Friant Water Authority March 23, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority board of directors met at the Bello Vida Event Center in Visalia on Thursday, March 23, 2023. The meeting was called to order at 11:00am by Chairman Jim Erickson and Director Cliff Loeffler led us in prayer. During public comment a director said it is incredibly difficult to get a pump so he found one that worked off his tractor’s PTO. He said it doesn’t move as much as a standard pump but it’s better than nothing. He offered to lend it to desperate growers. Another man attending said there is a petition to direct to Tulare County Board of Supervisors to take into account farmland has value, it has homes and other structures and shouldn’t automatically be flooded.

The Meeting

The consent calendar was passed with some minor corrections to the minutes. Action Items were next and Chief Financial Officer Wilson Orvis spoke on financial matters. There was a proposed cost of living allowance increase of 3.3 percent for the second half of the year to take into consideration the impact from inflation. Lower Tule River Irrigation District Director Tom Barcellos said with the feds raising interest rates a quarter of a percent this is the right thing to take care of the employees but he hopes to be able to pay them next year. Orvis said there are budget offsets to cover this and the board approved.

Water Resources Manager Ian Buck-Macleod presented the board some further information about what could be next for the Friant Kern Canal after the subsidence fix. He said more reservoirs near the canal like Lake Woollomes in Kern County could add a good deal of flexibility. There was a recommendation to enter into a MOU with Stantec and others for more than $149k with Stantec Engineering shepherding the process. Director George Porter asked about this impact on the O&M budget. He wanted to be sure this is an activity agreement. The study would be Friant wide but participation in the projects from the study would be under an activity agreement. Porter said this is putting the cart before the horse as the current FKC repairs haven’t been fully paid for yet.Technoflo

CEO Jason Phillips said right now the federal government has a large chunk of change in the bank to help fund the next phase of refurbishing the FKC. There is a great need for reservoirs to park water as shown this very wet year. He said this may be more fiscally sound way to increase deliveries without increasing canal capacity, a far more expensive upgrade. The board approved the study.

Next Orvis went over the Operations, Maintenance and Recovery cost recovery revisions. It was a complicated accounting exercise having to do with the conveyance rate of $11 per a/f based on a 25-year rolling average. Orvis said there are significant cost increases since this methodology was agreed to years ago. For example the amount Friant pays the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority has gone up substantially. He said he had a meeting with managers recently and picked over a myriad of options. What is being presented today is the most acceptable to most of the participants. There are still some questions of including Warren Act water into the mix. Warren Act water is when non-Friant water is introduced into the FKC. It doesn’t happen every year but it happens. Friant contractors move water into water banking and the movement of that water is charged to the contractor. However, there is no charge for moving that water out of banking. Even with those issues the OM&R cost allocation policy is ready for a 60-day review process that will include all the Friant contractors and the US Bureau of Reclamation.

Loeffler said his district, Lindsay Strathmore ID would be the most significantly impacted by a change in methodology. He said his district is small but is located along a spot on the FKC that allows it to wheel water for other districts. If this policy change would be adopted as is – the financial impact on his district would be a very heavy lift. Orvis said there is an uncertain future but LSID can determine its own transfer costs to pass on to those wishing to utilize those services. Phillips said today’s vote would start the 60-day review but this will be brought back to the board. Loeffler said with the provision his district’s concerns are address he moved to start the review. The board agreed.

Next Orvis had to do the unpopular call for funds thing. He said there is a need for the general membership to kick in on a quarterly call or the bank account will be in the red. The board agreed.

General Updates & Reports

The first update report was to be the FKC capacity corrections. But there was an item e added dealing with the San Joaquin River restoration flows. Attorney/Raconteur Don Davis said the flows could mean some adjustments to the restoration flow plan, like making it last an additional 60-days. Everyone was good with that.

Phillips said the FKC repair construction report was largely written before the major rain. Janet Atkinson of Stantec reported some weather delays and road closures. She listed roads near Terra Bella. Earthwork was impacted the most by the rain but that part of the task was ahead of schedule. There was a collapse on a part of the work along Avenue 112 in Tulare County. No one was harmed.

Deer Creek got hit hard when the first series of storms passed through but that is being addressed. In general there is a lot of flooding in the Valley along rainfed streams. Most of these don’t have dams to control the flows. Even some of the snow fed rivers with dams are having to release water to make way for increased snow melt. The Central and Southern Sierra Nevada snowpack is estimated to be 200 percent or more of average.

Atkinson gave a slide show of what happened on Deer Creek. All along the course of the FKC are intersections with natural water ways. They have siphons under the canal to convey the water. The Deer Creek siphon couldn’t handle the load as Deer Creek swelled beyond its banks creating flooding and standing water in the construction area and elsewhere.

COO Johnny Amaral said the breach did not inundate the FKC but it did flood the realignment project. No one was sure how much water flowed through the construction zone as the meter was washed away. The photos looked more like chocolate milk flowing through the canals, flood zones and streams than photos of water. Amaral said the flows on Deer Creek has lessened some but the area is so saturated it’s not even safe to walk through parts of it. There was a large borrow pit next to the project and it’s full. Fortunately there is still some area of the pit that has yet to be excavated so there will still be supplies when things dry and work starts again. Friant staff is pumping water from the borrow pit and Amaral said there is some sediment being introduced into the FKC.

I don’t know what possessed me to ask but since this flooding is taking place in the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency boundaries I asked if the ETGSA is getting any recharge credits. It wasn’t received as a funny statement. It’s just a fact of life I’ve learned to live with; sometimes journalists are as welcome as former politician/used car salesmen/Jehovah Witnesses selling Amway door to door.

There are still risks of big trouble throughout the construction area. Erosion and other hazards need to be addressed as soon as possible. Amaral did say the Friant crews have been more than responsive, going above and beyond the duty to get things running along again when the weather breaks and work can resume. Superintendent Chris Hickernell deserves some time off one of these days.

Water Report

Buck-Macleod reported the current storm is just about over but there is one more atmospheric river heading California’s way. He said the northern part of the state has had twice the average snow but the Southern Sierra has three times the average snow. Shasta has seen a good deal of improvement. The four million acre feet storage has been exceeded and that means San Joaquin River flows won’t be diverted to Exchange Contractors by the Bureau. He said Shasta should fill as will Folsom by the end of May.

Buck-Macleod said the Jones Pumping plant is running full bore but for some mechanical problems. San Luis Reservoir is expected to fill by April 10th and SLR will start to spill non CVP water. There is a turbidity situation in the Delta and a steelhead condition and none of that matters with flows this big. He said Friant is getting 215 Water and100 percent allocations. Releases on the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers are going to be big.  There will be 2.2 million a/f of spills at Friant and even with this there should be a 70 percent Class II. He said take it now when its available even though there is so much water coming. The Bureau expects some Unreleased Restoration Flows until May before the uncontrolled season is over. Overall Buck-Macleod isn’t concerned about losing allocations this year. He does hope there are no higher elevation rain-on-snow events.

The San Joaquin River flows are so high Patterson ID can’t take recapture flows. Not sure how that works. There will be transfers available at the Mendota Pool for 215 and Class II CVP water if I heard correctly. Buck-Macleod said California is teetering on this being the wettest year on record.

External Affairs

Amaral introduced Mike Villines who gave the Sacramento report by telephone. Villines said flooding and budget deficits along with bonds are the big deal at the moment. Yesterday was the deadline for amending spot bills which ushers in a new round of legislative review. Reviewing water rights is the subject of bills that will give the State Board more power and allowing changes in water rights. He said this is a trend of government overreach. He said the budget is not getting any better. Be on the look out for cuts in growth and a good chance for current spending cuts. Bonds have been moving along dealing with flood water and other items of interest. He said all oil contracts will be reviewed by a government agency to interfere with private enterprise. There isn’t a process to oppose this and this could be look at what could happen with water. He said the new state legislature is more progressive and against private property.

Amaral said fiscal year 2024 federal budget negotiations have begun. He said there is a Washington DC trip planned for a Friant team to make the rounds. He said there will be a House Resources Committee hearing April 11th in Tulare. He said as more details come in this is a good opportunity for ag to speak up. Phillips is expected to testify. Amaral will be moderating a panel on storage at the Water Association of Kern County summit in Bakersfield. There will be an annual Friant Dinner next month near Visalia and he welcomed everyone and their families. And once again Amaral thanked Superintendent Chris Hickernell and the Friant crew for their hard work.

Water Blueprint

Austin Ewell gave the Water Blueprint of the San Joaquin Valley update. He said there were about 100 people at the board meeting last week in Tulare. He said there is a draft of priority responses for the Blueprint. The Hallmark Group has come on board with management assistance. The USBR and the California Water Institute has made available almost one million dollars for the Blueprint. Hallelujah. Also the Public Policy Institute of California made Ellen Hanak’s Power Point presentation available.

Phillips reported on the SLDMWA saying due to insufficient infrastructure a decade’s worth of South of Delta supplies is flowing out to sea. He said Friant does support repairs of the Delta Mendota Canal but there are some concerns about the process being way too slow. Orvis said FWA is looking closely at this situation.

CEO Report

Phillips said he will be a witness at the upcoming Congressional Hearing. He said congratulations to Westlands Water District for hiring Alison Feebo as its new GM. He’d worked with her in the past and he is looking forward to working with her.

Just before adjourning at 1:06pm Barcellos reported the pig spleen sends its apologies but you asked for it. Dissected pig spleens have had an amazing rainfall predictive record. That was that for Friant. Go be good to each other and yourselves.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide it’s 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 2023 by Don A. Wright


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

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

Board: Chair Jim Erickson, Vice Chair Rick Borges

Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, COO Johnny Amaral, CFO Wilson Orvis, Water Resources Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.


Kings River Water Association March 21, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The Kings River Water Association held its Executive Committee and Board meeting at its Fresno headquarters on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. Today could be a very interesting meeting with the rain and the stories of flooding in the Tulare Lake Basin. Let us see what the professionals have to say about things. Professional, expert – these are words that often hide a biased viewpoint but despite any and everything else the weather isn’t racist and water follows the path of least resistance regardless of how the climate changes.

