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AB 2201 Do We Need It? August 4, 2022


By Don A. Wright

There is a saying about laws and sausages and how you really don’t want to see either being made. Looking at legislating in California makes that clear. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was passed in 2014. It is actually three bills; AB 1739 by then Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento (who lost his bid to become a state senator and ended up a lobbyist), SB 1168 and SB 1319 both by then State Senator Fran Pavley of Santa Barbara. Dickinson’s Assembly District Seven is metropolitan Sacramento. Pavley’s Senate District 27 covers Simi Valley, Van Nuys and Malibu. Neither area has much in common with the San Joaquin Valley economically or hydrologically. You’ll see a trend develop as we discuss Assembly Bill 2201 by Assemblyman Steve Bennett -D, District 37, Ventura.

Building SGMA

Everyone who has seen surface water supplies to the San Joaquin Valley systematically reduced knows you can only pump so much before your well runs dry, underground storage is permanently lost to subsidence and the local ag economy collapses. Surface water is the source of groundwater; without it aquafers can’t be recharged. So instead of restoring surface water deliveries the state opted to regulate groundwater and there’s were SGMA came from.

Non-adjudicated, medium and high priority subbasins had until 2017 to form Groundwater Sustainability Agencies. If there was land that wasn’t included in a GSA the county became the default GSA. If the county didn’t want the responsibility then groundwater management of the non-GSA land went to the State Water Resources Control Board’s tender mercies. That was a motivator. No one wanted the State Board managing any local water supplies above or below ground.

All the land in the San Joaquin Valley successfully found a home in a GSA. Then the big, heavy lift started. Each subbasin had until the end of 2020 to submit a Groundwater Sustainability Plan showing how the subbasin will avoid the six undesired results listed in SGMA: lowering groundwater levels, reduction of storage, degraded water quality, land subsidence, surface water depletion and seawater intrusion within 20-years. All of the GSPs were submitted on time to the Department of Water Resources. None of the GSPs from the Southern San Joaquin Valley were deemed adequate. DWR provided some guidance in helping the GSAs to get the GSPs up to snuff and resubmitted by July 27th. All of the rewritten GSPs were submitted on time.

All of the above is a big deal. SGMA emphasizes local control and local men and women created a new, separate layer of government from nothing. A plan is in place to get the groundwater situation under control where there was none before. There are gaps in the data available but research has been, is currently and will continue to be intensely pursued. Each new finding adding to the picture of what is happening to the water under the Valley’s floor.

Also it would have been nice to have had some rain instead of starting to implement SGMA in drought conditions. There are two reservoirs in Sacramento Valley, the state’s Oroville and the fed’s Folsom carrying most of the water storage. So perhaps more storage? The majority of California’s current water infrastructure was built when the state’s population was 16 million. Construction was wrapped up in the 1960s. Now we have 40 million people who all need water.

Outside Help

Under a mix of political pressure and common sense Governor Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency on March 28th. One provision of his Executive Order N-7-22 was for agencies issuing well permits to obtain written verification from the overlaying GSAs acknowledging the new “well would not (1) be inconsistent with any sustainable groundwater management program established in any applicable GSP and (2) decrease the likelihood of achieving a sustainability goal for the basin covered by such a plan:” It also said a permit can’t be issued for a new well without first determining it’s not likely to interfere with existing nearby wells and not likely to cause subsidence.

Where did Newsom get that idea? Who knows? One hint could be in February Assemblyman Bennett submitted AB 2201 and it’s tighter than Newsom’s order. Unlike Newsom’s executive order that ends with the drought, AB 2201 enshrines not only everything in the order but adds more regulatory burdens. According to the report presented to the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, Chaired by Valley Senator Anna Caballero, the poor soul applying for a permit has to provide a written report prepared by professional engineer or geologist concluding the new well won’t cause interference with existing, nearby wells and not likely to cause subsidence.

Once the GSA signs off on the permit, the applicant pays for a conclusive engineering report, the permitting agency considers all the reports as well as any public comments it post the permit application on its website for at least 30-days. Excluded under AB 2201 are permits for wells with less than two acre feet annual output for domestic use or wells providing for public and state water systems and permits for wells in adjudicated basins.

Thank You Very Little

The unintended consequences of legislation and this case executive orders as well can be harsh. For example California briefly outlawed alligator hides and products a couple of years back. The law was originally written in the early 1970s when the alligator population of Louisiana was down to only 100,000. Now there are three million of the swimming dinosaurs in a state with only four million people. Alligators are no longer threatened as a species and the sale of alligator products was used to finance their comeback. But under former Attorney General Xavier Becerra with the help of the Center for Biological Diversity an as yet undisclosed amount of taxpayer money was flushed down the toilet in federal court when Louisiana stomped California in a lawsuit forcing it to once again allow the sales and importation of gator parts.

After the executive order was issued there was chaos in well permitting throughout the Valley. GSAs didn’t know their level of liability or involvement; counties were just as unsure. In the meantime wells weren’t drilled and the economy took a hit and suffered needlessly.

The provision in AB 2201 to require a permit be posted online for 30-days wasn’t written by anyone who’s lived through a summer in California’s Central Valley. There aren’t many living things that can go 30-days without water. There aren’t any ag related businesses that can go 30-days without water and all the business in the Valley is in someway ag related.

Here are some comments from the senate committee report. The report states Bennett wrote, “. . . counties are not tasked with reaching groundwater sustainability and typically issue permits without consideration to prevent undesirable impacts or permanent damage to aquifers, communities and infrastructure. AB 2201 furthers the legislative intent of SGMA, which granted authority to GSAs to regulate extraction.”

I don’t know which counties Bennett’s thinking of. I’ve been to at least 100 GSA meetings in the San Joaquin Valley and I can’t think of one that didn’t have someone from county staff present when forming GSAs and developing GSPs. I can think of four GSAs with county supervisors on the board. Maybe Ventura County can afford to allow its infrastructure to be permanently damaged by lax permitting, but I doubt it. And I can tell you there isn’t a county in the Valley unaware of SGMA.

Under Home Rule the committee report stated, “. . .SGMA struck a careful balance between exercising state control and oversight and preserving local authority.” It continues, “It endowed GSAs with broad authority to regulate  groundwater extraction, but did not mandate that they used any particular power. Furthermore, SGMA left certain land use authorities for cities and counties intact, including well permitting. It allowed comments to flow back and forth between GSAs and land use agencies when developing GSPs and general plans, respectively.”

The report states, “AB 2201 takes a different approach: it requires the same policy in every medium and high priority basin the state, regardless of the specific conditions in those basins and whether the GSP is functioning as intended.”  It then asked the question, “Should the state impose a one-size-fits-all approach to permitting new wells that erodes the land use authority of cities and counties?”

Under an observation in the report titled If it walks like a duck. . . the question of whether or not requiring a permit to be posted online 30-days triggers CEQA was raised. Depending on if the permitting action is ministerial or discretionary things could get complicated and even more expensive. It states, “These requirements may introduce an element of discretion into all well permitting applications, potentially triggering CEQA, which may entail significant time and cost to complete the necessary environmental studies. The Committee may wish to consider amending AB 2201to remove these provisions or modifying them in such a way so as to avoid including CEQA review into well construction permits.” Emphasis added.

Next under the heading That sinking feeling. The report points out AB 2201 requires applicants to get a report from a professional engineer or geologist to, “. . . conclude that a well would not cause well interference or subsidence that damages nearby infrastructure.”

The report found this provision will not only increase the costs of any such studies and expose the professionals to liabilities but may not even be feasible. As the report stated engineers and geologists don’t usually write reports that definitively conclude the wells wouldn’t have those effects. These types of reports are typically informational. Also, the Water Code already has a similar provision for well interference.

“Finally, analyzing whether a well will likely cause subsidence, and particularly whether that subsidence will cause damage to nearby infrastructure, is a substantial increase in the level of analysis required. Moreover, subsidence is already an “undesirable result” under SGMA that the plans must avoid to achieve sustainability. Since AB 2201 also requires the GSA to find that the proposed well wouldn’t be inconsistent with a GSP and wouldn’t impair a sustainability goal, the consideration of subsidence should already be built into the GSA’s review of these permits. To ensure the feasibility of the requirements of the bill, the Committee may wish to consider amending AB 2201 to require the written report to “indicate,” rather than “conclude,” that a well is unlikely to cause well interference using the definition in existing law.”

Next under report observation six Response time. “Opponents of AB 2201 state that GSAs can be small agencies that may not have significant staff to support their activities, and thus may not return the verifications required by the bill in a timely fashion. To ensure that GSAs act promptly on well permits, the Committee may wish to consider amending AB 2201 to require GSAs to respond to a notification by a permitting agency of a well permit application within a specified time period.”

Just when I was warming up to whoever is writing these observations. Maybe I’m missing something but if a GSA doesn’t have enough staff and resources to return well permit verifications in a timely fashion how is requiring them by law to turn them in on time going to solve the problem?

The next section Not me states AB 2201 includes a very limited set of exemptions that are so narrow that, “. . .despite the likely minor effects, well owners would still need to go through the bill’s more intensive permitting process.” It recommend including more limited exemptions. I’ve heard there has been an exemption added. If a well depth is 15 percent or less the depth of the deepest wells in the area it will be exempted.

Let’s be clear was the next section of the  report, “SGMA allows the GSA to request that the city or county send them well permit applications, but leaves it up to the city or county to determine whether they should. To maintain consistency between this bill and SGMA, the Committee may wish to consider amending AB 2201 to modify SGMA such that cities and counties must provide well permits to the GSA if the GSA makes such a request.” A reasonable observation.

Bennett’s Response

It can sometimes be difficult to gain access to a politician by media outside his or her area. It’s not a slight, local media reaches constituents and that’s who an elected official is supposed to represent. However, I was able to get in contact with Assemblyman Bennett’s staff and while I wanted a live phone interview we were able to work out a written interview. Fair enough. They don’t know me and reporters have a reputation somewhere between Amway salesmen and on hold telephone music.

So I sent Bennett some questions about AB 2201 and received a polite, timely response. The questions included:

  • How many counties and GSAs are already coordinating well permits?
  • What GSAs and county well permitting officials did you consult before writing the bill?
  • Were GSA and county staffing considerations considered when writing this bill?
  • How much of your district’s economic activity will be impacted by the passing of AB 2201 and to what degree?
  • How much of the state’s ag economic activity will be impacted by the passing of AB 2201 and to what degree?
  • SGMA was sold as including local control, does AB 2201 remove part of that local control?

Now for my most important question – what question should I ask you? (And what’s the answer? You’d be surprised how many people don’t answer.)

This is the response I received:

Dear Don,

I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to reach out to our office and understand AB 2201 and its intent. You have asked many good questions but I will not be able to address each one individually. However, I will say that California has a severe groundwater overdraft problem. This bill addresses one major weakness: the local agencies responsible for ending the overdraft do not have a voice in permitting new wells into the very basins they are supposed to end the overdraft activities in. This straightforward bill simply gives them that authority. Since the agencies are local, this keeps control at the local level.

I appreciate your technical questions but I simply don’t have time to respond to each one. Although, I really appreciate your final question, “what should I ask you?”

Question: What is a commonsense way to address this lack of connection between the oversight agency and the introduction of new wells?

Answer: AB 2201

Stay well,

Assemblymember Steve Bennett

District 37

A Hydrogeologist’s Response

I asked a client, Chris Johnson PG CHg Hydrogeologist and owner of Aegis Groundwater for his insights on the well permitting process as laid out in AB 2201. I think you’ll find his take interesting since AB 2201 could be a financial windfall for hydrogeologist.

Johnson writes, “Where to start?

  • There are probably not enough privately employed registered Engineers and geologists, or Certified Hydrogeologists, to meet the demand for this level of assessment in advance of such permitting.
  • The cost of such an assessment, which will not be conclusive to the degree that would likely be desired on the part of the State, would be considerable.
  • The time for such assessments, which would include attempts to obtain permission from neighboring well owners to access their wells for the assessment, assuming they would be cooperative at all (and likely would not be), would add weeks to the permit application process.
  • Assessing potential interference will be difficult, and time consuming, and costly, but it can be done.
  • Assessing the potential to exacerbate subsidence is almost impossible, and at best will be speculative and highly subjective.
  • The shift of liability to private professional engineers and geologists/hydrogeologists will certainly raise their level of liability, to the point that some may find their insurance agencies may not cover such work.
  • Perhaps most importantly, no consensus has been achieved, either in an ad hoc effort, or something more organized, as to what the “minimally acceptable standard of care” will be for such reports. As such, currently the best one might hope for is a professional “opinion”, which may be thoroughly unsuited for the goals of SGMA.

“A thoughtful assessment of the bill’s application could have concluded that neither the GSA, nor the County, had the expertise to address these nearly impossible to answer questions.  Carrying that train of thought further, one would come to the conclusion that there are experts who exist that at the very least have the ability to understand and at least partially answer those pressing concerns.

“How many professional engineers, geologists and hydrogeologists did Assemblymember Bennet (or staff) reach out to, and discuss the potential for such assessments to be conducted in a financially supportable manner, and in a timely fashion?”

