The Arvin Edison Water Storage District held its board of directors meeting at its Arvin headquarters at noon on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The meeting was also on, happy/happy/joy/joy Microsnot Teams. The meeting was called to order at 12:00pm by Chairman Edwin Camp. They began with a salute to our national flag. There is a lot of division politically and culturally – the flag is and always should be a call to unity.
The lunch was a surprise. I’ve long maintained AEWSD has the best lunch of all the district and JPA provided lunches. This is because, I believe, the Okie influence on the area. I know my family first stopped in Arvin when migrating from Oklahoma. And although Texas gets a lot of deserved credit for fine BBQ, the BBQ from the Sooner State is every bit as good. You can’t even get a job at AE if you can’t BBQ. However, whoever it was who is in charge of the BBQ wasn’t able to be there this day and we ate a pretty good Italian meal with pasta and salad and such.
General Manager Jeevan Muhar welcomed everyone and introduced the guests. The consent calendar was approved which included the minutes and the treasurer’s report. The bills were paid.
Under action items AE reupped its membership in the excellent Western Growers Association for a nominal amount. And, extra bonus, Mike Wade from the California Farm Water Coalition gave the board an update on that also excellent organization’s progress with fighting for ag’s deserved positive impressions by the public at large.
CFWC manages the Cultivate California campaign. Cultivate California is, “. . . an ongoing, public outreach and education program that began in 2015 during a previous drought.” Using social media advertising it targets folks interested in food and nutrition. Choosing California grown food is better for everyone; our families, our economy and the health of people and the environment. More than 600,000 folks have visited the website, even more on social media and there is a podcast planned in the near future.
Fun with Audits
AE had its audit completed by Jeff King CPA. King gave a verbal report to go with his written documentation. One of King’s associates rambled a bit long – remember I judge an audit report based on brevity – my guess is no one warned him of that. But it did give me a chance to eat. It was interesting to learn banked water is valued last in, first out. The district still has water it banked in 1971, not much but there is still some there. There was some discussion on if this is the best accounting method for the district. LIFO is, I believe a choice up to the board. I also believe it was a choice made a long time ago. Assistant GM David Nixon explained some of the districts in the area pay a significantly higher cost for water.
The board approved the audit and the board directed staff to review the way accounting is conducted on banked water since the event of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. King recommended running that by legal council as well as this type of accounting change could impact the district’s standing with bonds that have been issued. King thought the process shouldn’t be too difficult as there is a solid amount of historical data to base any changes on. Bond ratings may just be another piece of unintended consequences when bills, like SGMA perhaps, are written to please the special interests of the upper education faculty lounge instead of written for positive outcomes.
Speaking of SGMA
Next Muhar updated the board on the district’s need to file a 90-day notice to amend the South of Kern Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Muhar said the district isn’t ready right at the moment but would like to be prepared to engage the City of Arvin and Kern County. It is part of the procedure of SGMA. The board agreed.
At 1:00pm the public hearing for, “. . . comments or objections* to the Fiscal Year 2023-2024 Preliminary Roll of General Administrative and General Project Service Charges and to finalize both . . .” There were no public objections which made this part of the meeting fly by. There were two first time ever phone calls about the subject but they didn’t apply to the situation at hand. A resolution accepting the hearing’s results was approved.
Muhar said the Friant Kern Canal will be dewatered this winter to help repair panels and such. There is still ongoing review by the Friant Water Authority on what is happening cost wise at the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority’s charges. Muhar was recently in Washington DC to speak with the satraps at the US Bureau of Reclamation. Camp said Friant’s CEO Jason Phillips was very appreciative of Muhar’s help. It turns out our friend Muhar slipped on the wet stairs in front of the Department of Interior HQ. That almost happened to me in Hanford the other day. I was standing on the steps of the civic center facing uphill when a lady in the group I was visiting with after a water related gathering suggested we take a selfie. I sucked my gut in and it threw my center of gravity out of whack and I almost fell. Muhar said he did fall but his backpack saved him from more serious injury.
Muhar said there has been significant progress by representatives of the Kern Subbasin when meeting with State Board staff. AE has provided the South of Kern River GSA with needed data and there are frequent technical and coordination meetings. There will be a July 19th Kern Subbasin Coordination Committee meeting. This is an effort to get the GSP revised so the State Board doesn’t come down here and impose draconian management. It is expected the State will be questioning pumpers early next year. There is an April review for the Kern Subbasin scheduled and it is possible to avoid this with a good rewritten GSP. Also there are three other subbasins scheduled ahead of Kern to appear before the State Board and that should shed a good deal of light on how to best approach this.
Arvin Edison’s share of overdraft in the Kern Subbasin was 8,000 a/f and this is being addressed by new on-farm recharge, retiring land for recharging basins. Muhar said the AE board has given direction to remedy this overdraft. That is being done with the above named measures. This is based on the current GSP and there is a Kern Subbasin study taking place that could change that number.
Water deliveries are above the 10-year average with the good rain. Officially most all of the reservoirs are pretty much full. They are working hard, very hard not to spill any water over Friant Dam. The San Joaquin River yield is forecast at 4.5 million acre feet. There is still a good amount of snow at the high elevations of the mid Sierra Nevada range.
Muhar said there is continued access to Kern River, Westside and Friant water. He recommend reviewing the grower recharge program at the end of the season since this is an unprecedented year.
There are two grant funded related projects ongoing in AE. Under the Water Smart Grant there is groundwater modeling, two new wells and the Eastside Intertie is running. The Frick Unit, named after the late, great Howard Frick (my apologies for missing the Frick memorial tribute, I was out of state dealing with a family medical issue) is undergoing outreach. There is also work on the DiGiorgio and Sandrini projects. Muhar said for the first time Friant water was put in the Kern Delta Water District canals for recharge.
A land use survey from 2022 has been finished and it is determined the surface water and groundwater service areas have been mapped. Surface water deliveries serves about 51,000 acres. AE contributes a good amount of economic activity to Kern County. There were some questions of how the value of crops were determined. Each county in California has to produce a crop report showing the value of crops. Somehow or other it looked like potatoes made more money than carrots or carrots made more money than potatoes. I didn’t have a copy of the report. Anyway, it will be fixed as this report is part of how the district’s water assessment needs are determined. Muhar said AE sits on six percent of the land and produces 12 percent of the county’s economic activity – I think that’s what he said. Anyway, Muhar said the report will be reviewed for accuracy.
Director Catherine Fanucchi said it appears the state has a multi-level attack on water rights, both ground and surface water. Muhar said AE does work with Friant on this matter but could step out and make its voice known.
The meeting went into closed session at 1:05pm for eight pending litigation, two personnel and one real property items. And that was that.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2023 by Don A. Wright
*What about space for praise of the idea?
Arvin Edison Water Storage District, 20401 Bear Mountain Boulevard Mailing Address: P.O. Box 175 Arvin, CA 93203-0175
Staff: GM-Jeevan Muhar, Asst. GM-David Nixon, Attorney- Joe Hughes
AE has a nine-member board: President Edwin Camp, Vice President Jeffrey Giumarra, Secretary Treasurer Dennis Johnston, Brian Kirschenmann, Derek Yurosek, Scott Spitzer, Catherine Fanucchi, Catalino Martinez and Matthew Vickery