The Executive Committee

The first part of the show was the executive committee meeting. Vice Chairman Ryan Jacobsen ran the meeting and started promptly at the scheduled 10:00am time. General Manager Steve Haugen called roll and I gave a brief discourse on critical race theory during public comment. There was a big announcement. Laguna Irrigation District General Manager Scott Sills informed the group Eric Osterling has joined his district as Assistant Manager. Osterling was most recently with the Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency and before that the Kings River Conservation District. So, he’s back in the Kings Subbasin.

Water Report

The water report was given by Jennifer Gonzalez and the Kings River falls in the Southern Sierra zone where snowfall is more than 200 percent of average. The Army Corps of Engineers prepares a Bulletin – 120, known as B120 showing snowpack and runoff. Haugen spoke about the record numbers this year brings. An additional one million acre feet has been added to the Kings River watershed runoff estimate since last month. That makes about four and a half million a/f for this year. He said they need everyone to take as much water as possible. There was an ASO flight on the Kings River yesterday and one on the San Joaquin River last week so these figures will all be updated accordingly.

Dennis Mills, GM Kings County Water District asked when the major runoff considerations transition from storm runoff to snow melt. Haugen said it’s not an exact time but while they are hoping for a late runoff it could peak in April.

Admin Report

Haugen said the past month has been emersed in runoff. He said Water Master Matt Meadows has been spending five hours or more per day apprising counties and other entities on conditions. Randy McFarland reported the retirement of Cristel Tufenkjian from the KRCD public relations position was just in time to miss the excitement. He said it has been a while since the KRCD and the KRWA issued a joint press release on a Sunday. He also suggested when more than one entity join together to release a press release they have a coordination plan worked out in advance.

Attorney Joe Hughes had nothing for open session today.

Legislative Report                                 

The Legislative Committee met and Haugen reported its recommendations. There is SB 638, a bond act that blames everything on climate change but ends up spending some money on flood control. I believe KRWA is in favor. SB 366 by State Senator Anna Caballero will require long-term water supply to the State Water Plan and KRWA supports. There was a trash can full of bills submitted this year and many of them are directed to strengthen State Board’s enforcement powers and weaken Water Rights all opposed. Assemblyman Steve Bennet’s bills were pretty much all opposed. Bennett seems to want to rewrite SGMA in his image. He got on my radar screen last year when he gave a bunch of brush off answers to questions about his bill (AB 2201) to add draconian permitting regulations to well drilling. More to come.

KRWA has a Fish & Wildlife Committee reported due to high flows many activities have been cancelled but there are decent fish flows at the moment.

The financial report was next and the board moved to pay the bills, approve the treasurer’s report and budget committee. There is talk of installing solar panels at the offices which is a bit ironic since there is a large hydro-energy component at Pine Flat Dam. The draft budget is more than $4 million.

There were questions about KRWA qualifying for certain rebates offered to non-profit organizations. There may be flood water revenue this year. Consolidated ID GM Phil Desatoff said PG&E isn’t getting any kinder and recommended the tenant swallow the cost of solar. The was a good one since the tenant in KRWA’s office is KRCD. KRCD General Manager Dave Merritt was present and warned Desatoff his attorney was present also. Mills suggested suspending the weather modification program this year. That’s cloud seeding. Jack Paxton Chair of the Kings River Water District said it appears to be working well. The executive committee approved recommending adopting the budget to the board.

Under other business Alta ID Chair Jerry Halford announced they have water for sale – price negotiable.

The executive committee meeting then adjourned.

The Annual Board Meeting

Next the board meeting took up at 10:55am. Haugen took roll again there was a quorum present and the minutes were approved. There was no passionate outburst from attendees during public comment.

McFarland gave his public relations report saying there has been a tsunami of press requests lately. He said it was a regular, quiet year before the storms started rolling in. He said to expect more interest for the rest of the year. He has been working on some material related to the efforts by Semitropic WSD’s efforts to get some Kings River flood flows. He’s also working on getting the Kings River Handbook updated and printed as they are almost out of copies.

Haugen said last year was the 16th driest on record and the rest of his water master report is in print. Ditto for the attorney report.

Jacobsen asked the board to approve the budget as recommended by the executive committee. This required a resolution. A resolution was offered and passed. That was that and things went into closed session for six items at 11:15am or so. Go be good to yourselves 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 2021 by

KINGS RIVER WATER ASSOCIATION – 4886 E. Jensen Avenue, Fresno, CA 93725 559/237-5567

Water Master – Steve Haugen, Attorney – Joe Hughes

Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley, March 15, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley’s board met on Wednesday, March 15th at the International Agri-Center in Tulare followed by a public meeting. Both the board and the community meetings were online with Zoom. The organization’s website states, “The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley is a coalition of San Joaquin Valley community leaders, businesses, water agencies, local governments, and agricultural representatives working together to advance common sense water solutions for our region.”

The Blueprint’s Mission Statement is, “Unifying the San Joaquin Valley’s voice to advance an accessible, reliable solution for a balanced water future for all,” and its Vision Statement is, “The Water Blueprint serves as the united voice to champion water resource policies and projects to maximize accessible, affordable, and reliable supplies for sustainable and productive farms and ranches, healthy communities, and thriving ecosystems in the San Joaquin Valley.”

How often do you hear someone say something has to be done? That’s usually following a list of the problems defined. It’s true in order to solve a problem it needs to be identified. That is often the easy part. The follow up is developing a solution. There are many solutions for all manner of perceived problems. Solutions can range from simplistic to complex and ridiculous to feasible. The next step is the heavy lift. Implementing the solution.

For example: my clothes don’t fit, I’m tired all the time, when I got out of the shower the other day a naked fat man jumped between me and the mirror. The problem defined: I’m packing too many extra pounds. The solution: eat less, exercise more. The implementation: self-discipline. Ouch.

Another example: the San Joaquin Valley continues to have its surface water supplies reduced and we’re headed for an economic train wreck as we are forced to fallow productive farmland. The problem defined: we need more water. The solution: capture excess flood flows from the Delta. The implementation: The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley.

The Board Meeting

The Blueprint has often been called a coalition of the willing. As a nonprofit the Blueprint has a structural organization. There is an executive committee, a board of directors and three additional committees: technical, advocacy and communications. This meeting went like any other board meeting – approval of minutes, agenda and financial statements. It was announced the planned Delta/San Joaquin Valley summit has been postponed due to flooding.

The big news from the board meeting was the official announcement of the Hallmark Group being hired to help guide the organization and implement the plan. Chuck Gardner is the President and will be the point person. If that name is familiar to you it should be. Gardner has a tremendous amount of experience with water in California including working intimately on the Twin Tunnels project in the Delta. Gardner spoke to the board about transitioning Hallmark into the Blueprint. They’ll be looking at regulatory and water rights issues and evaluating and prioritizing feasible projects.

The Blueprint is still a fairly young organization and has been making good progress. Bringing the experience of Gardner and the Hallmark Group to bear on achieving the desired goals is another step forward.

The Public Meeting

In my experience, and I have been going to meetings for a while, the younger the organization the easier it is to start and stop on time. I guess there’s just less accumulated baggage to haul around. The Public/Large Group meeting started right on time at the advertised 2:00pm. This was an informational meeting for the world and no votes were taken. There were three online speakers and two presentations by Blueprint committee members.

Senator Melissa Hurtado

State Senator Melissa Hurtado spoke first saying water security is global and not just a San Joaquin Valley problem. She said at least 10 countries have about a decade before becoming extremely vulnerable due to water shortages. (I’ve heard northeast China in the Peking, or Beijing as some like to call it, area is in big trouble water-wise.)

Hurtado cited the funding for the Friant Kern Canal repairs as a good start for California to begin shoring up its outdated infrastructure. She made a common sense statement that California should be its own food source and should elevate agricultural as a beneficial part of the state’s economy. She would like to see more involvement with local supporters.

Ian LeMay, Board Chairman of the Blueprint asked Hurtado about working with the State Water Resources Control Board. Hurtado said the Natural Resources Oversight Committee will be taking a close look at how the State Board conducts business and spends tax-dollars.

Mike Wade, Chair of the Blueprint’s Communication Committee said 38 percent of the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in California are imported. He wanted to know if the state can do anything to promote locally sourced food. Hurtado said this is a matter of national security and she plans to have hearings on the matter this year.

LeMay thanked Hurtado for her work to help increase water supplies and update infrastructure in the San Joaquin Valley.

Senator Anna Caballero  

State Senator Anna Caballero wasn’t able to address the gathering but had her Senior Policy Analyst Michele Canales speak online. Unfortunately the senator’s message was left vague due to some presentation difficulties. Ms. Canales wore a mask and her voice was muffled. Perhaps she explained why she was wearing a mask to make a Zoom call but I didn’t hear her do so. There were some comments on how distracting it was. And, to be sure wearing a mask on a Zoom call was off putting but not as off putting as Frank – whoever he was. There was a man’s voice in the background providing a constant running narrative for his half of a phone call that further defeated any hope of understanding what Canales was trying to say. Of course everyone thought someone on the Zoom call wasn’t muting but after going through all the participants that wasn’t the case. The extra voice was coming from Caballero’s office. I think I might have heard Caballero is introducing a bill but what its number or purpose is I don’t know. I might have heard Caballero is a supporter of the Blueprint. I hope so. All in all, not a good example of communicating.

Ellen Hanak

The last invited guest was Ellen Hanak of the Public Policy Institute of California. To my mind the Blueprint owes a certain debt to Ms. Hanak. The PPIC think tank’s study of the negative impact of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on the San Joaquin Valley’s economy was the spark that began the serious work of mitigation being done by the Blueprint. I first heard her presentation several years ago in Bakersfield when she shared the data PPIC compiled.

Hanak spoke about a recent PPIC report titled, “The Future of Ag in the San Joaquin Valley,” which didn’t paint a pretty picture. She said there is the potential of having to fallow 500,000 acres of irrigated farmland and the Valley needs to prepare for a 20-percent reduction in water supply by 2040. This will lead to 50,000 jobs lost. By 2040 possible climate changes and environmental regulations could cause a $1.5 billion loss annually to the local economy. She said surface and groundwater trading could help soften the blow and maybe only set things back $800 million per year in losses. The best bet is to increase productivity.