My Response to Bennett’s Response

As I stated above I did receive a response and I appreciate that. And he did answer two of my questions and I italicized his answers to be clear. But when you get down to it Mr. Bennett didn’t really address any of the concerns raised by AB 2201. I wrote him back and reworded the questions but I never did get them answered. I want to know why this bill was written. The counties and GSAs were already working together. I know for a fact Fresno County and the North Kings GSA were well on their way to working out sharing system that would keep both of them informed about well permits. The system they worked out – on their own under local control – didn’t cost anything extra, overextend staff or trigger CEQA. Other counties were working on similar exchanges of information. It was all a part of developing a new layer of groundwater regulation to complete SGMA.

AB 2201 raises some great concern that politicians from out of the Valley will take it upon themselves to add more parts to SGMA. The goals get moved and the process becomes more and more complex, cumbersome and eventually the local control is diluted and the folks who have to live with and implement SGMA are left with another Sacramento created High Speed Rail of a mess.

The Company You Keep

One of the more interesting portions of the committee report on AB 2201is who supports it and who doesn’t. There are 80 members of the Assembly and 68 of them voted on the bill. Twenty-four of those votes, about a third were against. The Assembly Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee went eight to five, almost a fourth. The Assembly Appropriations Committee went 12 to four, a fourth voted no.

Here’s a selection from the list of who supports AB 2201. Former State Senator Fran Pavley leads the way. The California Coastkeeper Alliance, a group on the record as stating the current water rights are illegitimate, therefore instream flows must be increased and senior water rights voided. Others are: Environmental Working Group, Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club California, Union of Concerned Scientists and We Advocate Through Environmental Review. There are others but this will give you an idea of what anti-agricultural groups are supporting the bill.

Who’s opposing? Here’s a selection from that list: it starts with the African American Farmers of California. Also: Almond Alliance of California, Association of California Water Agencies, 17 crop associations from almonds to wine, the Farm Bureau, the California Chamber of Commerce and 15 other chambers of commerce.

Here’s something interesting, in opposition are the Counties of: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare and Madera. It appears AB 2201 isn’t popular with the GSAs and water districts either, in opposition: Fillmore & Piru Basins GSA, Kern Groundwater Authority GSA, South San Joaquin Irrigation District and United Water Conservation District. There are others but it will give you and idea of what pro-agriculture and business groups are opposing this bill.

AB 2201 must still pass through the appropriations committee. My sources in Sacramento tell me it will pass. So, that leaves the off chance the Governor could veto it. But unless this bill dies or is amended it looks like AB 2201 will add a great amount of expense, liability and exposure to a part of the state already reeling under inflation, regulatory burden, actual drought, supply chain stressors and state government inaction on water quality.

In the would of, could of, should of file – it would have been good to determine if there was a need for a legislative fix on the local well permitting process before writing AB 2201, it could die or be amended in a way that can actually help and from now on politicians should not assume they know better than the people.

Closing Thoughts

AB 2201 reminds me of a joke I think President Ronald Regan used to tell, or at least one kind of like it, now that I consider the technology involved.

A cowboy was out riding his herd when a man drove up. He told the cowboy, “I bet you I can tell you how many cows you got without counting them. But if I do you have to give me a calf.” The cowboy thought a moment and said he’d like to see that.

The man took out a computer, got a link on his cellphone and pulled up a Google Earth image. He took a screen shot, loaded the image into an app and out spit an estimate of 300 head of cattle. He told the cowboy he had 300 head of cattle and grabbed an animal and put it in the trunk of his car.

As the man got ready to drive off the cowboy told, “Tell you what. If I can guess correct who you work for, you give me that critter in your trunk back.” The man thought for a moment and said, “Ok, I’d like to see that.”

The cowboy cleared his throat and said, “You work for the government.”

The man’s jaw dropped, “Your right. How’d you know?”

The cowboy said, “Well, you come here uninvited. Told me the answer to a question I never asked and already knew the answer to. And you wanted to tax me a calf for it. Now let my dog out of your trunk.”

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State Board Racial Equity Workshop July 29, 2022


By Don A. Wright

The State Water Resources Control Board had staff conduct a workshop to garner public input on the Board’s racial equity plan. The two and half hour workshop was held in Visalia at the Self Help Enterprises’ headquarters at 4pm on Wednesday, July 27th. The same day as the drop-dead deadline for many of the San Joaquin Valley’s Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to submit their revised Groundwater Sustainability Plans to the state’s Department of Water Resources.

The State Board

The Board is made up of five members all appointed by the governor. In the hierarchy of state government the Board serves under the California Environmental Protection Agency headed by Secretary Jared Blumenfeld. One appointee each must be:

  • An attorney admitted to the state bar with water experience
  • A registered civil engineer qualified in water supply and water rights
  • A registered professional engineer with experience in sanitation and water quality
  • One member qualified in the field of water quality.
  • One of the above appointed persons shall also be qualified in the field of water supply and quality relating to irrigated agriculture.
  • And if I’m reading the law correctly, one member is not required to have specialized experience.

The State Board Chairman is Joaquin Esquivel. Appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2017 to replace then Chair Felicia Marcus, my guess is Esquivel is the member without specialized experience since his bio lists a BA in English from UC Santa Barbara. That’s not to say he doesn’t have plenty of experience. He worked in Washington DC on federal water policy as an Assistant Secretary for the California Natural Resources Agency. He also worked as an aide to Senator Barbara Boxer, so he’s well versed in the mechanics of government.

Dorene D’Adamo, Vice Chair has been on the board since 2013 and is the member with agricultural irrigation experience. She also has a long background in governmental positions. She was on the Air Resources Board during the Brown, Schwarzenegger and Davis Administrations and worked for 20-years for various members of Congress. She has BA from UC Davis and a law degree from McGeorge.

Appointed in 2018 Sean Maguire is a Civil Engineer. Three years prior to becoming a board member Maguire worked for the State Board. Before that he worked as an engineering consultant specializing in municipal water agencies. He earned his BS from Cal State Sacramento.

Laurel Firestone joined the board in 2019. She has walked an impressive academic path, graduating magna cum laude from Brown University and with honors from Harvard Law School. She also made time to found  and co-direct the Community Water Center in Visalia. She might be the water quality member or of course the attorney member.

And Nichole Morgan is also a civil engineer with a BS from Cal State Sacramento (what happened to the professional engineer? Maybe Ms. Morgan or Mr. Maguire have a PE as well.) Morgan has worked for either the State Board or the Central Valley Regional Board since 2009. She was appointed to the board in 2021.

These then are the five non-elected board members tasked with fulfilling the mission statement, “To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.” The State Board is the agency that deals with water rights and has the power to curtail diversions. One hopes they would be sober, judicious and as unbiased as humanly possible.

Racial Resolution

In November of 2021 the State Board adopted Resolution No. 2021-0050, “Condemning Racism, Xenophobia, Bigotry, and Racial Injustice and Strengthening Commitment to Racial Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Access, and Anti-Racism” a resolution to incorporate racial equity in its decision making and hiring practices.

Page five of the resolution, Whereas number 22 – “. . . the national and worldwide backlash against racism toward Black people and related Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 accelerated and informed the Water Board’s decision to develop and initiate, resolution and subsequent action plans to address racial inequities within the Water Boards and through the Water Boards’ work.”

The resolution was peppered with statements such as, “Historically, the Water Boards’ programs were established over a structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race.”

And, “White supremacy is a systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and people of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.” https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/resolution-and-actions.html

The resolution calls for an Office of Racial Equity within the State Board organization and a  Racial Equity Action Plan to be developed. Haven’t heard much about the establishment of a Racial Equity Office but there were four workshops held during July for the public to share its ideas and suggestions.

The State Board is serious about this. There was even a quote on the State Board website by Executive Director Eileen Sobeck from August of 2020, “There could not be a more critical challenge facing us at this time than the challenge of achieving racial equity.” Evidently this quote has been (wisely I believe, perhaps in light of the drought) taken down. (False alarm – it can be found at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/about.html )

During a July 2021 hearing on the resolution the public gave input. You can watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01UU_-EWut0  but be prepared, it’s three hours long. Some of the comments were – well, you be the judge.

Itzell Vasquez-Rodriguez works at the State Board’s Office of Public Participation wants promotions and opportunities at the State Board based on equity and wants nontraditional job classifications.

“Promotional opportunities mainly exist for staff with backgrounds in engineering, the hard sciences, geology, etc.,” said Vasquez-Rodriguez. “These skills are often very white.”

On a similar note Ilze Flores Castillo Wang wants the State Board to strike the word chief from any titles such as department chief as it is offensive to indigenous people. She also wants the State Board to “. . . acknowledge indigenous knowledge as equal to engineers and doctors.”

Kaitlyn Kalua, California Coast Keepers Alliance said the current water rights are illegitimate therefore instream flows must be increased and senior water rights voided.

Natalie Garcia, Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability stated the Central Valley Project contracts harm the BIPOC community.

By the way BIPOC is shorthand for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. Some people use it as the buzzword to establish the delineation of ancestry based on skin tone and assigning them into either oppressor or oppressed.

Besides the fact we’re all indigenous and all people of color but for the unfortunate, occasional albino, this is the very definition of racism – judging people by the hue of their skin instead of the content of their character.

The idea of Racial Equity comes from Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory comes from critical theory as espoused by Marxist university professors fleeing Nazi Germany prior to World War II. They fled Germany and wound up at Columbia University in New York City.

The Workshop

With all of this as background I stepped into the State Board’s workshop in Visalia with some trepidation. After all I am a man, predominantly of European extract and believe Critical Race Theory is part of an evil, communist plan to enslave humans by removing the freedom afforded by worshiping a God greater than ourselves. What could go wrong?

Actually nothing went wrong. The State Board staff were very considerate, friendly and even fun. There was a live, video presentation by Board member Firestone. She kept to the point and I don’t want to sound mean here, but she often spends a lot of time giggling when I’ve seen her in the past. Don’t get me wrong, it can be endearing in certain circumstances. And, the bare bone fact is I would prefer her giggling to many of the utterances made by some public officials. However, it would have been a better meeting if Firestone had stayed with us and answered questions.

But the heavy load was carried by the ladies in the room working for the State Board, all of whom I believe were Hispanic. Normally that wouldn’t merit mention but since the topic of the  meeting was race, well there we go. After the summer of Black Lives Matter and the Brown Shirt tactics of Antifa we’re raw on the subject. People are scared to be labeled racist for mentioning race. Unless you are a racist, don’t be scared.

I have been called a racist and a xenophobe. I didn’t like it but since I’m neither of those things I realize those who made the claims are bigots and ignorant of my life and who I am. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr’s famous quote, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” still holds true for my generation. God Himself says He judges the heart, not the exterior and warns us to do the same.

In a May 17, 2021 essay in National Review by Christopher Caldwell on Critical Race Theory, he mentions a cartoon that has been used extensively by racial equity proponents. Caldwell writes cartoonist Craig Froehle created a drawing in 2012 labeled, “Equality to a conservative, equality to a liberal.” In the cartoon are three people watching a ball game over the outfield fence. One is tall, one medium and one short. Fortunately they all brought wooden crates to stand on. So the tall and medium guys can see over the fence but the short guy can’t, even with his crate. The idea is this is how equality works – all are equal. In the next panel the tall guy is standing on the ground and can still see over the fence. The medium guy is still standing on his crate and can still see over the fence. However, the short guy now has two crates and can also see over the fence – this is supposed to represent equity – the same outcome for all.

As Caldwell wrote, “Froehle’s drawing may be a satisfying lesson about why children should share, but as a depiction of how adults reach political compromise it is misleading.” Very misleading. No mention why the three couldn’t purchase tickets and attend the game in the stands. Right from the start the concept places the three characters outside of the mainstream of participation. There wouldn’t be a baseball game to watch if everyone was standing outside the fence.

The possessions the political activists want to swap aren’t crates. They are the goods that lead to a better future; home ownership, your children’s education and the reward for working a job. In the case of the State Board’s efforts considering the magnitude of water’s importance to all living things, that’s a major responsibility to determine whose possessions should be swapped. Rights, including water rights are just that, rights. They are not privileges or favors granted by the government. And while the people of the United States are not perfect, and neither is our state or federal governments, the goal is to form a more perfect union. It takes hubris to think the institutions can’t be improved but rather torn down and replaced with the current trends from the academic lounge.

Speaking Freely

As stated above the State Board staff in Visalia were great. They encouraged us all to speak freely, no heated debates broke out causing distraction. Jenelyn Guzman moderated the workshop and I even got to see Adriana Renteria. She used to work at the Community Water Center in Visalia before moving to Sacramento to work for the State Board. I’ve missed her. She was the number one go to for me when it came to the CWC.

The workshop included two “community storytellers” a term I wasn’t familiar with. A lady from Fairmead spoke about how that Madera County community has suffered from domestic wells going dry. She attributed the problem to a great deal of pumping in the adjoining white area lands. What was range or annual cropland has been planted in orchards and deep wells drilled near the community. The other storyteller was Michael Prado Sr. of Sultana. Prado is very active on the Kings River East GSA. Well, they told their stories about their communities.

