It’s difficult to operate in a vacuum for planning purposes. Phillips said this needs to be done as soon as possible. Getting the Bureau’s involvement is important and asked everyone to be aware of this. Getting USBR’s Michael Jackson and Ernest Conant buy in is crucial.

Because all of the repair will require construction a contract will be required by both law and common sense. Attorney Don Davis laid put before the committee some considerations of what to include and how to go about it. It depends on who will be the contracting entity – Friant or the Bureau. Bidders need to be prequalified and the award goes to – drum roll please – the lowest cost responsible bidder. Guidelines for FWA’s contracting requirements and USBR contracting requirements are different and consulting engineer Allan Scopini (sp?). I apologize, I know I didn’t get the gentleman’s named spelled correctly, but he is recognized as one of the best contract experts when dealing with the USBR and has been cited in previous FWA reports. It sounded to me contracting with Friant will follow a more common process of qualification, evaluation and price consideration. Under the Bureau process, known as Best Value, it resembles a grant award. Folks with more background on this topic are welcome to set me straight if this is inaccurate. Tantau asked Scopini how many projects have used the Bureau’s Best Value option in awarding bids. He said he didn’t have a breakdown of percentages but one thing to consider is the reduction of change orders due to time delays is greatly reduced with the BV process because a schedule is laid out in advance. There are some negotiation advantages there.

Dana Munn, GM Shafter Wasco ID said there were some big delays at Lake Isabella with the Army Corps of Engineers due to protests from one of the losing bidders.

Davis told the committee he expects to be able to bring the option of which contract type to the board next month. Phillips said next month’s meeting will be the latest as a bid package needs to be sent out in July. He said FWA will have the most control and he has plenty of experience of Bureau contracts falling behind according to priority. Again if there is buy in from the Bureau, the Bureau puts its weight behind the completion schedule and things happen on time.

Next FWA Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod spoke about water quality in the FKC. First Phillips emphasized all contractors need to be aware as they have skin in the game on this one. Buck-Macleod said defining the water quality threshold has been fairly well accepted by the ad hoc committee working on this issue. He said he’s looking for a June date for a workshop to develop the criteria and a monitoring plan. He’s planning on sending all this information in advance to give time for planning. EC in the canal is being monitored and reported to contractors. He said he plans on sending out notice for a special board meetings at some point, probably no later than next week. Camp suggested giving some scenarios with examples of how the program will work under the proposed policy and Buck-Macleod said that will be made available.

The next report came from FWA’s Alex Biering and consultant Mike Villines about external affairs regarding the government. Biering said the state legislators are back at work with social distancing. Then here voice broke up. Villines took over saying there is a lot of water activity going on between the state and feds. The COVID-19 has changed things. He’s expecting a $50 billion deficit and cuts between $14-25 billion in cuts. California is asking for $20 billion from the feds. He doesn’t see a massive amount of money coming from the feds. California has sued the Harris Farmsadministration three or four times a week thanks to its Attorneys General Xavier Becerra. Bottom line there will be a cut. State employees are looking at a possible 10-percent pay cut. The California budget needs to be passed in June or the assembly and state senator won’t be paid. It’s a good bet that will pass on time. With the tax deadline moved to July 15th we won’t know the tax income and expect another state budget revision in August. Amaral said Newsom laid a showdown with the feds – daring the feds not to send money to the state. He said to expect yet another fight between the state and feds to be a featured news story for the rest of the year.

Amaral also reported the House’s COVID-19 $1 trillion bill passed with one Republican from New York voting for and more than a dozen Democrats voting against presumably due to the load of pork. The Senate isn’t expected to pass it but the Dems are doubling down with an election just months away. Amaral said Friant is well positioned to make it’s pitch for infrastructure funding if the opportunity presents itself in Washington DC.

Next Buck-Macleod gave the 2020 CVP allocations saying there were good April storms after a hot start that caused a decrease in the snowpack. (As I write this it is raining like crazy at my place.) This has brought more than two inches and even dropped the snow line to 5,000 feet in some places according to Buck-Macleod. Yeah. He said the next ASO flight will happen this week or next and another flight planned for June. These flights have been very helpful in fine-tuning runoff estimates.

As for the Delta there is a lot going on. The lawsuits over the new biological opinions has set things back with one unit pumping at the Jones Plant. He believes the recent storm will result in a non-critical year for Shasta which will keep the Exchange Contractors whole and prevent any call on Friant supplies by the Bureau. San Luis federal storage is trending above last month and the allocation may increase for that side of the Valley. Some carryover in San Luis Reservoir will change. Last week the Bureau asked all the Friant managers to send in a schedule based on a 55 percent allocation. He expects a five percent increase in allocations. He doesn’t expect an uncontrolled season this year but does see a recapture of 1,100 a/f of San Joaquin River restoration flows from Patterson ID.

Consultant Austin Ewell gave the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint saying the executive committee will meet remotely tomorrow at 4pm and a Zoom call on Thursday at 10pm for the entire board. Scott Hamilton will give an update on the technical side of the Blueprint at this month’s Friant board meeting. There will be a map of overdraft and potential recharge areas. The “fish-friendly” water diversions will be calculated into the Valley’s surface needs and the needed infrastructure to make it feasible will be discussed. He said there is a drinking water feasibility study involving Fresno State, Friant and others including Self Help and the Leadership Council if I heard correctly to take a look at how this could help meet the needs. There is a scope of being put together to apply for grant funding. There was a good phone meeting with the California Water Commission talking about the Blueprint. Fresno State is looking to host a broad stake holder group meeting in the near future to discuss the issues. State Senator Melissa Hurtado is working on an op ed and Ewell said Hurtado has brought Self Help Enterprises to the table. The Fresno City/County Housing Authority is now involved and the coalition continues to grow.

Phillips gave his report saying the Blueprint’s Hamilton presentation is a must see for all Friant board members. It looks at sub basin by sub basin recharge needs and how to tie in existing infrastructure with the needed expansion. He said it will be a very helpful look at what needs to be accomplished. He said he’s involved with biops, voluntary agreements, the Blueprint and he’s hearing investment in the lower reach of the FKC depends on the investments of the upper reach around the Kings River. He’s working on title transfer and contract agreements with the Bureau. There could be some EPA money coming up and he intends to have Friant as close to the front of the line as possible.

Tantau thanked everyone for taking time and adjourned the meeting at 11:47am.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2020 by Don A. Wright


854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email:

The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 15 districts to operate and maintain the Friant Division of the Central Valley Water Project. Water from the San Joaquin River is diverted at Friant Dam at Millerton Lake to the Madera/Chowchilla Canal to the north and the Friant/Kern Canal to the south. More than one million acres of mostly family farms and numerous communities get their surface supplies form the Friant Division.

Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, COO Doug DeFlitch, CFO Don Willard, Government Affairs & Communication Alexandra Biering, Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.