An online man asked what would happen if SGMA was never enacted. Hanak said that would be difficult to guess but it wouldn’t go well for the Valley to have its groundwater all pumped out.

LeMay asked how this report was received in Sacramento and Hanak replied the agencies at least now recognize the need for recharge and the Governor’s recent executive order has helped to further that.

Congressional Opinion

Congressman Jim Costa showed up in person and made a statement. He said he disagrees with Hanak and PPIC on some of the figures in the report. He said the negative economic impact could be closer to $7 billion per year. He said the state’s water system is broken and food is a national security issue.

Costa agreed the Valley needs a new plan that will increase water supplies and the Blueprint is a good vehicle to lead this effort. There is new federal money in existing and proposed legislation that could go to projects like the Friant Kern Canal and raising the dam at San Luis Reservoir. He acknowledged repurposing land, even in white areas, is a sensitive issue.

Costa ended by saying, “The Water Blueprint is essential and I will do everything I can to work with you.”

Committee and Other Reports

There was a brief introduction of Gardner and Jessica Alwan of the Hallmark Group. There is what could be called a sister group to the Blueprint effort known as the Cooperative Action Plan. CAP has been led by Tim Quinn, former head of Metropolitan Water District of Los Angeles and more recently a fellow at Stanford University. CAP is a gathering of various interests into caucuses such as: environmental, drinking water, agriculture and local governance. They gather in silos and have been finding the common ground on defining the problem and putting forth solutions.

Laura Ramos, Associate Director of Research & Education at the California Water Institute reported CAP received $995,000 from the US Bureau of Reclamation to further its efforts and of course the California Water Institute has been contributing in-kind.

Ramos reported Phase I of the CAP has been completed and a framework has been agreed upon by 70 participants from all the diverse interests. Phase II focusing on implementation of strategy has begun. Quinn has moved from the Chair of the CAP to the Steering Committee and Ann Hayden of the Environmental Defense Fund and Sarah Woolf of Water Wise are the new Co-Chairs. The goal is to bring about a unified water plan for the San Joaquin Valley with help from the Bureau, CWI and the Blueprint.

Technical Committee

Committee Chair Dr. Scott Hamilton started his report by saying words come cheap in Sacramento. This is true as the vast majority of legislators come from dense urban areas and seem dedicated to extending the power of the state. The goal is to limit access to water instead of creating solutions to provide more access. As Hamilton said meeting needs and demands is a lost strategy to much of Assembly and State Senate as well as the massive bureaucracy attached to the Governors’ office.

Hamilton pointed out a huge opportunity was lost this year from a lack of preparation by the state to implement recharge and repair and upgrading of old, antiquated facilities. He said the PPIC report is pushing an agenda of more trading but that won’t fix the fundamental problem. Trading and fallowing are not the first response to this problem. He said the Blueprint prioritizes projects. There are 10 offered and feedback is welcome. He had a chart showing the projects. This will all be passed on to Gardner to help with evaluating feasibility and an implementation plan.

Hamilton has worked on Delta matters for decades and said the Delta has become a black hole for money and sound science. The fish screens at the state and federal pumps are more than 50-years old and no longer serve the increased demands. The Blueprint is proposing an Environmentally Friendly Water Diversion. It is a way to move water from the Delta during flood flows without any harm to fish and other aquatic organisms. There is a $5 million pilot project ready to go as soon as funding is secured.

The entire Blueprint hinges on being able to take a portion of water from the short seasonal flood flows through the Delta and conveying it to the San Joaquin Valley for recharge. This happens when there are flows far above all the environmental, salinity and other regulatory requirements and will not harm any aquatic species flora or fauna.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Austin Ewell thanked everyone for their attendance and the speakers for their time. The public meeting adjourned on time at 3:30pm.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from 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 2023 by



For Immediate Release: March 20, 2023 For more information contact:
Jenny Holtermann
661-746-3300 or 661-477-8084
A full day of discussion about California’s critical water challenges
BAKERSFIELD, CA – The Water Association of Kern County will host the seventh (7th) annual Kern County Water Summit on Friday, March 24th, 2023, featuring a full day of discussion about California’s most critical water issues that impact urban, agricultural, and industrial sectors. The event is designed for all community leaders, business owners, farmers, and government officials who need to know how important water is to growth and sustainability and what challenges are faced by water managers in securing and managing water supplies for California.

Conference Schedule

6:30 am Check In & Vendor Showcase
7:30 a.m. Opening Remarks Scott Thayer President, Water Association of Kern County
Karen Goh City of Bakersfield Mayor
7:45 a.m. Federal Water and Infrastructure Update Ernest Conant Bureau of Reclamation
8:05 a.m. Kern County Outlook; how water storage & availability will impact the future
Moderator: Tom McCarthy Kern County Water Agency, Lorelei Oviatt Kern County Planning Director, Christine Zimmerman Western States Petroleum Association, Mike Ming Alliance Ag Services & Melissa Hurtado California State Senator
9:00 am Colorado River; what is coming down the river and where is it going?
Moderator: Ernest Conant Bureau of Reclamation, Peter Nelson Board Member Colorado River Board of California, Bill Hasencamp Metropolitan Water District & Alex Cardenas Imperial Irrigation District
10:00 a.m. Break/Vendor Showcase
10:25 a.m. Food Security; A 100 mile circle fighting to preserve America’s Food Independence – Moderator: Jason Giannelli Old River Farming Company, Bill Harrison Harrison Co., Jeff Aiello American Grown Producer & Justin Parnagian Fowler Packing
11:20 a.m. California Water Supply StrategyNancy Vogel, Deputy Secretary of Water, Ca Natural Resources Agency
12:00 p.m. Lunch/Vendor Showcase
12:45 p.m. To build or not to build, cost & benefit comparison of infrastructure
Moderator: Johnny Amaral Friant Water Authority, Ellen Hanak Public Policy Institute, Rob Kunde Member Sites Reservoir Project Committee, Scott Hamilton Hamilton Resource Economics & Ted Craddock Deputy Director State Water Project
2:00 p.m. Adjournment/ Drawing

The event will be from 6:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Mechanics Bank Theatre, 1001 Truxtun Ave. in Bakersfield. Press Passes are available. Ticket Sales are closed.The Water Association of Kern County is a non-profit organization, designed to educate and inform Kern County citizens about water issues and events. Members consist of local water districts, agencies and affiliated groups and individuals. More information may be found at

661-746-3330 P.O. Box 2165, Bakersfield Ca 93303

Tom Birmingham Address Family Farm Alliance, February 24, 2023


Remarks by Tom Birmingham

The following is a transcript of a speech given by Tom Birmingham, former General Manager of Westlands Water District given at the February 24, 2023, Family Farm Alliance Conference in Reno, Nevada.

Impressions After a Long Career

Thank you. It is an honor to be invited to speak to the Alliance. It is wonderful to see many familiar faces in the audience. I have previously said, and it bears repeating here, any success I may have had as Westlands Water District’s general manager was the result of work by many people, many of whom are here today.

Dan Keppen extended the invitation for me to speak at this conference in November, shortly after I announced my retirement, so I have had a long time to think about what I would like to discuss.

There are so many things: why certainty in the priority of water rights is so vitally important; the development of new water supply infrastructure; the inability or unwillingness of governments to make decisions to permit construction of water supply infrastructure; what constitutes a public benefit; the relationship between forest management and water supply; principles of federalism and the role of the federal government in managing water resources; how to manage water resources in light of climate change. Unfortunately, this is only a three-day conference, and I wasn’t’ given the entire three days to make my remarks. So in the time I have, I would like to share with you some general impressions after working on California water issues for nearly four decades.

My first observation is that in four decades, at least in California, virtually nothing has improved. In fact, regardless of your perspective, things have gotten worse. Whether you’re interested in protecting and enhancing the environment or interested is in restoring and improving water supply, conditions have deteriorated. The abundance of at-risk species has declined to the point where the extinction of some species may be inevitable and the ability of water projects to deliver water for consumptive uses is nearly gone. The reasons for these trends are numerous, but from a water policy perspective a fundamental impediment is that too few people are willing to have an honest dialogue.

A clear example is the Endangered Species Act, the implementation of which has placed significant limitations on the operations of water projects around the west. The Endangered Species Act was enacted in 1973, and in the five decades since its enactment, the law has not been modified in any significant way. Ask yourself, is there any federal statute that after 50 years couldn’t be improved, in one form or another, through amendment? The ESA certainly could. In its present form, the statute approaches conservation of species on a species-by-species basis. It vests authority to implement the law in two different federal departments, Interior and Commerce.

These attributes can lead to absurd results, that are often at odds with the law’s laudable purpose of protecting critically imperiled species from extinction.

In 2008 and 2009, the Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service issued separate biological opinions for the long-term coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project. The first was issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service for the protection of the Delta smelt, and it imposed reasonable and prudent alternatives for operations of the projects, including Delta outflow requirements. The second was issued by NMFS for the protection of anadromous species and orcas, and it also imposed reasonable and prudent alternatives for operations of the projects in the Delta and upstream reservoir operations, including maintaining a cold-water pool in Shasta Lake, a CVP reservoir, to avoid temperature mortality for winter run Chinook salmon spawning in the lower Sacramento River. A significant problem with the biological opinions was that for some water year types, they conflicted with one another.

The Bureau of Reclamation could not comply with one opinion without violating the other. More specifically, Reclamation was put to the choice of releasing water from Shasta to comply with the smelt opinion outflow requirements and violating the winter run opinion or maintaining water in storage at Shasta to comply with the winter run opinion and violating the smelt opinion. And neither opinion adequately considered the impact of reasonable and prudent alternatives on other listed species including species, like the giant garter snake, that inhabit the Sacramento Valley or species, like the Kit fox, that inhabit the San Joaquin Valley.