The real meat of the event came when the attendees’ got the opportunity to give comments and suggestions on just how racial equity should be handled by the State Board. Attendees received a 10-page document titled “Taking Action to Advance Racial Equity at the State Water Board.” The document stated, “We will use the feedback gathered through public workshops and tribal consultation processes to inform the development of a Racial Equity Action Plan that will be released for formal public comment in September, 2022. It also stated it was structured to give:

  • Strategic Directions – How we will approach our work
  • Goals – Results we aim to achieve
  • Challenges – Existing barriers that need to be addressed
  • Draft Actions – Potential actions to take that are intended to achieve our goals and overcome challenges.

Staff plans to bring the results to the board in December. Page two of the document has one sentence, “State Water Board members will not approve or deny the Racial Equity Action Plan. However, staff will update the Board on its implementation periodically.” This raised questions in my mind – who will be accountable for the decisions made and responsible for the impacts of the Action Plan?

Around the room there were I believe, seven large two by three feet charts stuck to the wall. Printed on them were four strategic directions. At the top of the chart was the direction – Strategic Direction #1 Integrating Racial Equity, Measuring Impact. Below this heading was a description of the goal, in this case the Water Board needs better data. Then there was a section on actions to gather information and build skills with several bullet points. Then a section on actions to monitor and evaluate with its bullet points and a space for actions to implement. The other strategic directions were: #2 Creating, Maintaining Spaces for Inclusion & Belonging. Strategic Direction #3 Activating BIPOC Community Wisdom and last Strategic Direction #4 Sharing Power & Knowledge with Communities. Each of us were given sticky notes to write comments and attach to the appropriate chart. We then went back with the colored stickers provided to us so we could attach them to the sticky notes we agreed with.


We were asked to brainstorm ideas and write them down. There was a lot of staff from both the State and Regional Boards to answer questions. I’m guessing a third or more of the folks there were state employees or worked at Self Help Enterprises. People were not shy about giving their opinion in both English and Spanish. I was surprised at some of the suggestions and even more surprised at the popularity ranking of the suggestions. In fact I was so surprised I asked if all the comments will be listed, even if they don’t make their way to the Action Plan. I was told they will be available for the public to review.

The comments I read were nothing like the comments during the hearings on the resolution. If the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Everything’s a Big Dang Problem was expecting to see wild eyed denouncements of white supremacy in relation to water coming from of the San Joaquin Valley, they’re going to be disappointed.

There were denouncements but they overwhelmingly had more to do with the actual lack of surface water than any political theories on race. I’m paraphrasing the comments, which were anonymous, but we can fact check how close I get when the draft report on the workshops comes out in September.

One of the comments that garnered the most approval stickers had nothing to do with academic theory, historical oppression or even water supply or quality. The comment was a basic customer service issue for the State Board and really all of California’s government offices in Sacramento to get back to work, answer the phones and quit hiding behind Covid as an excuse for inaction.

Another surprising comment was that we’re all BIPOC, get over it. Everyone who drinks and uses water needs a clean reliable supply. In fact one person told me water at white people’s homes isn’t magically better than their neighbors of different ethnicity.

There were other comments about the lack of any specific mention of the disadvantaged communities and the farmworkers of the San Joaquin Valley. They were saying the decrease of available surface water supply is what’s harming the disadvantaged communities socially and economically far more than any systemic racism. Someone even suggested something very much like the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint as a way to improve the situation for the Valley’s communities. Bring in more water during wet years and recharge it. It is pretty simple.

There was one suggestion that since this racial inequity has been taking place under the State Board’s watch perhaps the State Board should be an elected board accountable to the voter. Ok, full disclosure, I wrote that. But it got a lot of colored sticker support. And what if instead of an appointed board each of the Regional Boards existing boundaries served as districts for an elected State Board? There’d be a great deal more diversity and local representation. Who wouldn’t want that? He asked rhetorically.

By the end of the workshop there was a sense of release, the kind you feel when someone listens to you. I was the last member of the public to leave, that wasn’t on purpose it just worked out. Someone asked me to take a group photo of the staff. I was happy to do so and felt like I’d made some friends, I certainly hope so. I must confess I felt so comfortable I let my guard down. I told the ladies I was embarrassed to tell them how to pose for a picture since they were all obviously professional swimsuit models, “. . . but would you please get closer so I can get you all in the frame?” Then I thought, did I offend anyone by implying they were swimsuit models even jokingly? If I did offend they were all too polite and classy to say so. In any event they all laughed and smiled and scooted closer. We got a decent photo and I left feeling way better than when I went in. I’ve been to a lot of water meetings over the years and I don’t recall ever before gathering for a laughing, smiling photo at the end.

A Good Example

There are several men and women willing to take on the responsibility of managing water in this Valley. Too many to list here. But they all have one thing in common – you can’t under perform and keep your job in water management. Doesn’t work that way, you have to be smart, aggressive and willing to devote yourself to the job. One of these brave souls was at the workshop. I consider Rogelio Caudillo kind of a bad @55. He’s the General Manager of the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency and that is no easy job for the weak. That also makes him a government employee who has to deal with the consequences of State Board decisions. Caudillo agreed to share some of his thoughts about the workshop.

Q: What was your impression of yesterday’s State Water Board’s Racial Equity Workshop?

A: It was a good presentation from the staff and very informative of their mission. I appreciated their inclusion of locals to tell their stories but it could have used more speakers or opportunities to demonstrate how diverse and complicated the issues and needs are in the region. Additionally, while I understand and can appreciate the goal of addressing racial inequity, I also felt that there was a huge, missed opportunity to discuss major issues that also require solutions such as poverty/unemployment, lack of resources, barriers to economic development, and the costs and inability to fund projects to improve conditions.

Q: Why did you feel this workshop was important enough to attend?

A: It was important because the Central Valley’s issues are often misunderstood and there is often a real disconnect with the state’s leadership. I hope the input of locals like myself at the workshop who grew up and still live in a disadvantaged, farmworker community, who is also involved in water policy could help bridge the gap between the State Water Boards and our communities here in the Central Valley.

Q: Do you feel this is an appropriate use of state (taxpayer) resources during a drought and will help the San Joaquin Valley?

A: It is if it can produce tangible solutions and results. Folks of all backgrounds out here are struggling, and any little bit of help can go a long way when done right. (A very reasoned answer to a bit of a loaded question.)

Walk Away

Someone shared with me that when their family first came to the Valley from Mexico the towns were nice. Yards and homes well kept. The kids didn’t fall prey to gangs and drugs. You could work hard and buy a home. It was much easier to start and grow a business. This person told me if the people of the Valley stand together she believes we can make things better for everyone.

This wasn’t someone like me talking. She wasn’t the same ethnicity; her mother tongue was different from mine and our religious views came from different denominations, yet she was willing to stand with me. Connections with our neighbors based on content of character and not skin color; there is a lot of that in this Valley. I left that State Board workshop feeling proud of the people of the San Joaquin and with some hope.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights.net strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights.net 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.  Waterwrights.net’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights.net 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 2022 by www.WaterWrights.net/DAW


Friant Water Authority July 28, 2022


ConterraBy Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Thursday, July 28, 2022 board meeting at the Visalia Convention Center and online with Micro Snot Teams. There was a good turnout. The meeting was scheduled to begin in closed session at 8:30am and the open session began at 10:00am with Chairman Cliff Loeffler kicking things off with a prayer for wisdom. Do that and salute the flag and you’re ready to get after it.

The Meeting

The consent calendar included approving the minutes and paying the bills. CFO Wilson Orvis, who has fit in well with the organization and really found his stride, reported on financial statements. Orvis also spoke about the independent audit report for 2021. Full disclosure I was late and joined the meeting during Orvis’ talk. So, I don’t want to report on figures out of context. But the board approved. He also praised his staff and CPA Brian Henderson. Good deal. Fresno City’s Brock Boche asked if in the future Orvis would spend an extra $.25 on a couple of extra pages and increase the font size so you didn’t need a magnifying glass to read the audit reports. Director Kent Stephens seconded the comment. I believe that covers the only action item today.

Construction Update

            Janet Atkinson of Stantec Engineering reported on construction updates on the Friant Kern Canal repair project. In case you’re a new reader the Friant Kern Canal has lost a third of its capacity due to subsidence near the Tulare/Kern County line. The costs to repair this is half a billion dollars. And because we’re in California where 19 out of 20 of the 40 million residents live 60-miles or less from the beach and may well believe cotton grows in the neck of an aspirin bottle, getting the money together to improve water infrastructure has been a heavy lift. The fact the Friant Water Authority has been able to get this vital project up and running is a testimony to dedication.

Water Ops

            Ian Buck Macleod, Friant Water Prophet said there are now three units running at the Jones Pumping Plant and that means less water from Millerton Lake going outside the Friant area. He sees cause to breathe easier for supply allocation for the rest of the season. Not as much as needed but more than expected earlier.

Johnny Amaral, COO said there is a plan in place to dewater the canal from mid-November until the end of January. This is a necessary step to give crews an opportunity to perform routine maintenance. Unfortunately some of the freeboard will be reduced along a stretch of the canal, like 300 cfs worth. If the Class I allocation doesn’t exceed 60 percent this won’t be a problem. If hopefully it’s a wet year and the Class I allocation is 100 percent and even some Class II water is running there are some ways to help mitigate. Amaral said the districts don’t like to run on the weekends and they may have to do a little coordinating to keep the flows flowing.

Director Eric Borba reminded Amaral it’s the growers who don’t like to run on the weekends. Sounds like some outreach will have to take place. Superintendent Chris Hickernell said there is a way to park some water upstream in districts like Fresno Irrigation District that has some banking capacity. Stephens asked the same question I had, if the problem is only a mile and a half on one side of the FKC why not build up the bank? Hickernell said in effect it’s a roll of the dice, if there isn’t a wet year it’s not fiscally prudent. He said if there is an uncontrolled season he believes between the member districts and the US Bureau of Reclamation things can be worked with.

The problem is the available dirt and material is already going to the FKC repairs. Hickernell said it’s possible to sandbag that section. CEO Jason Phillips suggested staff take a look at possible mitigation and report back next month.

Bureau Report

            Rufino Gonzalez, USBR reported the Bureau is aware of the additional operational concerns of Millerton Lake in light of the canal repairs, the Delta pumping and other variables. There could be a low point at San Luis Reservoir in October and I guess that is a bridge to cross then.

Legislative Report

            Alex Biering reported there are good conversations with DWR for the FKC funding and there is even the possibility to squeeze some more funding through the SB 559 coalition. Money could be attached to trailer bills going through the state senate next month. AB 2108 is bill being watched that has to do with State Board appointments having special qualifications in being sensitive to groups urban legislators want to feel good about helping. There are 800 policy bills heading to the governor’s desk at the end of August and I believe the signing deadline is mid-October or the pocket veto kicks in. Biering reported Amaral is starting his podcast again. That’s welcome news. It’s very entertaining, interesting and informative.

Amaral reported federal Senators Chucky Schumer and Joe Manchin have reached an energy and climate agreement that won’t require any Republican votes. It is a $369 billion dollar piece of legislation that includes money for solar panels over canals and no one knows which water contractor asked for that feature to be funded.

Amaral said Reclamation officials should be coming to the Valley from back east for a tour. He said he spent time with Senator Melissa Hurtado and she is pushing to include more water infrastructure funding from the $90 billion state surplus. He said Hurtado has been extremely helpful in reaching out to the Sacramento crowd and growing the awareness of what is needed for the Valley.

O&M Report

Hickernell reported despite the 100 plus degrees day after day, Friant crews have been healthy, observing heat safety. He said there was one scare but it turned out the worker had just gotten mixed up with some habanero salsa from the taco truck. He said there is an increase in trash being dumped along the FKC. Who is it that takes their old mattresses, refrigerators and tires and just throw it out with no more concern than a slug leaving a slime trail? Wouldn’t you like to catch them and force them to clean up the restrooms at the bus station? With their own toothbrush? Ok enough of that.

Orvis updated the board on what’s going on at San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority. Not much new there. He was praised for the short, sweetness of his report.

GM Report

Phillips gave his report and also allowed me to give a short, hopefully also sweet report on a presentation at the Southern California Water Coalition meeting at the Long Beach Yacht Club. Scott Hamilton and Austin Ewell gave a presentation on the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint and garnered a great deal of interest from dozens of Southern California water districts, municipalities and even Metropolitan Water District was there.

Phillips said there are opportunities to work with folks in So Cal and it is important for the Valley to give its message directly without filtering from other parts of the state and unfriendly media.

Phillips said the Eastern Tule GSA didn’t pass its 218 Election and that will impact how cash flow is handled. Phillips said specifically there are no red flag warnings and the Bureau is well aware of the situation. There will be a board retreat November 14-17th and this is the chance to hash out a work plan to guide the FWA through the coming year.

Also, Dr. Don Portz spoke a few months ago on the San Joaquin River Restoration Program and will come soon to update the board. Portz is the Restoration Manager for the Bureau. Phillips is a member of an urban water board coalition and he has been conducting outreach that way. And finally he will be going to Colorado to drop his remaining at home child, his daughter to college. She’s on the volleyball team so she’s going early. Someone asked him if they’re driving the Tesla. He said he got an F150 since then.

The meeting then went to lunch. There will be an ad hoc committee meeting after that to discuss water quality in the FKC. And that was that at 11:35am. The water quality issue has been around for 20-years and has to do with introducing non-San Joaquin River water into the FKC. SJR water is some of the most pristine on earth and therefore very low in salt. Folks want to keep it that way. The issue is worthy of a report all its own. Go be good to each other.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights 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.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights 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 2022 by WaterWrights.net/DAW


854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: information@friantwater.org www.friantwater.org

The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 17 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 from the Friant Division.

Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, CFO Wilson Orvis, Government Affairs & Communication Alexandra Biering, Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell, Chief of External Affairs/COO Johnny Amaral and Attorney Don Davis.

East Kaweah GSA July 25, 2022


By Don A. Wright

The East Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency held its board of directors on Monday, July 25, 2022 from the Exeter Museum and online with Zoom. Things got rolling right away with Executive Director Michael Hagman taking roll call at 9:00am. There was a quorum and attorney Joe Hughes strongly suggested memorializing the agency’s compliance to the emergency virus orders. The board did so. The agenda was approved and the flag saluted.

The Meeting

The audio was pretty good but it was just a bit difficult to be sure who said what. It sounded like former Fresno Mayor Alan Autrey (that can’t be right) said he’s been working on the Toole water system and thanked Hagman and the Tulare County board of supervisors for their help.

Secretary/Treasurer Kathy Bennett gave the financial report and the board approved. They have a balance sheet of $2 million plus with assets, equity and liability all in line with each other like they should be. There was some discussion on delinquent and assessments due. Hagman said eventually if an assessment isn’t paid a lien can be issued. Bennett pointed out Tulare County is now doing the assessment collection as part of the property tax. If a lien notice is necessary a separate mailing can be conducted. Bennett also said things should improve as the first assessment had the added challenges of incorrect addresses and such that are being cleaned up.

Hagman said there has been millions of dollars in grant funding brought into the Kaweah Subbasin. Sky Temp – the flying magnet that helps map the underground, new monitoring wells and recharge projects have all been paid at least in part by grant funds. There is a $10 million grant for changing the usage of marginal land. Then the board decided to add Logan Robinson Sequoia Riverland Trust as an alternate to the advisory committee.


Next Hagman updated the board on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. East Kaweah GSA had three issues the Department of Water Resources found wanting back in February. He said both Mid Kaweah and Greater Kaweah GSAs have approved their GSP revisions. Provost & Pritchard’s Matt Klinchuch walked the board through the changes.

Klinchuch explained part of the goal to get the GSP in compliance has been to unify language between the three GSAs in the Kaweah Subbasin. Three other considerations have been lowering groundwater levels, subsidence and interconnected surface water. This has been pretty much the same three issues the DWR* has brought up to most of the GSAs in the San Joaquin Valley. Minimum thresholds have been adjusted and Klinchuch gave other technical information about how the revisions have been written. East Kaweah has an aquifer ranging from the fractured rock granite shelve of the Sierra Nevada Range to its east and alluvial Corcoran clay to its west. There are also domestic well interruptions to deal with. It sounded like bottled water to start and consolidated systems eventually.

Subsidence is focused on the Friant Kern Canal infrastructure as a critical component to surface supplies for the area. And there are roads, bridges, pipelines and other infrastructure to contend with. The  East Kaweah GSA is the eastern side of the subbasin and it is also up gradient to most of the subbasin. That means groundwater is mostly flowing west. The more groundwater extraction taking place to the west draws flows in that direction. Both Mid and Greater Kaweah agree this is a point for all to consider. In fact in the Zoom Comment Greater Kaweah’s Executive Director Eric Osterling expressed that GSA’s willingness to work together and that was recognized by an East Kaweah director. Good for them.

SGMA requires data to implement and that fact alone drives much of the research. There are streams in the area that are rain fed therefore seasonal. A wet year yields water and a dry year doesn’t. So the variability impacts data and raises questions; how much of the subsidence is due to pumping and how much from underground flow? How much underground flow does an ephemeral stream supply? It seems that there is no end to the variables of groundwater. That’s a clue as to why measuring climate change using clouds, which are water vapor, can yield so many different results.

Next Hagman walked the board through the resolution adopting the GSP revisions. Klinchuch was asked about the dialogue with DWR on the GSP revisions. He said his biggest concern is staff turnover at DWR and the continuity, or lack of in fallowing up. He felt the revisions are going to be able to overcome DWR objections. Not just East Kaweah, but all of the GSAs feel the revision work on their GSPs will be accepted. There is a good deal of optimism and Klinchuch stated he believes the subbasin is coordinating.

Tien Tran from Community Water Center said CWC appreciates the work being done to build a framework. She hoped more detailed language on performance goals can be included in the future. Hagman said it sounds like she wants more detail of municipal and domestic wells. Local cattle rancher Michele Staples asked for more public information so landowners can be a part of mitigations talks. The board acknowledged the hard work and input from staff and the public. The board passed the resolution.

Closed Session

Director Mike George reported the rules and regulations ad hoc committee has met and progress has been made. Hagman said pretty much the same thing when remarking about the subbasin report update. The meeting went into closed session at 10:30am for one real property negotiation and one case of possible litigation. That was that.

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

*Once again I feel it is important to give credit where due – I have yet to hear anything negative about DWR’s conduct through the GSP review process.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2022 by WaterWrights.net

SGMA The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 calls for the formation of Groundwater Sustainability Areas within Basins and Sub-basins to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans.

EAST KAWEAH GSA 315 E. Lindmore Street, Lindsay, CA 93247. Telephone 559/562-2534. Mailing address PO Box 908 Lindsay, CA 93247

Members: County of Tulare, City of Lindsay, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID, Lindsay Strathmore ID, Lindmore ID and Stone Corral ID. Chairman Edward Milanesio, Vice Chair Joe Ferrara

Staff: Michael Hagman – Executive Director, Joe Hughes – Attorney


DWR Listing: Basin San Joaquin Valley, Sub Basin Kaweah 5-022.11


State Board Workshop on its Office of Racial Equity July 22, 2022


The following is a reprint of an article about the State Board preparing to adopt a resolution to include racial equity in its hiring and decision making process. The resolution was adopted. Now the State Board is seeking further input as it develops its Racial Equity Plan.

An Email Announcing the Wednesday July 27th, 2022 Visalia Meeting

The State Water Board is excited to have you join us for our Racial Equity Action Plan workshop on July 27, from 4:30-6:30pm at the Self-Help Enterprises Office OR online on Zoom. This will be a hybrid meeting, that will happen through in person and through Zoom.

You can access meeting materials online through our Linktree: linktr.ee/ca.water.boards.racialequity.

Here’s a brief overview of our agenda, which will include breaks:

  • Opening remarks and community storytelling
  • Staff Presentation
  • Small group brainstorm
  • Gallery walk and idea prioritization

Information for online attendees:

Please click on this link at the time of the event to join us: https://waterboards.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMsdeGppjouH9Sbm9EdT20au2Bs4tnCJB1Z

Information for in-person attendees:


Self-Help Enterprises
8445 W Elowin Ct, Visalia, CA 93291

Parking information

There is ample free parking at the venue in front of the Self-Help Enterprises Offices.

COVID-19 protocol

  • Masks: To ensure the health and safety of our attendees and staff, face coverings are strongly encouraged throughout the event. Masks will be available at the event if you do not have one.
  • Hand sanitizer: Hand sanitizer will be provided at different stations throughout the meeting space.
    • If you have any covid symptoms or are not feeling well, please stay home and join us virtually if you’re able.

We look forward to seeing you on July 27th!


State Water Board Racial Equity Team

The Original Article from 2021

California’s State Water Resources Control Board is soliciting comments on a draft resolution titled – Condemning Racism, Xenophobia, and Racial Injustice and Strengthening Commitment to Racial Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Access, and Anti-Racism. The comment deadline is noon Monday, August 2nd. You can read all eight pages here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/docs/070721_9_drftreso.pdf  and the comment link is here: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/contact_us.html

Email: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

The Resolution Content

Resolutions are generally divided into two parts. The first part is comprised of a list of Whereas and used to set the causation for the Therefore Be It Resolved portion. Much of this proposed resolution is directed at internal employment policies within the State Board.  However, there are other statements within the proposed resolution that raise concerns about their impact on existing water rights.

On page five of the resolution the Whereas states California’s water rights system has been built on racism perpetuated by White Supremacy. The Therefore, Be It Resolved section directs staff to draw up a proposal by January 2022 to establish an Office of Equity and an Action Plan to implement racial equity.            The resolution also addresses the need for the State Board’s workforce to be diversified. The racial make up of State Board employees and management doesn’t mirror the racial makeup of California with a higher percentage of white employees than the majority population of the state.

Words Have Meanings

Have you heard the phrase, “That may be true for you but not for me”? Here’s an example of that thought coming to fruition. One of the reasons parts of our society have adopted the terms social-justice, racial-justice, environmental-justice, economic-justice is the impreciseness, the ambiguity of the compound word. Like pregnancy something is either just or it is unjust. When a prefix is added it turns justice into a special interest. For instance labeling a cause social justice implies any disagreement with the goals of the cause is unjust whether or not the cause is actually just. Justice in social, racial or environmental matters is a desirable goal and outcome and many of the groups that have adopted a justice prefix have good intentions, but not all of them. As you’ll see in the public comments some use the word social but mean socialism, an economic system antithetical to freedom afforded by private property.

Throughout this piece the word equity or its variants have been italicized so it won’t escape notice. It’s important to understand the word equity doesn’t mean equal. This is a phrase from the Critical Race Theory worldview. While “equality” means everyone starts with the same opportunities,  “equity”, in this context, means everyone ends with the same results. If CRT sounds a lot like communism – compare it to Karl Marx, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” CRT was developed at the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung), an attached institute at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The Institute was founded in 1923 and moved to Columbia University when the Nazis took power.

Making a Resolution

This resolution has been brewing for years. According to the resolution in September 2012 Water Code section 106.3 made California the first state to legislatively recognize the human right to water. In 2016 the State Board passed Resolution No. 2016-0010, “the Human Right to Water as a Core Value and Directing Its Implementation in Water Board Programs and Activities. In March of 2017 the State Board adopted Resolution No. 2017-0012, “Comprehensive Response to Climate Change.”

The Whereas paragraph number 15 states, “Since 2018, the Water Boards have been participating in GARE, an international network of governmental organizations working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. The GARE network utilizes a racial equity model of change described as iterative stages of normalizing, organizing and operationalizing.”

The resolution also states the Water Boards’ staff have been, “actively engaged in CalEPA’s racial equity team,” and states approximately 40 staff members have been implementing the agency’s “Plan to Achieve Racial Equity.” In April and May of 2020 CalEPA and GARE surveyed the staff of all the state government entities underneath CalEPA to establish a baseline for efforts to advance racial equity.

The State Board website has an entire section devoted to Racial Equity. There’s even a quote by Executive Director Eileen Sobeck from August of 2020, “There could not be a more critical challenge facing us at this time than the challenge of achieving racial equity. This moment requires us to respond and implement recommended changes to ensure Water Boards policies and programs are equitable and just. We look forward to involving the State and Regional Boards, Water Board staff, stakeholders and community members in this effort going forward.”

With drought, fire and pandemic on the table Sobeck states the most critical challenge facing the State Water Resources Control Board is racial equity. The State Board’s mission statement is, “To preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California’s water resources and drinking water for the protection of the environment, public health, and all beneficial uses, and to ensure proper water resource allocation and efficient use, for the benefit of present and future generations.”

Despite repeated attempts over the past week to make contact with the State Water Resources Control Board for comment we have received no reply. The public comment period for this resolution ends at noon on August 2nd.

Email: commentletters@waterboards.ca.gov

Subject line:  ”Comment Letter: Racial Equity”

Mail: Jeanine Townsend, Clerk to the Board

State Water Resources Control Board

P.O. Box 100, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

Further Background

Below are some more excerpts from the resolution, statements made during the State Board’s public hearing, further definition of terms and a comment from the water community.

Whereas clause number 22 cites Black Lives Matter as inspiration for this resolution. BLM was founded by three women Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Cullors stated, “We are trained Marxists.” A question comes to mind – why is a state agency headed by five unelected directors delving into an organization founded on communism for inspiration?

This resolution wants to reframe history through CRT and is using twists of language to do so. Another Marx quote, “Keep people from their history and they are easily controlled.” A term used to describe non-white people is BIPOC. It means Black, Indigenous, People Of Color. The resolution continually refers to Indigenous people. It never defines indigenous so here’s a definition from the Cambridge Dictionary, “Naturally existing in a place or country rather than arriving from another place.” That makes anyone born in California indigenous Californians regardless of their racial background.