The issue of conflicting biological opinions issued for operations of a reclamation project is not unique to the Central Valley Project. In the Klamath Project, actions prescribed to protect the Lost River Sucker and the Shortnose Sucker potentially conflict with actions prescribed to Coho salmon, which has led to some controversy.

So, one potential amendment to the Endangered Species Act would be to vest authority for its implement in one Department, rather than two. Indeed, President Barrack Obama once suggested this in a State of the Union speech, pointing to conflicting regulations sometimes imposed by the Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service. In the last several congresses, Representative Ken Calvert has introduced legislation to accomplish this consolidation, but the legislation has gone nowhere.

Another potential amendment would be to abandon, the species-by-species approach to conservation, which sometimes results in actions taken to protect one listed species at the expense of another listed species, and replace it with a more holistic, ecosystem-based approach to conservation. During my tenure as general manager of Westlands Water District I had the opportunity to discuss this idea with high-ranking officials, including Secretaries of the Interior, and Members of Congress. The response of some is truly remarkable. Uniformly, everyone with whom I spoke thought this was a good idea, but for many it was not something they could advocate because it was not in line with the position of their environmental base. It was their view that any amendment of the ESA, even one that might make sense from the perspective of species recovery and conservation, was something that couldn’t even be discussed. It is the third rail of environmental politics.

We hear repeatedly, “we need to follow the science.” But we are all also familiar with the concept of confirmation bias, the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirming a person’s existing beliefs or theories. In the water arena it is all too common, and in some cases extreme.

I once had the opportunity to cross-examine a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who had conducted an analysis he claimed demonstrated a significantly significant relationship between rates of water pumping at the CVP and SWP southern Delta pumping plants and the success of San Joaquin River salmon escapement. This was contrary to everything that I had ever read, so I sent his analysis to an expert statistician for review. After a short time, the expert contacted me, and excitedly said, “Tom, you won’t believe what this guy did. His report shows that he did a regression analysis and it showed there was not a statistically significant relationship, so he changed the P factor. He did this repeatedly, until his analysis showed the existence of a relationship.”

On cross-examination the federal biologist acknowledged he had done multiple regression analyses using different P factors until a relationship had been demonstrated, but he was unapologetic. He said common sense compelled the conclusion; more pumping would reduce salmon escapement. I am not an expert in statistics, but it is my understanding that a P factor is a probability value; it that tells you how likely it is that your data could have occurred under the null hypothesis. I have also been told by numerous statisticians that it is more than a little intellectually dishonest to keep changing that probability value until you get the answer you are looking for.

For decades, restrictions have been imposed on operations of water projects for the putative protection of the environment or at-risk species, but when data analyses indicate that the restrictions are not having the desired effects, rather than re-examining the scientific basis of the restrictions imposed, the inevitable reaction is that the prior restrictions simply did not go far enough. If data collected over decades show that some action, say an inflow/export ration imposed in April and May, did not benefit species as hypothesized, rather than eliminating the inflow/export ratio and recovering hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water lost as a result of the inflow/export ratio, the reaction is we need to make the ratio more restrictive or the ratio may not be benefitting the intended species, but now we think it’s benefitting a different species, so we need to maintain it.

Honestly, I am not making this up. I do not believe that “we need to follow the science,” even in the context of the ESA, if that means science is going to dictate the decision. Rather, I believe science should inform policy decisions, which also consider other factors, like the socio-economic consequence of adopting the decision.

The distinction may be subtle, but it is important. There may be some scientific basis report that suggests a 60% unimpaired flow standard will protect the beneficial use of water for aquatic species, but that should not inevitably lead to the adoption of that standard. Nor in many situations, does the law require it. For instance, in the context of water quality control planning, California law mandates that when the State Water Resource Control Board is deciding what is “reasonable,” it must consider “all demands being made and to be made on the waters [to be protected] and the total values involved, beneficial and detrimental, economic and social, tangible and intangible.” To often, these other factors are given little, if any, consideration.

In addition, if science is going to inform important policy decisions, the science should be robust. This is particularly true in a world where courts give deference to analyses conducted by government scientists when there are conflicting scientific opinions. The basic scientific process involves making an observation, forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, conducting an experiment, collecting data, and finally analyzing the results. In federal court, the Daubert standard is used by trial judges to assess whether an expert witness’s scientific testimony is admissible as evidence. The fundamental question is whether the expert’s testimony is based on “scientifically valid reasoning,” and in making this determination federal judges consider various factors, including: 1) Whether the theory or technique employed by the expert is generally accepted in the scientific community; 2) Whether it has been subjected to peer review and publication; 3) Whether it can be and has been tested; and 4) Whether it has a known error rate.

There is no similar test to determine whether scientific analyses conducted by government scientists, which inform or in some situations dictate the outcome of incredibly important policy decisions and affect millions of people and billions of dollars in economic activity, are based on “scientifically valid reasoning.” Rather, policy makers and courts are expected to blindly accept the opinions expressed by agency scientists. And we have seen the consequences if they do not.

Julie MacDonald, who served in the George W. Bush administration as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife, often expressed her frustration that some draft biological opinion or draft listing decision couldn’t be justified. You see, Julie not only took the time to read the draft opinions or draft listing decisions, but she also took the time to review the literature or other material cited in those documents to support the conclusions reached. If she found that the cited literature or material did not support the proposition for which it had been cited, and she would insist that agency staff either (1) find some other scientific basis to support for their conclusions, or (2) modify their conclusion to align with the literature or material cited.

For her trouble, Julie was vilified. She was accused of being abusive to Fish & Wildlife staff and of forcing staff to modify their conclusion for political reasons. I cannot speak to the abuse accusation because I do not have any personal knowledge of her interactions with staff, but to insist that staff cite literature or other material that in fact supports their conclusions is hardly “political.” If I may paraphrase Pacific Legal Foundation’s analysis of the situation, Julie had one concept of how the ESA science process should work, and Fish and Wildlife staff had another, and when Julie pressed her view, the staff did not like it.

Similarly, former District Court Judge Oliver Wanger was admonished by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for substituting his judgment for the that of agency biologists when he ruled that the 2008 and 2009 were unlawful because they were not based on the best scientific and commercial data available and agency biologists had not adequately explained how the data on which they relied led them to the conclusions they had reached, as required by the Administrative Procedures Act.. Judge Wanger conducted a multi-day bench trial, in which he received testimony and other evidence from agency biologists. He also heard testimony and received evidence from other experts, including experts offered by the State of California, all of whom testified that the science on which the agency biologists relied did not support the conclusions they reached, the agency biologists had improperly conducted some analyses, and the agency biologists had failed to consider other scientific data available. But in the Ninth Circuit’s view, if the government scientists said “good enough,” it was good enough, and it was an abuse of discretion for a District Judge to second guess the conclusions reached by those scientists.

So what this means, at least in California, is we are faced with restriction, after restriction placed on the operations of water projects for the putative protection of at-risk species without any apparent scientific justification for those restrictions. But don’t take my word for it. In 2010, at Senator Dianne Feinstein’s urging, the National Academy of Sciences conducted a review of the scientific basis of the 2008 and 2009 biological opinions for coordinated operations of the Central Valley Project and California State Water Project. About various restrictions placed on project operations by the biological opinions, the Academy’s report is replete with statements like the following:

Although there is evidence that the position of X2 affects the distribution of smelt, the weak statistical relationship between the location of X2 and the size of smelt populations makes the justification for this action difficult to understand.

In some years, these restrictions result in water supply reductions in excess of a million acre-feet, and yet the most prominent, independent scientists in the nation, like Judge Wanger, said the justification for the actions is difficult to understand.

So, over the last three decades, we have watched as regulation after regulation has further reduced the delivery capability of the Central Valley Project, that in the early 1990s had a yield capable of meeting all project demands during a repeat of the worst drought on record, to a point where merely two years after a wet year, like 2019, the project cannot even meet its “core demands,” let alone deliver a single acre-foot of water to the nearly million acres of farmland served by water service or repayment contractors.

In the western states, hydrologic conditions demand water resources be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent of which they are capable. In California, this principle is so important that it is embedded in the State’s constitution. But today, our existing water supply infrastructure and water resources are not being efficiently managed because in the name of environmentalism, significant volumes of water are being wasted. By this, I mean millions of acre-feet of water are being managed or used for fishery protection or restoration, without any quantifiable benefit.

If I had one wish it would be for government officials and interested parties to sit down and have an honest dialogue about how water resources are being managed, what uses are being made of water, what are the social, economic, and environmental consequences of policy decisions made about the use of water, and how are we going to mitigate those consequences. But too often, when people have those discussions, they are met with vitriol and contempt.

Anthony Saracino is a perfect example. In 2015 Anthony, who was an intellectually honest man with impeccable environmental credentials, was forced to resign from the California Water Commission because he had the temerity to suggest that the Commission should evaluate whether enlarging Shasta Dam would adversely affect the free-flowing condition of the McCloud River above Shasta Lake or its wild trout fishery. As reported in E&E News, Anthony resigned “after environmental groups raised a furor over his advocacy for considering the expansion of Shasta Dam.” But Anthony didn’t advocate enlarging the Dam, he simply proposed that the Commission consider whether the Dam could be enlarged in a manner consistent with state law.

Earlier I mentioned the 2010 National Academy of Sciences review of the 2008 and 2009 biological opinions. About one of the reasonable and prudent alternatives imposed by the 2008 biological opinion, the Academy report stated:

…it is scientifically reasonable to conclude that high negative OMR flows in winter probably adversely affect smelt populations. Thus, the concept of reducing OMR negative flows to reduce mortality of smelt at the SWP and CVP facilities is scientifically justified … but the data do not permit a confident identification of the threshold values to use … and … do not permit a confident assessment of the benefits to the population…As a result, the implementation of this action needs to be accompanied by careful monitoring, adaptive management and additional analyses that permit regular review and adjustment of strategies as knowledge improves.

To its credit, the Fish and Wildlife Service followed this recommendation. It conducted monitoring, performed additional analyses, and worked with Reclamation, the State, public water agencies, and other interested groups, to identify potential adjustments, including adaptive management, to the negative OMR flow management action. In the Service’s judgment, the potential adjustments would adequately protect fish, while restoring some water supply. The potential adjustments ultimately were incorporated into subtitle J of the WIIN Act.

Mind you, the bill language was carefully crafted by a bi-cameral, bipartisan group of congressional staff, with significant technical support from the Department of the Interior. The bill language had broad, bipartisan support from members of California congressional delegation including Senator Diane Feinstein and Representatives Kevin McCarthy, Ken Calvert, Jim Costa, John Garamendi, and David Valadao.

But other members of the California congressional delegation reacted negatively, claiming the proposed legislation was nothing more than a naked attempt by California water interests, particularly “big corporate agriculture,” to gut the Endangered Species Act and enactment of the legislation would inevitably lead to the extinction of numerous species. Their hyperbole bordered on the outrageous.

Notwithstanding, their objections the bill was enacted, and none of the species went extinct. In fact, the abundance of some species increased, albeit temporarily.

When similar adjustments to the negative OMR flow management action were incorporated into a 2019 biological opinion, some of these same members of Congress insisted the new biological opinion was the product of unacceptable political interference and insisted that career Fish and Wildlife Service staff, like regional director Paul Souza, be fired. Never mind that Mr. Souza had a long, distinguished career with the Service and was appointed to his current position during the Obama administration. Relaxing restrictions on operations of the projects and restoring some operational flexibility, with concomitant water supply improvements was proof positive that he was unsuitable for his position.

So it appears that for some, “follow the science” only applies when the “science” is consistent with the agenda they want to advance.

But to be fair, outrageous hyperbole is not the sole domain of people or groups who measure success by how much water they take from irrigators or cities. I have too often heard people on my side of the debate make baseless assertions like the Delta smelt is a trash fish or an introduced species not entitled to protection under the Endangered Species Act or that the State Water Resources Control Board abused its power by issuing curtailment orders to limit diversions by water right holders during dry periods. I, on the other hand, have sometimes wondered, while watching the natural flow in a stream decline to near nothing, why did the State Water Board wait so long to issue the curtailment order?

By my comments I do not want to leave you with the impression that I don’t give a damn about the environment, fish, or wildlife. To the contrary, I care deeply about the health of the environment, fish and wildlife. One of the things of which I am most proud is that late in tenure as Westlands general manager, the district, in cooperation with the California Department of Water Resources and state and federal fishery agencies, completed what is, to date, the largest tidal habitat restoration project in the Delta, and the project appears to be providing the intended benefits to listed species.

But I genuinely believe important policy decisions should be based on accurate information, not sentiment or conjecture. Science that informs those decisions should be robust. We need to learn from our past actions, and if water dedicated to an environmental use is not achieving its intended benefit, that water should be available for a different beneficial use, including irrigation. And sometimes, we have to accept some negative environmental impact if the benefits of the action causing that impact outweigh the negative. We need to resist gravitating towards a solution merely because it is the easiest. I have read too often during period of water shortages, agriculture uses to much water, and we can resolve the crisis simply by reallocating water from agriculture to other uses, be it M&I use or environmental uses. I could spend hours debating that simplistic proposal, but if the pandemic taught us nothing else, I pray it taught us that we cannot be dependent on foreign nations for something as essential as food.

And that leads me to my final observation. Absent from virtually every water policy debate is the question, what will be the impact on farming? In 1997, Marc Reisner, who previously had written Cadillac Desert, wrote: California farmland is an irreplaceable, global resource providing wildlife habitat as well as unparalleled food production capacity. . . A reliable, affordable irrigation water supply is critical to the protection of California farmland. Without it, farmland conversion will likely be hastened; assuring it could be a powerful new incentive for farmland protection, if water security and land protection are linked.

At the time Reisner wrote those words, the primary focus of water policy discussions in California was how the Central Valley Project Improvement Act would be implemented. That law, which was enacted in 1992, added mitigation, protection, and restoration of fish and wildlife as an authorized purpose of the Central Valley Project, and the statute included provisions directing the Secretary of the Interior to make water available for fish and wildlife purposes, including (1) dedicating and managing 800,000 acre-feet of CVP yield for the primary purpose of implementing the fish, wildlife, and habitat restoration purposes and measures authorized by the act; (2) providing increased “permanent instream fishery flow” for the Trinity River; and (3) delivering to identified managed wetlands specified quantities of water, known as Level 2 refuge supplies.

At the end of the day, the implementation of these provisions of CVPIA resulted in the reallocation of more than 1.2 million acre-feet annually from irrigation to fish and wildlife water uses. But in 1997, how the law would be implemented and its ultimate impact on irrigation water supplies were unknown, and little attention was paid to potential impacts on irrigated agriculture. This caused Reisner to write:

Agricultural land protection may be the single most significant issue that has for all intents and purposes been left out of the CVPIA implementation process. This is unfortunate, because there are unhappy similarities between the farmland protection issue today and the salmon conservation issue fifty years ago. Prior to World War II, salmon were still so plentiful in California that dams were built without regard for the consequences; . . . No one could imagine than that the most abundant of California’s four races of chinook salmon, the Spring-run, would be reduce from hundreds of thousands to fewer than 500 spanning survivors in little more than half a century.

The disappearance of prime California farmland is a phenomenon just as subtle, just as inexorable, and a tragedy we may regret just as much. . . . Paved over farmland is gone forever. Reisner was prophetic. Despite his warning, impacts on farmland were never evaluated in connection with CVPIA’s implementation, and there are numerous examples of subsequent statues enacted or policies adopted without regard to their potential impacts on the ability of farmers to produce food and wildlife to inhabit farmland. In the 2½ decades since Reisner wrote those words, in the San Joaquin Valley more than 100,000 acres of farmland have been permanently retired from irrigated agricultural production, up to an additional half-a-million acres are fallowed on an annual basis, and it is estimated that an additional 700,000 acres will have to be permanently retired, all because of inadequate, unreliable water supplies. These are impacts that must be evaluated in any honest dialogue related to how water resources are managed and used.

During my tenure as Westlands’ general manager, I was often asked two questions: why did you take this job; and how have you managed to do the job for so long? I took the job for a very simple reason. I believe farming is a noble enterprise. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a small ranching community, longing to be a cowboy. To this day, my favorite smell is the aroma of freshly mowed alfalfa drying in the field. But despite incredible challenges, some imposed by nature, others imposed by institutions, farmers do something that is truly miraculous; they produce nutritious food that benefits countess people, worldwide. What could be more noble?

And with regard to how was I able to do it for so long? Again, I believe the answer is relatively simple. Like farmers, I am a tenacious, optimist.

At the outset of my remarks, I said the fundamental impediment to improving or restoring the environment and water supply “is that too few people are willing to have an honest dialogue.” But I am optimistic because there are some people in positions of authority or influence who are willing to have that dialogue. People like Paul Souza, the regional director of Fish and Wildlife. After the Trump administration, the easiest thing for Mr. Souza to have done is jumped on the band wagon and said: “yes, I was forced to bow to political pressure and approve a biological opinion that was not adequately protective.” But he did not do that. Mr. Souza has always tried to honestly assess issues within the Service’s authority and search for means to adequately protect species without devastating the water supply upon which millions of people, including farmers, rely.

To this day, despite all the criticism, Mr. Souza maintains the 2019 biological opinions are more protective of listed species than the biological opinions they replaced. And there are many other dedicated staff in the Service and other agencies that fit perfectly into Mr. Souza’s mold.

Elected officials, in both state and the federal governments, on both sides of the political aisle, consistently say we must find a better, smarter way to serve multiple interests, including making water available to farmers.

I am also optimistic because of the existence of this organization. To put this in some context, several years ago I took Leon Panetta, a former member of the House of Representatives, White House chief of staff, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Secretary of Defense, on a tour of Westlands. During our tour I discussed with Secretary Panetta many of the issues I touched on today, and at the end of our tour, he was very blunt. He said, “you do not have a water supply problem, you have a political problem.” He was correct. So how does that pertain to the Family Farm Alliance?

Well, experience has demonstrated that finding a solution to any political problem depends on finding a way to make people understand why they should care. I have always marveled at what the Family Farm Alliance has been able to do on a shoestring budget. With very limited resources, Dan Keppen, Pat O’Toole, and others with the Alliance have done a remarkable job of making people around the west and in Washington, DC, understand why they should care.

This organization’s effectiveness gives me optimism. But I have also wondered, what could the Family Farm Alliance accomplish if it had greater resources. So, I am going to end my talk by doing something that is unorthodox. I am presenting Dan with a check, which represents my first payment on a five-year pledge of annual contributions in that amount. And shame on me for not doing this sooner.

I would like to invite others, water agency staff, directors, consultants, lobbyists, farmers, if you don’t already contribute personal funds to the Alliance, please join me. Think about how the Alliance’s work makes your job easier, how it contributes to your own efforts, and how you benefit from and rely on its exceptional work. Prior to the end of March make a five-year pledge for an annual contribution, in whatever amount is comfortable, to enable the Alliance to better explain to people, why they should care.

Thank you.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from 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.

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Madera Irrigation District Special Meeting, March 15, 2023


By Joel Hastings

The Madera Irrigation District board of directors has reduced the price of water to its members from $10 per acre / foot (AF) to $0. The board held a special meeting on March 15, 2023, and unanimously accepted the recommendation of staff in an effort to bring more water into the District for recharge and to help manage flood flows.Conterra

The Meeting

President Jim Erickson called the meeting to order at 10:33 a.m. at the District offices on the south side of Madera with all five directors present. The roll was called, the flag saluted and the agenda approved. No director had a conflict of interest and there were no comments from the public, three of whom were in attendance.

General Manager Tom Greci opened with his report thanking the board members for attending on short notice. He said with the recent storms and more in the forecast every reservoir is managing flood flows except Shasta. He said the Fresno River (bank to bank as it flows through Madera) is being carefully watched as is the Madera Canal for more flood inflows. He said they are coordinating with the Bureau and the Corps of Engineers. He said with the flood flows occurring there is an opportunity for a policy change.