Here are some excerpts from the resolution:

Page five, Whereas number 22 – “. . . the national and worldwide backlash against racism toward Black people and related Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 accelerated and informed the Water Board’s decision to develop and initiative, resolution and subsequent action plans to address racial inequities within the Water Boards and through the Water Boards’ work.”

Still page five, Whereas number 23 – “Historically, the Water Boards’ programs were established over a structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race. These inequities persist, and prior to this resolution the Water Boards had not explicitly acknowledged the role racism has played in creating inequities in affordability and access to clean and safe water and in the allocation and protection of water resource. Toward reconciliation, the State Water Board now acknowledges:

  1. White supremacy is a systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and peoples of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. In the United States, white supremacy led to the genocide and forced relocation of Indigenous people to facilitate white resettlement and the enslavement of Black people for white economic gain. . .

Subparagraph c.

The colonization, displacement and murder of Indigenous people in the United States have contributed to the loss of watershed management practices that supported Indigenous people’s traditional ways of life. Watersheds are now largely managed in the context of the large-scale diversion of water for municipal, industrial, agricultural and commercial beneficial uses to the detriment of traditional, local uses and the Indigenous people that depend on them.

Some more excerpts: Therefore, be it resolved that: the State Water Resources Control Board:

  1. Condemns acts of racism, xenophobia, white supremacy and institutional and systemic racism; [fair enough up till then with the caveat that any racial supremacy, not just white, be condemned] adopts racial equity, diversity and inclusion as core values; and acknowledges the role of government agencies – including the Water Boards – in redressing racial inequities and dismantling institutional and systemic racism.

Therefore number three:

Commits to centering its work and decision-making on Black, Indigenous and people of color who are disproportionately represented in the most vulnerable communities and in unsheltered populations . . .

Number six: Commits to expanding implementation of the State Water Boards Climate Change Resolution to address the effects of sea-level rise and extreme hydrologic conditions, from drought to flooding, on Black, Indigenous and people of color communities.

Number seven: Directs staff to create a proposal by January 2022 to establish an Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to achieve a workplace, workforce and work outcomes that reflect racial equity.

Number 10: Directs staff to develop and implement a Racial Equity Action Plan . . .

Publicly Stated Opinion

At its August 2020 meeting the State Board directed staff to implement a racial equity initiative to draft this resolution. A racial equity team was formed by employees. Now almost a year later a draft of the resolution is out for public comment. If you want a play by play of how this resolution came to pass you can watch: State Water Resources Control Board Meeting – July 6-7, 2021 – YouTube be prepared, it’s three hours long.

The video begins with SWRCB staff giving a presentation on why the resolution is necessary. Members of the public then commented on the resolution and the board members were invited to comment. State Board Chairman Joaquin Esquival acted as moderator.

Britani Evan works for the State Board’s Division of Financial Assistance. She said four public outreach sessions were held online in late November/early December 2020. Three of the sessions were in English and one in Spanish. The number of people allowed to attend was capped at 50 per meeting. Out of a possible 200 participants only 80 people from the public attended.

Evan spoke about working with GARE and presented the case that the government and the Water Board is built on institutional, structural and systemic racism. She presented a cartoon of three black males watching a baseball game over the outfield fence. Each stood on one crate apiece. The fence came to the grown man’s waist, the fence came to the boy’s shoulders and the toddler had to watch through a hole in the fence. That was meant to represent equality. The next cartoon panel showed the man standing on the ground with the fence coming to his shoulders. The boy stood on one crate and the fence came to his shoulders. The toddler stood on two crates and the fence came to his shoulders. This was meant to represent equity.

Evans also presented a chart showing 56 percent of the State Board employees are white and 42 percent are BIPOC. No one pointed out that equals 98 percent. The chart showed the population of California comprised of 43 percent white and 63 percent BIPOC. Again, no one pointed out this equals 106 percent.

Another State Board employee, engineering geologist Rebecca Somni (sp?) spoke. She said in addition to the four public outreach session there were nine employee listening sessions in March 2021 and were attended by 357 employees. A consultant was used to facilitate these sessions but the consultant wasn’t named.

There are three goals for the resolution. The first is to acknowledge and condemn systemic racism across American institutions and history. The second goal is to institutionalize racial equity at the Water Board and the third goal is to direct staff to action.

Throughout these presentations it was stated a foundational case was made.

State Board Director Laural Firestone asked if the data used as a basis for the claims has been made available. Sobeck wasn’t sure and she asked State Board employee Stephan Cajna who said the foundational data is mostly on a long word document.

Public Comment

Most of the public opinions were from representatives of non-governmental organizations, NGOs. Not all of the introductions included a clear distinction of whether or not the speaker was representing themselves or an NGO. And the NGOs weren’t always clearly identified. Esquival thanked each speaker and inevitably promised the SWRCB would strive to do better in the future.

The first member of the public was LaDonna Williams. It wasn’t clear who she was speaking for but it sounded like Williams is from the East Bay and aligned with the social/enviro/economic justice movement. She was not pleased with the way this resolution was being handled. Williams said there was not enough inclusion from the stakeholders and that staff alone should not have the full authority to write the resolution. She said that lumping Blacks in with indigenous and people of color was wrong. She said they are a diverse group with different experiences.

Next Gracy Torres, Director on the Western Municipal Water District, Riverside said there must be support for a budget with funding for an Environmental Justice Committee included in the final resolution.

Natalie Garcia, Leadership Council for Justice & Accountability stated the Central Valley Project contracts harm the BIPOC community.

Chelsea Haines, Association of California Water Agencies said her group shares support with the State Board for racial equity as demonstrated in ACWA’s goal of more diversity in its strategic plan.

In an email ACWA Executive Director Dave Eggerton confirmed that Haines accurately represent ACWA’s position during the State Water Resources Control Board’s July 7 hearing on the Draft Racial Equity Resolution. He continued that ACWA supports the State Water Board’s focus and intent on achieving racial equity and looks forward to collaborating with the Board to realize this important goal. And added ACWA’s comments were not directed toward the specific language of the resolution.

Konrad Fisher, Director of the Climate Water Trust, Klamath Falls Oregon thanked the Board for including Black Lives Matter in this discussion. His message was instream flows are necessary for racial equity. He said he is a non-native with water rights that allow him to do things he shouldn’t do.

Marina Perez, State Board’s Office of Public Participation said government agencies have historically used race to establish structures and systems that continue to deliver desperate outcomes in matters of health, wealth and environmental conditions. She said environmental justice should be included in the State Board’s mission statement. She wants the State Board to pay for environmental justice speakers at conferences and have a well-funded Office of Equity with authority as part of the State Board.

Itzell Vasquez-Rodriguez also from the State Board’s Office of Public Participation wants promotions and opportunities at the State Board based on equity. She said the Board is losing too many BIPOC employees and should use nontraditional job classifications.

“Promotional opportunities mainly exist for staff with backgrounds in engineering, the hard sciences, geology, etc.,” said Vasquez-Rodriguez. “These skills are often very white.”

She went on to say there needs to be promotional opportunities especially for staff that works in racial equity. She further stated the resolution needs to include the harm the State Board has caused and employees must undergo mandatory equity training.

Barbara Barrigan Parrilla, Restore the Delta, Stockton said State Board funding limits equity in the Delta. She said California agriculture is made up of 85 to 90 percent white landowners and is constructed on a water rights system built on the genocide of California tribes during the reconstruction era. She asked how can farming be brought back to the tribes without water equity.*      Parrilla said to limit equity to drinking water is in itself a form of inequity and instream flows must be included in the resolution. She also wants algae blooms addressed in the resolution.

UC Santa Cruz grad student Michelina Johnson wants disadvantaged communities that are unincorporated to be recognized in the resolution and to work with county planning agencies to remove racist language.

Atley Keller, Local Government Commission an NGO from Sacramento had two requests. She wants the State Board to help tribes reclaim their lands and water. She also wants the State Board to financially compensate local NGOs.

Kaitlyn Kalua, California Coast Keepers Alliance headquartered in Sacramento asked for stronger enforcement by the State Board and higher fees to pay for it. She said the current water rights are illegitimate therefore instream flows must be increased and senior water rights voided.

Eric Orellena, Community Water Center, Visalia said he was glad to see white supremacy mentioned in the resolution. He said Latino communities go dry largely due to white farmers pumping. He wants the State Board to include the environmental justice community when developing metrics for the Office of Equity.

 Ilze Flores Castillo Wang wants the State Board to strike the word chief from any titles such as department chief as it is offensive to indigenous people. She also wants the State Board to “. . . acknowledge indigenous knowledge as equal to engineers and doctors.”

Esquival said all the Regional Boards have given their support for this resolution and many will be adopting similar resolutions. Sobeck volunteered that managers at the State Board were told employees’ work on the equity team is a priority and not secondary to their normal duties.

Williams came back on and said she was upset with the State Board for using GARE instead of the local social justice groups. She told Esquival he needs to check himself.

The Board’s Opinion

Esquival thanked the public and said he would like to see the comment period extended. As noted above it has been extended until noon August 2nd. He made his statement on the resolution and said when the current water rights system was put together, “. . . they didn’t have the benefit of the values we hold now.” He said our scientific knowledge is greater and we’re facing a climate crisis and a racial crisis. He invited the board to speak.

After a long silence Director Firestone expressed her frustration with the slow pace in addressing racial equity. She said she understands developing relationships is slow work but urged everyone to not wait for an action plan before starting to initiate racial equity.

Director Nichole Morgan said she attended lots of difficult meetings full of tears while the resolution was being prepared.

Director Doreen D’Adamo said she’s used the resolution preparation time to become more self-aware. She said the passage of the Human Right to Water and the Climate Change resolutions by the State Board have set the path to addressing racial equity. She said the State Board can start work now without a specific and quantifiable action plan in place.

Director Sean McGuire said while he still has a long ways to go this has been the “most eye-opening and humbling” experience of his life. He said he likes the idea of setting budgets and appreciates how hard the staff has worked while taking time from their busy schedules. He said he was worried about the term chief being offensive. He expressed his view that climate change has been an example of inequity.

“Reading the resolution and its connection to climate change,” said McGuire. “[Shows] how we’re really building on these inequities overtime. The last couple of years have been a testament to that. We’ve seen the catastrophic wildfires impact so many communities. And now this drought and we’re already hearing of communities having been impacted.”

In conclusion Esquival said there have been generational challenges that have built up over centuries and we have to move quick. He said, “We must build communities resilient to climate change and must erase the blatant racism we’ve inherited.”

Some Responses

            It is worth noting that during the hearing not one speaker spoke against the resolution or questioned under what authority a five member, unelected board has to interject a new framework based on Marxist philosophy into California’s water rights. Nor was it mentioned what impact this would have on private property or any industry that depends on water. There was no talk about unintended consequences, the State’s economy or examples given of specific instances of racial inequity. But most disturbing there was no one speaking for farmers, ranchers and the families who depend on agriculture.

Paul Stiglich is the General Manager of the June Lake Public Utilities District shared his written comments with WaterWrights.net. He asked for proof of the allegations put forth in the resolution. Here is a copy of Stiglich’s response:


  1. Historically, the Water Boards’ programs were established over a structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race.

Please provide me a copy of the SWRCB structural framework that perpetuated inequities based on race, that you base your allegations on.

  1. White supremacy is a systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and peoples of color by white people for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.

Please provide me a copy of the systemically and institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of nations and people of color by White people, that you base your allegations on.

  1. White supremacist ideologies have driven many governmental policies for centuries and have created persistent racial inequities and deeply entrenched systems of oppression.

Please provide me a copy of the White supremacist ideologies that have been driving governmental policies that create persistent racial inequities and entrenched systems of oppression, that you base your allegations on.

  1. The historical seizures of land from Black, Indigenous, and people of color have had, and continue to have, long-standing impacts that extend beyond the loss of the land itself

Please provide me a list of lands seized from black, indigenous, and people of color that supports this argument.

  1. California government has played a role in historically and institutionally perpetuating racial inequities that Black, Indigenous and people of color continue to face.

Please provide me documentation that proves that California government played a role in institutionally perpetuating racial inequities that black, indigenous, and people of color continue to face.

  1. On a community scale, race is strongly correlated with more severe pollution burdens. However, none of the Water Boards’ policies, programs, or plans specifically consider or address racial inequities.

Where has the SWRCB been since Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?  Has the SWRCB not been following Title VII?  If the SWRCB is remiss in the precepts of Title VII please provide me documentation where the SWRCB has failed to institute Title VII.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e and following) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin (including membership in a Native American tribe). It also prohibits employers from retaliating against an applicant or employee who asserts his or her rights under the law.

My final thought on this proposed resolution. This resolution is divisive and filled with racial detestation towards White people and the “critical race theory” that it is based on is founded on Communist Marxist revolutionary rhetoric perpetuated by such organizations as “Black Lives Matter”. This resolution has nothing to do with the SWRCB’s primary mission to manage the water resources of the State. This is a dangerous narrative that divides rather than unites the peoples of the State of California and I urge the Board,…. To vote no on this resolution!