Water Policy

The agenda moved to old business, revising the crop water distribution policy. Greci said he had never seen such water flows in his career and there is a great opportunity to bring water into the District and the GSA. He said creeks have been blown out for the second time now but the staff led by Charles Contreras, operations and maintenance manager, has been working overtime to repair damage. He said he’s hoping for the intensity of the storms to drop a little, a statement which he said he had never before made. He said the staff recommendation is to incentivize bringing more water into the system by dropping the price to $0 even while emergency repairs are ongoing. A motion was made and seconded to approve this pricing resolution for both original district lands and subordinate lands water.

During discussion, Director Brian Davis asked about mountain snowmelt at different elevations. Greci said that with the warm rains there still are significant amounts of snow at higher elevations. With rainfall on top, the snow is extremely wet as well. He said webcams show water up to the chair lifts at China Peak. He said that reservoirs are being kept as high as possible and if growers take no-charge water for recharge it helps both flood control and groundwater. Director Tim DaSilva commented how much this can help with the water balance [in the aquifer]. Greci continued saying we’re not a flood control district but this all can help.Technoflo

Director Carl Janzen said there is continuing District expense for the repair work paid in effect by all growers. Assistant Manager Dina Nolan said this work will have a cost for the board since it’s not cheap to repair these creeks and ditches, not only in labor but materials, too.

Greci said even with no charge, the District asks that all growers fill out orders and submit them so that flows can be scheduled with the staff, preventing unexpected water level drops or surges.

Davis asked what the effect would be of the emergency order recently announced by Governor Newsome. Greci said it had no impact on District operations. Director Dave Loquaci pointed out the restrictions that were part of the order, such as no spreading water on dairy land or ground recently fertilized. He went on to say that this shows how shaky weather forecasting can be and in spite of the water, there is still overdraft and the groundwater balance has to be dealt with.

Director Davis asked if there had been any further consultation with the county on delivering any water to white areas. Greci said that not one acre / foot of water had been moved outside the District.

Nolan said there are the years we have to optimize [groundwater recharge] and we need every landowner who can take the free water to help out. Director Janzen said he’d like to say that with water available for delivery the whole growing season, not a single pump has to be run in the District.

At this point the directors returned to the motion for no cost water, passing it unanimously to adopt the resolution. The price is effective immediately and will be factored into the meter readings that are taken beginning tomorrow, according to Nolan. Director Loquaci reminded the group that this is not free water, the District continues to have to purchase it at regular price from the Bureau… $42 per AF.

Friant Matters

The meeting was winding down, but there was still more discussion. President Erickson, who is also the current board chair of Friant, was asked about repairs needed on the Friant – Kern Canal. He said there had been flooding at Deer Creek but it was mostly dirt lost. With the mention of dirt and repairs, Loquaci suggested that as the District has dirt stockpiled it might be made available to landowners for their own repairs, an item for a future meeting agenda. There was a question online about the level of the Fresno River. Greci said that it was being monitored but that is the decision of the Corps, not the District.

The meeting concluded with adjournment at 10:52 a.m. Within two hours, the District issued a news release announcing the $0 per AF price and urging landowners to take advantage at once, since the amounts and duration are unknown. The release urged landowners to follow regular procedures filling out order applications through the District office in person, by phone or email.

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

Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637                 559/673-3514

Staff: General Manager -Thomas Greci, Assistant GM – Dina Nolan

Board: Jim Erickson, Chair; Tim DaSilva, Brian Davis, Carl Janzen and Dave Loquaci

HISTORY: From The Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres. MID operates a primarily gravity irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open flow canal systems as well as 150 miles of large diameter pipelines.

The District has a Central Valley Project (CVP) repayment contract with United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) providing up to 85,000 acre feet (AF) of Class 1 and 186,000 AF of Class 2 water per year from the Friant Division (Millerton Lake). The CVP water is released from Millerton Lake through the Friant Dam, and then conveyed through the Madera Canal for delivery into the District’s service area. The District also entered into a CVP repayment contract with the USBR for the yield from the Hidden Unit (Hensley Lake). Under the Hidden Unit contract, the average annual supply available to the District is approximately 24,000 AF per year.

DWR SGMA # 5-022.06

Glenn Colusa Irrigation District March 16, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The Glenn Colusa Irrigation District met at its headquarters in person and online with Microsnot Teams – which is supposed to notify you when the meeting starts so you won’t spend the first minutes on a phone call blissfully unaware of the time. But all that aside, the meeting began at 9:00am on Thursday, March 16, 2023.

The Meeting

I believe the meeting was called to order by Vice Chair Peter Knight and not Chairman Don Bransford and a communal flag salute for the greatest nation on earth was enacted. If there was any public comment I’m not hip to it. And one of the really nifty inventions, the Consent Agenda, was passed. That means paying the bills and the minutes were approved in one stroke. There was some talk about setting committee and meeting dates.

Business Items

            Louis Jarvis GCID Controller said a presentation for last month will now be given by Brian Nash. Nash grew up a farmer from Linden California, in fact graduated in 1986 from Linden High School and his career swerved into accounting and most recently he audited GCID. He said the audit allowed him to issue a “clean” opinion. He said a lot of other things as he led the folks through things like supplementary information for post health care investments or something that sounded like that. I like that Nash said the audit was clean.

I recall an audit presentation many years ago wherein the CPA, who had a thick accent you couldn’t chop through with a chainsaw, went on for a rather long time – I mean glassy eyes and droll long. After he left the meeting the attorney informed the board there is no requirement for an oral report of an audit. I’m pleased to say this, my first audit presentation by Nash, wasn’t hardly painful at all. It lasted less than 10-minutes and provided enough usable information to raise questions by the board. Which he was able to answer to everyone’s satisfaction. One of the board members said this clean audit is a reflection of the good job Jarvis and his crew do all year long. The board approved.

The next item was a reorganization of committee appointments. I’m guessing because there wasn’t a full board this was tabled for the future. Although I detected a hint of the desire to appoint folks absent the urge was overcome.TechnoFlo

Resolution No. 2023-03 was presented. This resolution is for Adopting the Designation of Applicant’s Agent Resolution for Non-State Agencies Cal OES ID No. FEMA-DR4683. I’ve never heard of this before but it sounds like a lot of paperwork is involved. The board approved.

The Water Allocation Process review was next. I believe it was General Manager Thad Bettner who said this presentation was partly written before a major increase in storage, I think at Shasta. Bettner said he’d like to talk with the US Bureau of Reclamation and more fully determine the actual situation. He suggested setting up a special board meeting at the end of the month as waiting for the next scheduled meeting in April is too far out in the future. It looks like the possibility of a 100 percent allocation and that changes things for billing, operations and other considerations. If I correctly read the chart on screen that 100 percent allocation means 4.1 a/f per acre for GCID.

The discussion between the directors was about making the best decision possible. There are new employees, part of the system is new and there is a steep learning curve. One said good information needs to be collected, growers and farmers need to be aware and informed or there is a chance of wasting a year’s worth of opportunities. It was said this is a data collecting year. Almost all the GSPs in the San Joaquin Valley deemed incomplete had a lack of data to point to.

A director raised the question of buying water this year and he wasn’t sure of the Bureau being a position to help keep the costs down. In context allocations have ranged from around 68 percent to 100 percent and any change causes a chain effect of how the water is accounted for. More water means the channel loss due to recharging the system as a percentage of costs lowers, less surface water could mean more pumping. And they grow rice up there and the difference of having the water supply sitting on the surface of the field instead of under the surface has to present its own challenges. The board decided on holding a special board meeting as staff gathers the new information and data. Then the audio cut out and came back.

There are some considerations of when to apply fertilizer growers need to know to time it with deliveries. However, the entire system is a balancing act. The conveyance capacity with available supplies and where those supplies are in the system determines when the delivery can be scheduled. If I understood the goal is to be able to manage the system for three day waits.

It was also brought up the grower has to what sounded like “tri-plane” a field before any water will be delivered. I’m guessing tri-planning is technic to level or slope a field with a land plane to facilitate flow dispersions. It was strongly suggested a grower starts planning on irrigating at least a week before the possible delivery start with a phone call to his ditch tender.

Item 6E dealt with rules/policies affecting service to Out-of-District lands and comingling of district water. I believe it was Bettner who said this is happening now and there are some policies governing this. He wanted the board to understand the current policies and possible changes.

Attorney Andy Hitchings said there is a memo in the packet summarizing the current district policy and water code provisions. He said service to lands outside the district is permitted subject to approval by the board with a written agreement. This could include groundwater and other supplies being commingled, usually with a wheeling charge. State water code allows this under sections 22228 and 22281. Place of use can’t be changed without the USBR consent. There is an in-basin transfer program with the Bureau that lasts five years and will expire in 2028.

Hitchings said having the proper policy with some flexibility in place will protect the district from charges of favoritism by those desiring supplies.

Bettner said there are island lands within the district and other areas that need to be cleaned up. He wasn’t talking about annexation but rather a closer inventory. He said it would be good and not so difficult to put together agreements ahead of time.

Hitchings said most of this needs consideration if the parcel is contiguous to GCID – there are parcels partly in the district and partly out. Someone said there is a great deal of contiguous land and it was suggested an ad hoc committee work with Hitchings to put together what an agreement could look like and present it to the board.


Department reports were next on the agenda. Maintenance was first and there was some flood damaged at the bottom of the district but most of it was rice ground so it wasn’t as severe as it could have been.

Water operations revealed things are getting closer to a 100 percent allocation as inflow to Shasta increases. There is another atmospheric river, it is expected to be warm and melt that snow so it can flow into Shasta. Someone said there was a day with five inches of rain.

Engineer Zac Dickens reported winter maintenance met the February deadline to get the system ready. Some new construction was completed earlier this month of what looked like a check structure. Dickens showed photos of the work. GCID is working with California State University Chico on metering systems and measuring. I think he said there were 20-magmeters within two percent accuracy and the ability to read these measurements remotely is working well as well.

Jarvis gave the treasurer’s report. It appeared to me everything was hunky dory. When you answer to a board comprised of farmers I imagine it’s a lot like answering to a board of forensic accountants with a grudge. Jarvis didn’t surprise anyone from what I saw. Like a lot of districts and organizations Glenn Colusa has the same problem getting a new truck as inventory is limited.

Information Reports

Under meetings a director said he’s attended a coalition report online. I didn’t catch with organization but he said they did a good job of talking about farmer and food supplies. But he said there wasn’t much focus on the Sacramento Valley. I wasn’t sure which organization but it will be on next month’s agenda.

The landowner meetings were deemed a success in that they reached many folks and provided everyone food for thought. Someone said this year’s legislation is full of mischief. The DWR report on Racist District management is on the GCID board radar. Good for them. Also one of the commercial ocean fishing associations has requested shutting down salmon fishing and there is a consideration of supporting them. Although the fishermen organizations generally are hostile to farmers that isn’t the case in most of America. Farmers and fishermen usually have far more in common but a radical environmental faction has what appears to be a firm foothold in the fishing industry. I myself have tried several times to get meeting with Central Coast fishermen through their organizations and nothing yet.

Agenda H from Boston is interested in testing a pilot program on hydropower that won’t interfere with conditions on the GCID system. Bettner also met with Congressman Doug LaMalfa and I think he said Congressman Jim Costa on I believe the Farm Bill. He said they are coordinating with NCWA on water rights attacks.

Closed Session

Hitchings said there was nothing in open session in the attorney’s report so the meeting left open session at 11:00am on the dot. There were two cases of potential litigation and three cases of existing litigation and a personnel issue listed on the agenda. That was that from Glenn Colusa, as pretty a part of the state as one could hope to see.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from 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 2023 by

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

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


344 East Laurel Street

Willows, CA 95988


DWR SGMA # 5-021.52

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


Tulare Irrigation District March 14, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The Tulare Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 in person and on Zoom from its offices west of town. It’s raining as this meeting takes place and once again even with the threat of flooding and bloom damage, government mischief and such; farmers, like ducks and frogs, get in a good mood or at least a better mood.

The Meeting

Chairman David Bixler called the meeting to order at 9:00am. General Manager Aaron Fukuda read an email from Paul de Jong requesting the cost of flood release supplies be set at zero and to change the time of the meeting. That was all there was to public comment.

TID’s board members have to appear in person now or have a Brown Act approved excuse. For now the meetings are hybrid but for how long? If I understood the bad news a district can now do as it pleases since the state has determined the Covid Cooties are no longer the danger they once were. As much as I enjoy getting up early and driving to remote locations with the high cost of gas I’m enjoying the ability to report while sitting in my sweats with access to my fridge and scratching where it itches, so to speak.

Water Report

Water Master Marco Crenshaw had some good news. Storage at Lake Kaweah is at 142,000 a/f out of a possible 195,000 a/f. He said there is a lot of wet snow higher up in the watershed. There was a warm storm on March 10th and one expected tonight. There is the definite possibility of flooding along local creeks and sloughs. Lake Success on the Tule River is full and spilling with releases from both it and the Kaweah, mixed with the big slug of water from the Kings River can put a lot of water in the Tulare Lakebed area. All the districts are moving as much water as possible to recharge opportunities. I expect most of you know there has been an unusual amount of snow at lower elevations and a warm rain can melt it causing a double whammy.

Fukuda said the latest ASO flight shows 600,000 a/f in the Kaweah watershed. There was some question of when the flight could take place due to the weather. Crenshaw said TID is running almost maximum channel capacity with the gates almost wide open.

Director Dave Martin asked about this condition. Fukuda said the problem is the flows coming into the district are uneven. Crenshaw and the staff are trying to keep things safe. He said in a couple of days this will get worked out. But completely filling the system before the coming storm could be a disaster. He also said many TID growers are stepping up and saying to heck with credit if we can get water, let’s flood irrigate. There is also the goal of trying to help the downstream folks like Lake Side Water District that is getting inundated.

Crenshaw said water is going cross country and facilities will be washed out. He said TID Superintendent Wayne Fox and crew did an amazing job on keeping things together. He said the threat of floods has to be the first condition to deal with.

Millerton Lake is having a very high inflow. More than 1 million a/f is expected to come off in May and another 1 million a/f in June from the San Joaquin River watershed. There isn’t the ability for the system to put all of this water to use. The fishy folk need to quit griping about diversions in the Delta, they’ve got plenty more coming. Fukuda said Crenshaw has been working 24/7 and is going above and beyond.

Shasta is not full and not receiving the major benefits of the storm systems. Fukuda said it should make the four million a/f mark and that allows the Friant Division of the federal Central Valley Project to get a 100 percent Class I allocation. He doesn’t expect TID to be able to use its Class II this year. There is 215 Water everywhere but no one is taking any.

Fukuda showed some photos where Tulare County cut a ditch to prevent flooding in Woodlake that flooded the Watchumna system and caused a chain reaction to other connected systems. Martin asked if the county bothered to inform anyone. Fukuda said there were so many emergencies popping up at once there was most likely a communication situation.Technoflo

Fukuda showed photos of flooding on the Friant Kern Canal at the repairs at Deer Creek. The Friant Water Authority headquarters in Lindsay flooded. He noted the building was built on a raised foundation.

Water Rates

The Army Corps of Engineers is asking TID to take as much water as it can from the Kaweah Reservoir. Fukuda said getting groundwater credit could set up a two tiered scenario. The cost is $0 per a/f for none credited water groundwater recharge or $25 a/f for credited. But, he said this is going to be difficult to measure under the current conditions. He’s coordinating with the Mid Kaweah, Greater Kaweah and East Kaweah GSAs. So, the proposal is free water with credit and 75 percent going to grower and 25 percent to TID. Martin said it sounds like a great deal since nobody can work their fields anyway – free water. When the reservoirs are under control this will be reevaluated. The board agreed. Fukuda said growers are willing to participate and takes away some of the risk from SGMA.

O&M Report

Next Fox reported on some long, hard working days recently. His crew has been helping with flood emergencies and has even been able to get some routine maintenance completed. Not as much as scheduled but in my opinion getting anything routine done is a heavy lift. The cut in the ditch bank was at Antelope Creek. There are three new ditch tenders coming on and hope they’re rested up.

It sounded like Fox’s truck’s fuel pump failed in the middle of this. Fukuda said it has been difficult to get a truck. He said Chevy has a better inventory. He said if you want a Ford F-250 with all the bells and whistles you can get it but you can’t get a F-150 work truck now. Martin said the equipment committee said let Fox and Crenshaw get the trucks they want whether Chevy or Ford.

Fukuda said Fox’s crew got a head start on patching the Kaweah Siphon. He said they got in there and drained it, applied some epoxy type material on the pipe and sealed the pipe. They installed a snorkel to divert trapped air from the box culvert. Air would get trapped and the force of the water would compress it causing a tremendous amount of pressure stressing the pipes and the entire siphon structure. Pretty clever.

Financial Report

The lovely Kathi Artis, TID Controller reported all’s fine with the bookkeeping and the board agreed.

Engineer Report

TID Engineer Jeremy Barroll will be moving to Colorado to attend a Masters Program. This is his last TID report. Good for him, but kind of sad too. He and I and some friends attended the Fresno Fair together, he’s a good guy. He reminds me a little of Fred Armisen from Saturday Nigh Live and Portlandia. Barroll has made a good fit at TID and the district is going to have to step it up to replace him.

As for the engineering report, each project is its own story. Much of the work has to do with urban incursions into TID turf and or infrastructure. There are housing developments and industrial developments. One was expanding a gas station complex at Paige and I Street, an industrial area off of Highway 99 that is already a traffic nightmare.

GSP Report

Fukuda said DWR gave the Mid Kaweah GSA notice its GSP was deemed inadequate at 10:00am and held a press conference by noon the same day. He said much of the press drew false stories from DWR’s announcements, like Politico said something to effect that DWR determined the GSAs can’t manage groundwater.

DWR didn’t state who made the determination, the staff report didn’t identify if the staff had 25-years of experience or 25-hours. The entire subbasin was judged not on its implementation but solely on the way the document was worded. Subsidence is a very difficult criteria to judge. If I heard correctly the Paso Robles Subbasin just marked subsidence as a non-problem. They passed. Hmm?

Fukuda said either DWR didn’t understand or just didn’t like the GSP’s portion on chronic lowering of groundwater levels. One problem was the word draft was accidently left on one page of the GSP and instead of calling and asking if this was a typo it deemed it incomplete. Interconnected surface water was declared by DWR’s Paul Gosselin as beyond the ability to determine and don’t worry about that for now.

Fukuda said he expected anger from the GSA participants but the impact was disappointment. It kicked the air out of all the dedicated people who worked so hard.

I’ve heard the theory DWR and the state decided to set aside some of the subbasins so as not to look like they went too easy in an effort to prevent all the NGOs from crapping themselves in outrage.

Moving forward there will be meetings with the State Board Friday and Fukuda reminded everyone this is round one of a long process. He’s hearing the State Board does not want a subbasin to go into probation. It would open a hornet’s nest of major proportions. The implementation of the GSP wasn’t questioned so the GSA will continue working to bring the area into compliance.Land IQ

Mid Kaweah GSA reported the ET system used for billing has been very successful. Out of hundreds of bills only five were questioned. Martin said not completely, he still owes $.40 and Fukuda said he’ll be sent to collections. Director Mike Thomas suggested Martin (who sits on the MKGSA board) take 40 pennies to the next meeting and just toss them on the floor one at a time.

Friant Matters

Fukuda said the San Joaquin River has a million acre feet of yield this year and there just isn’t the storage to benefit from this. In response the FWA is looking to initiate a study by Stantec Engineering to figure out the cost to fix every problem along the Friant Kern Canal. There will be an annual FWA meeting next month and that will be a lot of fun.

Other Stuff

Fukuda said funding for the McKay Point/Seaborne Reservoir is a compelling story. All the Senators and Congressmen in the area have been alerted they need a little less than $1 million for a feasibility study. He sure seemed optimistic and is hoping for a kickoff celebration at the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner’s office on La Spina Boulevard across the street from the World Ag Expo’s International Ag Center.