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

*Irrigated farming was introduced to California by the Spanish under the mission system often without the consent of the native workforce.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2021 by WaterWrights.net/DAW


Tri County Water Authority July 21, 2022


By Don A. Wright

The Tri County Water Authority held a Thursday, July 21, 2022 special meeting of its board of directors on Zoom at its Corcoran headquarters. Like many districts in the San Joaquin Valley Tri County is tied hip and jowl with a Groundwater Sustainability Agency. The deadlines for submitting retooled Groundwater Sustainability Plans are no longer over the horizon but quickly approaching. The agenda indicates Tri County will be dealing with this issue as well as setting itself up for funding.

Before we start the Tri County meeting I want to point out the Public Policy Institute of California is cranking out more reports. Go to https://www.ppic.org/ to take a gander at the just released report  Exploring the Potential for Water-Limited Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. There is also the Land Transitions & Dust in the San Joaquin Valley report and on July 26th at 11:00am there will be a webinar to discuss some of the ideas behind this look at possible transitions of land use. What I appreciate about this webinar besides it being only an hour and 15-minutes long is there are actual farmers from the Valley on the panel.

The Meeting

The Tri County meeting kicked in at 10:00am and without skipping a beat they swore in Mike Nordstrom as the newest director. Chairman Cory VanderHam had attorney Jason Howard swear Nordstrom in with the vow to defend the Constitution from enemies from within and without. Good for him. There was no public comment and the consent calendar was passed.

Action items

There were a number of resolutions before the board. Tri County does business in both Kings and Tulare Counties and each requires separate resolutions to achieve the same results. The first resolution was approving levying of 2023 assessments. This passed and required resolutions for the two counties.

Resolution 22-06 will levy a 2023 pumping fee at $10 per a/f as long as the amount pumped remains within the sustainable range. The board passed the resolution and that I believe ended the financial resolutions.


Executive Director Deanna Jackson reminded the board DWR found the GSP’s water levels, subsidence and water quality portions were lacking. Engineer Amer Hussain explained the path taken to get the GSP into compliance. At least it’s hoped it will be found as compliant.Technoflo

Hussain said the first issue was to set the minimum water level at 50 feet above the Corcoran clay layer in the confined portions of the aquifer. Subsidence is mostly a concern along the California Aqueduct. He explained protecting infrastructure will be ensured by an early warning monitoring system with actions to be triggered.

Hussain was asked about subsidence’s impact on local infrastructure and what can be done. He said that concern is being addressed. There will be some displacement, everyone knows that will happen but the glidepath to get time to adjust is in place. He was also asked about the range of the clay layer depth. It’s from 300 to 700 feet. There are a series of monitoring wells with more having been added in the GSP revision. He said he’d like to see more wells added as time goes by.

Water quality was addressed by listing all the constituents of concern and a water sampling protocol to keep up with both domestic and ag standards. There are naturally occurring problems like uranium in the Valley and those levels have been documented and will be measured. Hussain said this is the short version of 110 pages of revisions.

These revisions will be incorporated to the GSP and submitted. This wasn’t a rewrite of the entire document but the 2025 review will be much more involved. Every five years SGMA requires updates to GSPs as the data base grows. Jackson said by 2025 all the domestic wells impacted but not covered under the GSP will have a program in place to address these needs. Director Nordstrom said there is some concern that setting water in recharge basins could cause losses to evaporation. Nordstrom said one of the large growers, Sandridge Partners has expressed this. Hussain said there will be opportunities to address this matter and others. Director Carlos Wilcox said there are concerns about evaporation but the amount lost is very small. Nordstrom said the new levies in the area have been negatively impacted.

VanderHam asked what would happen if one of the GSA in the Subbasin doesn’t agree to the GSP revisions. Howard said that would start things down the path to noncompliance and brings in the draconian hand of the State Board. VanderHam said anytime the state steps in things get tough. He said this needs to be adopted but in the next revision the concern about local infrastructure needs to be a priority. He said he’d like have seen this brought forward earlier in the process instead of last minute.

With that the board adopted the resolution to turn the revised GSP into the DWR for review. Director Nordstrom was the lone no vote.

Next Hussain reported the Tule Subbasin worked on a coordination agreement update that addressed the previous three issues in the GSP revision. He said subsidence along the canal infrastructure was looked at and a monitoring system was agreed upon. The water quality was the same as that proposed by Tule but some of those constituents are not in Tri County so the list was reduced. Jackson pointed out Hussain and all the team at Geosyntec have done an excellent job. Howard said the document is empowering. He said in dealing with the other counsel flexibility was an important point of consideration. There is an aggressive timeline but there are balances in the agreement. The board accepted the updated coordination agreement unanimously.


            David Armanasco of Cal Strategies said they are in touch with High on Speed Rail regarding replacement wells and the Governor’s well moratorium. He said the man in charge of transportation for California is on vacation but they have been able to speak with an attorney at HSR. Jackson said Armanasco has been very helpful in securing grant money for Tri County. There was not an attorney’s report nor any directors’ reports. With that the meeting went into closed session at 10:54am to talk about a potential litigation and a personnel negotiation. Good be good yourself and each other.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide readers and clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights 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.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights 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 2022 by WaterWrights.net/DAW



944 Whitely Ave. Ste. E, Corcoran, CA 93212   Phone: 559/762-7240 DWR# 5-022.12

Tri-County Water Authority is a collaboration of Public Agencies, Water Suppliers, Communities, Cities, County, Environmental Groups, Government Representatives, and a variety of other interested parties. The goal is to identify and implement water management solutions on a regional scale that increase regional self-reliance, reduce conflict, and manage water to concurrently achieve social, environmental, and economic objectives.

Directors & Staff: Cory VanderHam – Chairman, Wade Magden, Carlo Wilcox & Michael Nordstrom. Deanna Jackson – Executive Director, Amer Hussain – consulting engineer.

Westlands Water District July 19, 2022

Supervisor of Mechanical Maintenance - Westlands Water District

ConterraBy Don A. Wright

The Westlands Water District held its board of directors meeting Tuesday, July 19, 2022 at its Fresno headquarters. The district is planning a move to new digs in the coming year and it will be a welcomed event for anyone more than five feet tall weighing over 100 pounds. There isn’t much room for the audience. And very few electrical outlets for computers and such. However the air conditioning works well and for the most part you can hear what is being said. And today there must have not been anything on the agenda of any excitement because the galley wasn’t packed. Once I wrote about how a meeting was packed like a slave galley and it hurt someone’s feelings. So they wrote me a nastygram so to be sure my feelings were hurt too.

What would not hurt my feelings is for you to go to https://www.ppic.org/blog/our-experts-weigh-in-on-the-drought/ and read. This is the Public Policy Institute of California’s latest opine on the current water supply. I’m learning PPIC is not your average whiny NGO and whether or not you agree with them they are not flame throwers ranting against agriculture.

The Meeting

Things got off with a bang when Chairman Ryan Ferguson called things to order at 1:00pm, the scheduled time. There were no corrections or changes to the agenda and the consent calendar was approved.

Then things sort of slowed down a bit as someone phoned in a report about Westlands’ pension situation – which I heard was well funded unlike many if not most government pensions in California. There was talk that included terms like irrevocable trust liquidity, re-amortizing payment frequency and CERT programs. All this ties into CalPERS somehow and under normal circumstances that’d make me nervous. But if I understood, and that’s a bit of a stretch, it looks like Westlands is in pretty good shape. Now that doesn’t really surprise me because although the government plays with accounting principles unrivaled since Year One Vendémiaire – when farmers are involved the books tend to pencil out along the lines of reality. Pension plans are serious business and the board and management at WWD are paying close attention. Today’s meeting was recorded on Zoom so if you want the straight skinny you can tune it for accurate information. This was an information only item.

Action Items

Next the board heard Russ Freeman give his report on water supply saying this year’s use of surface water has been 170,000 a/f so far. This was less than anticipated. Staff is projecting about 37,000 a/f will be used this month. Groundwater use has been more than 100,000 a/f. The supplemental pool is up to $1,500 per a/f and there is only about 30,000 a/f available at this time. General Manager Tom Birmingham pointed out staff is pursuing an additional 10-15,000 a/f of supplemental water. Freeman said this could be realized by the end of this week and notice will be given to growers as soon as this happens. He believes this water can begin moving by the end of August.

Freeman also reported the Delta water quality has improved and pumping has picked up. Releases from Oroville have been helping the state payoff its COA balance and Folsom releases are helping the Central Valley Project on the federal side. There’s a 100,000 a/f at San Luis Reservoir extra. In case you haven’t heard the US Bureau of Reclamation has stopped releasing the amount of San Joaquin River water dedicated to paying its obligation to the Exchange Contractors. This is helping the Friant Division of the CVP.

Some questions to Freeman by Director Kevin Assemi showed how complicated some of the water contracts are. If you don’t use it you lose it. You got to store it for later but if you use it you lose future storage and on and on.

Legislative Consultant Shelly Cartwright reported the US Senate is most likely to pass a continuing resolution to fund things through September. The House Ag Committee is developing the 2023 Ag Bill and that committee has issued a survey for grower feedback. Cartwright said the state is on recess until August.

PIO Elizabeth Jonasson reported on outreach saying the WWD scholarship program has winners, good for them. The district will be hosting a tour of specialty crops. She reported she’d like to visit your farm to take photos.

Outside Activities

Next Director William Bourdeau said the Family Farm Alliance has reported it has made contact with the Biden administration about food security in light of the war in Ukraine.

Freeman gave an update on San Luis Delta Mendota saying SLDM supported a bill to continue the Water Infrastructure Investment Act and a PPIC presentation about increased ET upstream to the Delta.

There were no legal affairs, O&M, personnel or water policy committee information to report.


District engineer Kiti Campbell reported the Groundwater Sustainability Plan updates have been submitted by the July 20th deadline. Good for them. Throughout the Valley this GSP revision has been a heavy lift. Campbell showed the board the groundwater conditions for the first quarter of 2022/2023.

Grower Will Coit suggested a lawsuit/adjudication over the diversions of Kings River water impact on subsidence. Birmingham said while he can’t comment on any legal action he pointed out the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint is looking at ways to mitigate some these types of problems.

Grower Jon Reiter asked Campbell about recharge applications for specific areas. She said yes, one has been received. Reiter asked the district to consider some incentives.

Director Assemi asked about just across the southeast portion of the Westlands GSA where the most pumping seems to be taking place in the South Fork Kings GSA. He wanted to know if there are agreements with the  neighboring GSAs and Campbell said there are. However, there is very little metering in the area. Attorney Jon Ruben said Westlands has been trying to work cooperatively with all its neighbors. He said staff could evaluate some options.

The board was asked to seek subscriptions for a tiered pumping allocation. Campbell said this could be one of the ways the GSA can meet its goals. She put forth a few questions that could start a discussion. She listed some of the goals being sought to reduce pumping in subsidence prone areas. A number of 29,000 a/f in pumping but without additional substitute surface supplies, that might be a difficult amount to reach. She recommended requesting subscriptions to this program start this year. Director Frank Coelho said he believes this enhances the GSP and was in favor. He did say there will have to be more consideration of where the additional water can be acquired. Director Dan Errotabere asked if the program will be concentrated in any one area of the district and Campbells said there will be dependent to a great degree on where the subscription requests come from.

The board’s discussion centered on the uncertainty of future supplies but they liked it. Grower Justin Diener said he thinks the proposal is overall sound. He pointed out if a grower signs up and plans for this water but the year turns out like this there should be a different payment plan. Grower Dan Hartwig said he’s also concerned about months like this where the heat requires more water than anticipated. He wants to be able to adjust the payments. Grower Kristi Robinson said this plan is growing on her but she’s concerned about the supplemental supplies being put in jeopardy. Coit asked how the tiers are structed with incremental cost increases. I didn’t catch all the details but Tier Three is the most expensive with costs at $1,000 per a/f. The board approved.


Director Stan Nunn reported there needs to be a budget augmentation for the new headquarters at the old Provost & Pritchard offices at 286 West Cromwell, Fresno California 93711. This money is going to new carpet and other needed improvements for $495,000. The board approved.

CFO Bobbie Ormonde reported to fund the position for a new Westlands Director of Science will require a budget transfer. She said this is a transfer of funds not a new expense. The salary ranges from about $8,000 to $14,000 per month. This position hasn’t been filled yet. Coelho asked if it would be possible to partner with another entity to save costs. Ruben said in his opinion Westlands and its staff believe the value for an in-house science consultant is great. Birmingham said WWD staff has spoken with San Luis Delta Mendota about a cost allocation to take into account WWD will rely less on the SLDM science advisor. That’s a negotiation so not so much was said beyond that. The board approved setting up the budget transfer and pursuing a candidate.

Reverse Auction

Birmingham said a reverse auction could be a way for the district to acquire land. He said the acquired land wouldn’t get any allocation and increase the water allocation for the rest of the land in the district. I haven’t heard of a reversed auction but it sounded like instead of putting land up for auction the district will entertain offers of land sales based on low offers, like a low bid. There are pages of material fleshing out the details. All land in the district is eligible but there will be a priority for land in subsidence prone areas. Coit asked this program not impact any nearby land values. Diener said he is in favor of this.

My man Bourdeau asked for more detail about reverse auctions. Good for him. Birmingham explained it and it was what I thought. Very rarely have I been the only one in a room who doesn’t fully understand what’s going on. But it takes confidence to open one’s mouth and I’m glad Bourdeau did so.

Public Comment and Closed Session

Coit said under public comment he’s been told here and there he was a bad man for farming the westside and advocated fighting back. The meeting then went into closed session at 3:09pm.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights 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.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights 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 2022 by WaterWrights.net/DAW

Westlands Water District

3130 N. Fresno Street, Fresno CA 93703 Phone:559/224-1523

Board: Ryan Ferguson -President, Frank Coelho Jr. – Vice President, Jim Anderson, William Bourdeau, Kevin Assemi, Ceil Howe III, Daniel Errotabere, Stan Nunn & Jeff Fortune.

Staff: Tom Birmingham-General Manager, Jon Rubin-Attorney, Jose Gutierrez-COO, Russ Freeman-Deputy GM Resources, Elizabeth Jonasson-Public Information Officer, Shelly Cartwright-Associate GM Water Policy/ Public Affairs Representative, Kitty Campbell-Supervisor of Resources, Bobbie Ormonde-VP of Finance & Administrative Affairs

About:  Without irrigation, farming in the Westlands area of California would be limited and ineffectual. The history of Westlands is one of continual adaptation, careful water stewardship and advanced technology. By maintaining a fierce commitment to sustainability, the Westlands’ comprehensive water supply system continues to adapt, educate, and surpass conservation goals. Throughout its history, Westlands Water District has demonstrated a lasting dedication to water conservation and recognized that the long-term survival of its farms depends on the effective management of California’s precious water resources. From www.wwd.ca.gov



Friant Water Authority July 18, 2022


By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Executive Committee on Monday, July 18, 2022 at its Lindsay Headquarters. Closed session began at 8:30am. At 10:00am Chairman Cliff Loeffler took up the open session. This meeting was in person, by telephone and on MS Teams. I believe thousands of years from now when the historians dig through the rubble of our age there will not be anything to find that says, “Micro Soft Teams, what a great idea!”

Why is Friant shackled to MS Teams? That’s a question that keeps me up at night. Like them or not the Friant Water Authority does things in a state that doesn’t. They’ve been able to get hundreds of millions of dollars together to fix a vital water artery almost unknown by the people of California. And for the majority of those who do know of it, its role is misunderstood.Conterra

So why would otherwise cogent, resourceful and mostly good looking folks choose MS Teams? It was explained to me the federal government chose MS Teams at the start of the worldwide cooties and Friant thought, well sir, we deal with them a lot so perhaps its best to be on the same platform. Now the investment has been made and they’re dealing with. And, least anyone draw a different conclusion, I’m happy to not spend gas money any more than I have to. So, to be clear I’m grateful Friant is offering online availability.

Water Operations

            Ian Macleod gave his report on water operations. He said North of Delta operations have been struggling but for Folsom Reservoir on the fed side and Oroville on the state side. Those reservoirs were in the right place to benefit from a storm. However, Shasta and Trinity is still looking not so good. Neither Macleod nor the US Bureau of Reclamation have a “not so good” category, yet that may not be a bad description, so perhaps they should.

There is good news. As of this past weekend the total diversion of 210,000 a/f of San Joaquin River water going from Friant to the Mendota Pool so the Bureau can meet its Exchange Contractor obligations has ended. This past spring the estimation was double that amount but the situation in the Delta has allowed more pumping from the federal Central Valley Project Jones pumping plant. The State Water Project’s Cooperative Operating Agreement obligation to San Luis Reservoir is being adjusted in the right direction and that is helping supplies.

I believe Macleod said there will be 31,000 a/f of unreleased restoration flows available on the Friant system if I understood. I don’t know what that water will cost but at just about any price it should go fast. One of the questions awaiting answers currently is whether or not to keep the San Joaquin River wet between Friant Dam and the Mendota Pool. There are no migrating salmon this time of year and it could be prudent to save some of the water for the fall. I was able to get on the MS Teams in the midst of this report but I believe I heard it said there will be Yuba water heading south.

San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority

Friant CFO Wilson Orvis said the SLDM meeting discussed general membership and leg ops allocations adjustments which doesn’t directly impact Friant. The San Luis Transmission Line project is having some financial hiccups. The Bureau isn’t signing on but there is the possibility SLDM could team up with a private partner solar contractor and self-finance. Wilson said there is also a chance for Western Area Power Administration financing and he thinks that’s preferable. The new SLDM finance director Ray Tarka is now on the job. Madera ID Director Jim Erikson has been attending SLDM and the Resource Management Coalition meetings. The RMC is a group of parties impacted by the San Joaquin River Restoration and also meets in Los Banos. A good deal of the money Friant spends goes to SLDM because of the exchange of San Joaquin River water for Delta water.

CEO Report

             Jason Phillips reported he attended Porterville and Ivanhoe IDs home board meetings and it made him thankful he is where he is. He said Friant is sharpening the pencil on the Friant Kern Canal repair project. There are still concerns about getting all the money together in one place. There’s still a $100 million out there waiting to be deposited in the FWA bank account so it can pay it on.* Phillips said there is state money promised and this will be very helpful but it doesn’t always show up in a timely manner. State Senator Melisa Hurtado deserves a great deal of credit for putting this financing together. Good for here. The Groundwater Sustainability Agencies along the worst part of the canal’s subsidence impacted area did not pass a 218 Election. That doesn’t mean the money won’t show up but it will be on installment. Orvis said there are enough funds to make it through June of 2023. Director Edwin Camp rhetorically asked, “How much is the state’s budget surplus?” I’d like to add depending on how you do the math, moving the end terminals of High on Speed Rail five-miles closer would fund all the repairs on the FKC, the Delta Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct.

Phillips said there are some Bureau folks including Richard Welsh, Chief Deputy Director coming to tour the FKC. Phillips asked Macleod if there is any update on the water quality issues. Macleod said the member reaction has been overall very good. He said there has been some South Valley hesitancy but FWA is ready to give the home boards in-person briefings. There have been a couple of South Valley Cross Canal districts who don’t want to participate. There will be a meeting about this matter next week in Visalia after the regular Friant meeting. Phillips noted attorney Alex Peltzer has been supportive. Peltzer has been involved in water law and changes in Friant’s organization over the years so his endorsement is a step in the right direction to building unity.

And just like that, before you even knew what hit you, the meeting was adjourned at 10:39am. Go be good to each other.

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

*I know the feeling but at smaller amounts.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2022 by WaterWrights.net/DAW


854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: information@friantwater.org www.friantwater.org

The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 17 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 from the Friant Division.

Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, CFO Wilson Orvis, Government Affairs & Communication Alexandra Biering, Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell, Chief of External Affairs/COO Johnny Amaral and Attorney Don Davis.

San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority July 14, 2022


By Don A. Wright

The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, July 14, 2022 at its Los Banos headquarters and online with Zoom. Good for them. By the way while waiting for the meeting to start the SLDMWA logo was on the screen. That’s a good looking piece of artwork. Sort of a Ben Shahn Depression era, if I’ve got the correct artist.

The Meeting

Vice-Chair William Bourdeau was running the meeting, no word on where Chairman Cannon Michael is today but we hope he’s healthy and happy. Under public comment Director John Varela said Banta Carbona’s Jim Macleod passed away. Macleod was great for quotes. He spoke his mind and said things others only thought; and he said them plainly with passion. He had courage and will be missed.

Action Items

Next attorney Rebecca Akroyd spoke about the rate of Covid cooties going up again and asked the board to consider whether or not to meet remotely. Westlands’ Tom Birmingham said if we are in a state of emergency, meetings should be held remotely. But he feels the benefits of meeting in person are more efficient and effective. There was no action taken.

Scott Petersen spoke about HR 127 and recommended SLDM support the legislation with an amendment. This is a funding bill and ties into Water Infrastructure Financing Act and will be a good tool to help pay for infrastructure. The board agreed with one director abstaining for some reason and I learned Michael is participating remotely, so he’s OK.

Water Report

Executive Officer Federico Barajas asked Michael Jackson from the Fresno US Bureau of Reclamation offices to speak. Jackson said pumping at the federal Jones Plant in the Delta was increased this past Sunday from two to three units. He said the plan is on target with good water quality as the high tide has receded. Folsom releases are holding steady and that helps with South of Delta exports for Exchange Contractors and Health & Safety. That allowed a cutback of downstream releases from Friant Dam to the Mendota Pool. Downstream releases are limited to restoration flows and Friant Division allocations should be going up. He said next week or the week after Friant should be getting an increase. Jackson said this will be incrementally raised to ensure things in the Delta are moving in the right direction. The Restoration program wants to keep a cold water pool in Millerton Lake for October releases. Anthea Hanson of Del Puerto Water District asked how much Friant may get and Jackson said 30 percent.


Petersen said SLDM has long worked with and supported the Public Policy Institute of California. He said PPIC has been tracking where water goes in the Delta. He introduced Ellen Hanak and Greg Gartrell of PPIC. Hanak is a familiar face in the Valley and always has something cogent and informative to share. She’s started trends, so keep that in mind.  I used to think PPIC was just another NGO making a living from complaining. It is not. If I’d have read the agenda closer and known she was going to be giving a live presentation I’ve got up early, transferred a good share of my bank account into my gas tank and attend the meeting in person – providing the public can do so.

Hanak said this information is posted online at the PPIC website. Hanak said the study looked at sources, uses and outflow. Under sources runoff, reservoir releases in Delta precipitation and all other inflow. The usage was calculated on an annual basis, for upstream depletions, in Delta uses – farms, cities and enviro – DWR and CVP exports and ecosystem outflow. And uncaptured outflow is included. She said even without environmental usage there is still a need to prevent salinity intrusion.

Hanak said droughts are a part of life in California but they are hotter and dryer than in the past. There is an increase in evaporation stressing plants. She said this isn’t a climate prediction but multiple wet years are less frequent since 2000. There is less water reaching the Delta and much of the water that does is used to keep salinity from intruding. More water is used to protect ecosystems but species declines haven’t stopped. Exports have decreased and there is more reliance on emergency orders. The year 2021 and related upstream depletions was represented on a graph that made no sense to me at first glance. Chris White of the Exchange Contractors understood it immediately and asked some pertinent questions. Gartrell gave some pertinent answers. There was 10 times as much outflow in 2017 than in 2021. Hanak said for 2021, the reservoir releases went to salinity, ecosystem purposes, and exports. (100 percent of the runoff went to upstream and in-Delta uses, so the water stored in reservoirs had to meet all the regulatory needs for salinity and ecosystems and exports.)

Hanak said there is room for improvement in tracking diversions and return flows. There is also a need to manage for “hot droughts” with more realistic spring forecasts. The old modeling isn’t working as well. A better streamlining of the curtailment process would help. She said they could even help protect senior water rights. Birmingham said there is an anomaly in 2021 transfer loss and he believe it was lower due to in Delta curtailment. He said due to temperature control the transfers came later in the year and that helped limit losses. Hanak said to make note, Birmingham agreed with her.

Birmingham asked if PPIC will endorse SB 88 and enforce more metering and Hanak said enforcement needs improvement. She said there are challenges meeting SWP and CVP contracts. There is a need to revisit these senior contracts because they are not being met. A better salinity barrier in the Delta could be very helpful. White said Exchange Contractor contracts don’t impact inflow.

Hanak said the current regulatory system needs to be retooled to follow changing hydrology instead of water year type. The regs need to be simplified and she pointed out the WINN Act did provide more flexibility for water users but what’s needed is more flexibility for both water users and ecosystems.

Infrastructure is needed. Storing more water in wet years is needed and PPIC is for it. Both surface and recharge storage will benefit both water users and ecosystems. (Interesting that the presentation doesn’t list ecosystems as water users.)

There was a discussion about how headwaters impact the system. Hanak said there are ways to try to positively impact water. Run of river releases are not the best management criteria. Director Gary Kremen asked which storage projects are beneficial. Hanak said the Yuba River has managed storage and groundwater in a manner that has benefited both farms and fish. The Prop One investments are being looked at. There could be a scenario with an entire reservoir managed for the ecosystem and extra supplies could be sold.

It was asked what that would look like. Gartrell said there are times in the year when current operational management limits exports. There is an average of 400,000 a/f going out to sea because there is no place to move it when it’s available. I believe that is an average for wet years. This sounds like a job for the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint and Hanak said so. She said working on the Blueprint and the Collaborative Action Plan is a good direction. Petersen pointed that out also. Gartrell said taking advantage of these flows would barely impact overall outflow.

Someone asked if this report has been vetted with the state and Hanak said some of that has been going on. She said there is a six page executive report for laymen that isn’t very “wonky” and the longer report for those who want to wade in a little deeper. Hanak said there is a lot of interest in developing recharge basins but on field recharge is also a very cost effective way to get water underground. Gartrell said regulating away from water year type to actual conditions in real time management may well yield the best results. I asked him about something I’ve heard for years. If there were no dams like some of the enviros want, would saltwater reach Sacramento and Stockton? He said the furthest intrusion of saltwater on record, including paleo records was in 1920 when a massive amount of rice land was added in the Sacramento Valley. If I understood correctly it sounded like the perfect lack of storm. Very dry and a sudden diversion onto rice paddies.

It sounded like everyone was very appreciative of the report and the presentation. It was good to hear there are solutions out there that don’t include the abolishment of agriculture in California. Go here to see the report – https://www.ppic.org/publication/policy-brief-tracking-where-water-goes-in-a-changing-sacramento-san-joaquin-delta/

Legislation & Regulation

Petersen reported on law making. He said taking a look at the Delta Biological Re-consultation is making some headway. He pointed out the good work Westlands attorney Jon Ruben had done in the long term operational planning for the Delta.

Dennis Cardoza gave his report saying the ACWA Washington DC fly in was lightly attended. California Senator Alex Padilla was the keynote speaker. Padilla said he’ll become more active in water than he has been. Cardoza said the Supreme Court recently ruled the EPA overreached its authority in greenhouse gas. The appropriation debate is ongoing at this time. There is a amendment that could make things tougher on the Delta tunnels.

Bill Ball spoke saying there were 70 something amendments impacting water. There are no markups on the Senate side and the House will have more influences. Petersen said there is a chance there will be some markups in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources.

Petersen introduced Kristen Olsen for California matters. Olsen said the main budget and most of the trailer bills were passed in Sacramento. However, the water bills for $3 billion for drought relief won’t take place until August when the recess is over. She said the $100 million for canal repair is secure. Senator Melissa Hurtado is asking to have this increased to $300 million since there is such a big budget surplus. Good for her.

Petersen said there is a State Board workshop on Critical Race Theory’s Racial Equity Action Plan on July 20th. The State Board passed a resolution endorsing CRT that included an Equity Action plan. This includes making all employment and water rights decisions through the lens of racial equity. Not equality. This is absolutely a Marxist paradigm and has no place in the United States. It is the epitome of Woke racism. You are urged to be educated on this matter and to fight it. It would be good to see some serious pushback, but so far any opposition has been tepid. I suspect due to apathy, confusion and some cowardness.

Ex Director Report

Barajas asked Frances Mizuno to speak to the board about the San Luis Transmission project. She said Golden State Energy (I think that’s the private partner) is still motivated to complete this project as it is needed for their solar project. Barajas thanked Mizuno and said SLDM will keep an eye on the USBR not being willing to enter into an MOU.

Chuck Gardner, Hallmark Group reported on the B.F. Sisk Dam project. He said he’s looking at an August deadline to arrive at an investment agreement and come out with a complete draft of the operations plan development and cost share agreements. By the end of the year he sees that being wrapped up. At that point a timeline for additional funds will be forecasted by the end of the year. COO Pablo Arroyave said not all of the SLDM members will be participant partners.

Barajas said there was a successful public meeting at Los Banos for the proposed SLDM, Ex Con and museum facility. He also said there will be a workshop and tour of the Yuba water area coming up.

Water Report

            Tom Bordman reported Shasta Reservoir is trending a little above the1.4 million a/f carryover according to the Bureau. He said the Settlement Contractors aren’t getting the full allocation. On the good side Folsom’s storage is doing well and as Jackson said earlier in the meeting Delta pumping should be solid although smaller. San Luis Reservoir is drawing down but federal storage should be at 100,000 a/f at the end of the summer.

Outside Reports

            Mike Wade reported the California Farm Water Coalition is gaining traction from the Wall Street Journal advertising. Working with the Family Farm Alliance the warning about food security and water supplies is receiving website hits. He expects to soon complete an informational paper about the Delta Mendota Canal.

Petersen reported the Blueprint board met and adopted a mission statement. He also said a draft term sheet has been developed for the CAP that will be circulated.

With that the meeting went into closed session at 11:33pm for more than 15 items. Go be good to each other.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights 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.  Waterwrights’ 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 2022 by WaterWrights.net/DAW

SAN LUIS & DELTA-MENDOTA WATER AUTHORITY was established in January of 1992 and consists of approximately 2,100,000 acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors within the western San Joaquin Valley, San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The governing body of the Authority consists of a 19-member Board of Directors classified into five divisions with directors selected from within each division. The main conveyance is the Delta-Mendota Canal that delivers approximately 3,000,000-acre feet of water within the Authority service area. Of this amount, 2,500,000-acre feet are delivered to highly productive agricultural lands, 150,000 to 200,000-acre feet for municipal and industrial uses, and between 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet are delivered to wildlife refuges for habitat enhancement and restoration.

Board – Chairman: Cannon Michael,

Staff – Executive Director: Federico Barajas, COO: Pablo Arroyave, Attorney: Becca Ackroyd, Director of Water Policy: J. Scott Pedersen

Email: youtellus@sldmwa.org 209/826-9696
P.O. Box 2157 Los Banos, CA. 93635


Semitropic Water Storage District July 13, 2022


ConterraBy Don A. Wright

The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, July 13, 2022 meeting at its Wasco headquarters for staff, consultants and board members. Everyone else got to enjoy the meeting online with GoTo, Zoom’s cheaper cousin. The meeting was scheduled to start at 12:30pm and General Manager Jason Gianquinto told the board there wasn’t a quorum yet but enough folks showed up in person and online to make it a go.

The Meeting

Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order at 12:31pm and we all saluted the flag together. He asked the consultants to introduce themselves and there was no public comment.

Attorney Steve Torigiani explained about the online meeting permission required by executive order. The board was fine with this and the agenda was approved, as were the minutes. The May and June treasurer’s report was approved. Controller Bobby Salinas gave his financial reports saying things were OK for now and the board agreed. There was then a long moment of silence as the board reviewed the accounts payable. Farmers, what are you going to do?

District Engineer Isla Medina reported the sale of the district’s well drilling rig and related material. Best Drilling & Pump of Southern California came in with the high bid, I think $750,000. Medina said the rig cost more than $1 million new and drilled more than 60-wells. Those wells were worth more than $6 million so they got their money’s worth. The board approve the sale. Director Jon Reiter asked if other districts had the opportunity to submit bids. The answer was yes.

Next Medina reported DWR has millions of dollars more in Prop One grant money. She said GEI Engineering would like to prepare the grant application under Task Order. I didn’t catch the amount. Medina also told the board GEI wants $50,000 to deal with High on Speed Rail. That money will be reimbursed to the district by HSR.

Gianquinto reported Mid Valley Farms has submitted a letter to request the ability to move their water supply more evenly through the district. The company lost acreage to HSR and the board agreed. The turnouts, canals and operations won’t be disturbed.

Consultant Reports

            Rick Amme with W.M. Lyles said his report will be short. Lyles is running a water treatment system and he explained the change in how chemicals can be used differently to keep corrosion at a minimum. He also reported they had to accept a large shipment of 27” pipe. It came early but they had to take it when they could before the supply chain messed things up. And he did keep his report short. Good for him.

Larry Rodriguez, GEI told the board there is a written report. I couldn’t hear him very well but he did make a report on many topics.

The consultant reports were interrupted due to a scheduled hearing on an important topic. This is the first time I’ve covered this type of change.

Election Hearing

At 1:00pm a public hearing was held to determine if the district should consider an alternative election roll. Torigiani explained the April 23rd meeting was when an engineer’s report said an alternative roll based on water delivered was a valid option. This report was on file at the SWSD office for public review. Torigiani asked to enter this report and public notice from The Bakersfield Californian newspaper as exhibits to the hearing.

Gianquinto told the board the one vote per $100 of water purchases has been the standard. Over the years conditions have changed and now the more than 4,000 parcels within the district would be the guide to determine who is eligible to vote. The proposal is one vote per $1 of water benefit services per acre. If I understood correctly.

There was no public testimony. No one spoke up about changing how votes are counted. Torigiani said that makes it time for the board to vote. If the resolution passes the matter will be sent to the Kern County Board of Supervisors to give its stamp of approval. The board was unanimous in supporting the new voting rolls. That ended that hearing at 1:10pm.


Waterhouse said the meeting will go to a Semitropic Groundwater Sustainability Agency report. Rodriguez reported the Groundwater Sustainability Plan rewrite is almost ready. Gianquinto said the last meeting was when the GSP was dissected and each portion was gone through. He said DWR had some comments the GSA used as a guide to rewrite. He gave an overview on the changes saying clearer definitions on management areas, exceedance and other matters that needed not only a common measurement but a common action trigger. Existing maps and tables where in good shape to use for further planning of actions to show where the management areas are located. Subsidence has not been a problem for Semitropic but DWR wanted more info in the GSP section on subsidence. This tied in with how to manage subsidence on a basin-wide manner. The targets there are protecting the Friant Kern Canal and the California Aqueduct in the Kern Subbasin. When meeting with DWR the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA, which Semitropic is a member of, said the issue of petroleum extraction makes things unique in the subbasin. Semitropic’s rewritten portion will be turned into the KGA at the end of the week.

Waterhouse said DWR has said it will respond to the rewrites within six-months. He said while he believes DWR will be diligent and thorough he’s not sure they can meet that deadline. He said many of these GSPs are twice as long as they were before. Consistently throughout SGMA’s development DWR has been praised as being helpful and understanding the scope of the task.

The question was asked – will implementation of projects be stalled until the review is completed? Gianquinto said they can’t wait; they must get started as soon as possible. Waterhouse said the Cuyama Subbasin has gone into adjudication but DWR told them to run the plan.

Reiter wondered if a survey of what growers are going to plant next year would be helpful. Gianquinto said this is pretty much covered in current crop reports.

If I understood correctly Gianquinto said this review is more than answering the question, did you check all the boxes to be in legal compliance? It is a look at how the subbasin will manage under different conditions and a way to true up all the measurements – making sure everyone is using feet and inches and not some using metric, you might say. The drop dead-deadline to turn in the GSP is July 27th for the Kern Subbasin.

More Consultants

Dean Florez said there is one bad bill left in Sacramento. He said agriculture got double crossed on AB 2201. This is the bill by Assemblyman Steve Bennett that requires GSAs to review well permits before a county can issue them. The appropriation committee is the next step and Florez said that bill should have been killed long ago. He said Governor Gavin Newsom has been visiting Washington DC to make ads against Florida and accept awards from fellow party (hee haw) members for what good job he’s doing.

One of the directors said the way the state’s budget surplus was accounted is way over reality. He said $17 billion of the stated $90 billion is actually borrowed money that will be paid back by the state’s business owners. He called it horse manure. We see so much – I’ll be nice – fibbing from our elected officials and media. It’s corroding our society. As Florez said they could have paid off so many debts with the surplus.

Reiter said Newsom is likely to get reelected governor in November. He wants to run for president in 2024 as the governor of a red and blue state. He said this is an opportunity for ag and Semitropic to hold his feet to the fire and extract as many concessions as possible. One of the directors said rather loudly Newsom has done nothing but harm ag.

Gianquinto said now that the GSP is starting to wrap up they can refocus on politics and legislation.

Greg Allen of Redtrac gave his report saying the supply chain has had an impact but they have been able to stay on schedule and he thanked Semitropic for its business. He was asked how long the batteries will last on the Redtrac sensors and Allen said usually two-years. Redtrac has redone some of the initial installation and there should be less condensation so the battery life should dramatically improve.

GM Report

Gianquinto said Semitropic isn’t eligible for health and safety water. Reiter asked since this is the case can there be a redo on the allocation costs. Gianquinto said there is indication the State Water Project could have made a feasible nine to 10 percent allocation. The ag contractors are aware they are paying for M&I, municipal and industrial water. The health and safety water goes to M&I. Gianquinto said there isn’t much transparency of who is getting the H&S water and whether or not those entities are conserving or not. He said the Monterey Agreement now has everyone paying the same price. Reiter said the costs to ag have more than doubled in this situation.

Gianquinto said he expects a decision from the State Board on the Kern River allocation before the Kings River allocation. He said the conundrum created by the Gov’s executive order on well drilling has been semi-dealt with. The KGA and Kern County have worked out an agreement for the permitting process. Gianquinto said the current cost of spot market water is at least $2,000 per a/f.

Medina said Semitropic is continuing to work with HSR and receiving pressure to finish its review of plans. But she, and many others on the board said they don’t believe HSR will ever run. She said staff has been ground truthing the Redtrac data and it’s doing good. The district superintendent said they have learned the amount of power yield from solar panels has a lot to do with how clean they are. I believe he said the difference is a third more yield from a clean panel.

Closed Session

The meeting went into closed session with more than a dozen items at 2:05pm. Not bad, an hour and a half. Go be good to each other.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights 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.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights 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 2022 by Waterwrights/Don A. Wright.


1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • mail@semitropic.com

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 SalinasDistrict Controller, Isela MedinaDistrict Engineer, Superintendent-John Lynch & Attorney Steve Torigiani

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