Two bad pieces of legislation: AB 1563, AB 429 are very similar to bill AB 2201 defeated last year requiring draconian well permitting and author, Ventura Assemblyman Steve Bennett is once again displaying his lack of foresight regarding SGMA. The board heartily stated it will oppose these bills. AB 560, also by Bennett would require a court to submit judgments to the State Board to determine if the ruling would harm groundwater sustainability. Wow, that’s a bit arrogant.

GM Report

Fukuda asked to move the May meeting to the 2nd to accommodate his schedule. He also attended the California Irrigation Institute conference and was on a panel with Gosselin and gave a presentation on MKGSA’s implementation plans. Then he found out on the way home about the GSPs. Also, two interns are lined up to work with TID this summer. Good for them.

There was one Resolution, Number 23-05 honoring Andy Linhares for many years of service to the district. The board approved and gave him a plaque amongst other retirement benefits.

Board Reports

Director Rick Borges reported John Kirkpatrick passed away. Mr. Kirkpatrick was very well respected. I’ve mentioned before you can find out about Kirkpatrick in Mark Arax’s book The Dreamt Land. The meeting then went into closed session for a few lawsuit items and some employee evaluations. That was that for TID at 11:28am. Go fight the good fight.

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


6826 Ave 240, Tulare, CA 93274 Office: 559/686-3425

Board: David G. Bixler- President, Richard S. Borges, Jr.-Vice President, Scott Rogers, Dave Martin & Michael Thomas

Staff: Aaron Fukuda-General Manager, Jeremy Barroll-Engineer, Kathi ArtisDistrict Controller, Wayne FoxSuperintendent, Marco CrenshawDistrict Watermaster & Alex Peltzer-Attorney.

About: The Tulare Irrigation District was organized September 21, 1889.  The original proposal for the formation of an irrigation district covering 219,000 acres, extending from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Tulare Lake, was eventually reduced to 32,500 acres.  The District continued in this status until January of 1948 when the so-called Kaweah Lands” (approximately 11,000 acres) were annexed. In October of 1948, approximately 31,000 acres, compromising the area served by the Packwood Canal Company were annexed to the District. A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation contract was signed in 1950 providing an annual supply of 30,000 acre-feet of Class 1 water, and up to 141,000 acre-feet of Class 2 water from the Friant-Kern Canal. The District and the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District have coordinated efforts to enhance the recharge of groundwater within the Kaweah Basin.  During high flow times KDWCD may use the recharge basins with the District for recharge purposes. Further, KDWCD has historically provided for a financial incentive program through which the District sustains the level of groundwater recharge from supply sources into the District. This historical program was recently reinstated by both districts in lieu of the District’s plans to concrete-line this canal to conserve the surface water. TID is a member of the Mid Kaweah GSA DWR#-5-022.11



San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority March 9, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, March 9, 2023 at its Los Banos headquarters and online with Zoom, thankfully. Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at 9:30am and we collectively saluted the flag of the greatest nation yet. The folks in the room then introduced themselves followed by those of us online.

The Meeting

The first items were housekeeping; no public comment or changes to the agenda took place. The consent calendar was passed with nothing pulled.

The first Action item was electing officers for fiscal year 2024. CEO Federico Barajas instructed the board on the bylaws requiring this election. He said the executive officer will be the board secretary, that would be him. David Weisenberger, General Manager of Banta Carbona Water District nominated the current officers be reinstated and the board voted to do so.

J. Scott Petersen presented two pieces of legislation for support: SB 23 State Senator Anna Caballero, Expedited Permitting for Water Supply and Flood Risk Reduction Projects and SB 361 Senator Bill Dodd, Water Resources: expanding the stream gage network. The board voted to support both bills as recommended.

The board then voted to extend the contract with the current auditors on advice of the finance committee. Barajas also reported the finance committee recommended in light of the US Bureau of Reclamation’s allocation of 35 percent – and based on contractors’ comments – to adjust the Operations & Maintenance rates with a mind to the real possibility of increased allocations. If, and this is a big if, I understood correctly the more allocated the more water the more O&M needed to move that water. There are many factors to setting these rates. Barajas said in the past San Luis Delta Mendota doesn’t adjust this rate based on the Bureau’s moving target of allocations. He said with this year being very unusual staff stands ready to refigure the baseline of the O&M rates.

Westlands Water District’s interim GM Jose Gutierrez said his staff is prepared to provide input from any allocation ranging from zero to 100 percent. The more water Westlands can deliver the cheaper the cost. He said Westlands isn’t even looking at purchasing supplemental water this year. Director Bill Pucheu, Tranquillity Water District is also Chair of the Finance Committee and said the formula is sound and depending on the Bureau’s actions should work well. The board approved staff recommendations.

Report Items

COO Pablo Arroyave introduced Taryn Ravazzini representing the Los Vaqueros Reservoir Enlargement JPA. Ravazzini said although there are many of the districts in the room that are JPA members and the others are pretty wolfy on water, she will be presenting a higher level of informative overview.

Someone said during the Mid Pacific Water Conference Los Vaqueros said it is rolling at as fast a pace as possible. There is political will at the moment. I continually hear about Governor Gavin Newsom’s political ambitions making him willing to go for water infrastructure project advancements in ways he didn’t used to. Funding from Prop One – if it ever gets out of the California Water Commission (which is somewhat handcuffed under its own legislative burden). Los Vaqueros is off stream and currently holds 160,000 a/f. The expansion would raise the dam with an increase to 275,000 a/f of storage. This would be a source of eco-water, an increase supply for wildlife refuges in the San Joaquin Valley and help for migrating salmon. The reservoir will also provide emergency and drought water storage. Ravazzini said the reservoir will add operational flexibility to the Central Valley Project.

In addition there will be improved drinking water quality, facilitate transfers and improve climate change resiliency. There are four intakes to the reservoir and there are plenty of outlets to allow access to the California Aqueduct.

The JPA was formed in October 2021 and provides governance by the members. It is about ready to enter into contracts and agreements. Ravazzini said the business and administration functions are being transferred to the JPA and a solid management team is being sought. Funding is 21-25 percent federal, about half state and the rest local/agency participation.

Ravazzini said the JPA isn’t actively looking for new members but there is room for agreements to be made. She suggested the service agreements could be reached sometime in August and the whole deal will go down by October. I swear I heard her say her goal was to have a lot of meat on the mountain. Could that be right? Never heard that one before.

Strategic Plan

Barajas said the report in the board packet shows key priority items, this year there are 15 of the little guys. He said staff is on it like green on grass and many of them are either completed or in the midst of being completed. He said overall the implementation plan is on track fiscally and timeline wise.

Barajas said San Luis Delta Mendota is working with Martin Rauch of Rauch Communications. Rauch will be conducting interviews with the members and being sure all the concerns are being addressed. Rauch has conducted other services for San Luis Delta Mendota and Friant Water Authority and maybe the Exchange Contractors. That’s where I first met him, at Ex Con. There’s reason these entities keep coming back. There will be three to four workshops focused on the strategic plan later this spring and Barajas said he expects a five-year outlook will be ready by the end of summer. Michael said he has seen strategic plans sit on the shelf but praised staff for its work to implement and follow through. Good for them.

Gov’t Mischief

Petersen said he and other staff members met with many satraps in Washington DC on a recent trip. He said there was good engagement and some results have been seen already. The White House Counsel on Environmental stuff is trying to create streamlined NEPA permitting outside of congress. I don’t know, is this a good thing? There is a new undersecretary at USDA from New Mexico. She used to be a congresswoman and is considered pragmatic. I didn’t catch her name. Petersen gives an incredibly competent presentation, he could easily be a national news caster, but he doesn’t wait around and I don’t always catch everything.

Petersen said the Senate and House Appropriations Committees have released guidance for community projects. There are opportunities for programmatic earmarks if you can get them in within two weeks or less. Farm Bill requests are also being solicited. I understand that is open at the House until March 15th.

Dennis Cardoza said the past week’s trip was very productive, the best in years. (Wonder if this has anything to do with control of the House changing.) He said there were meetings of substantial progress with Congressmen David Valadao, Speaker Keven McCarthy and Senator Alex Padilla. He said the Army Corps of Engineers’ budget was cut by 15 percent by the Biden Administration. He said it is part of the budget dance because it always gets added back in the long run. Cardoza also said Dan Keppen from the Family Farm Alliance did a great job representing western water interests in a recent DC testimony.

Bill Ball, who works with Cardoza said the federal projects have a big gob of cash, $4 billion or more? But it looks like really good flexibility in spending.

Petersen said SLDM will be scheduling meetings with the new Delta Water Master, Jay Ziegler. The state budget revenue projection continues to contract. This will cause a funding scramble by all kinds of outstretched hands in Sacramento. He said there will also be a workshop with Cal Strategies on, I believe electric vehicles. Can that be right?

There were more than 2,000 bills introduced in Sacramento. It appears elected officials believe they get paid by the word. Petersen said there are number of bills introduced on water rights. There is a lot of talk at ACWA on how to engage on this topic. There is an ACWA faction that wants to fight and those who want to make their own proposals. He said to hold back, keep the powder dry until we know more, then attack.

Kristin Olsen-Cate said this is the biggest year for water bills in Sacramento in maybe forever. The Assembly Water Parks & Wildlife had a hearing on atmospheric rivers. (They also had one on water rights and climate change.) The state senate is looking at forest fires. She said state Senator Melissa Hurtado’s office has been very good to work with.

Michael also said Barajas was a rock star in DC and he was pleased with the trip’s results. Cardoza invited folks to come hang out at his new office whenever in DC.

Ex O Report

Barajas said there is a Monday workshop at 10am on O&M matters. He also said he’s going to start touring the member agencies board meetings and looks forward to seeing everyone in their natural habitat. Director Bill Diedrich thanked Barajas and staff for the hard work that took place in Washington DC.

COO Report

Arroyave said there is 8,400 a/f is going to the federal side of San Luis Reservoir daily and if that pace can be maintained the fed side will fill by the very early April. He also said there was a tremendous amount of debris backed up at the fish screen and it was all hands on deck. They were able to clear it out and have a plan in place to keep it that way. The State’s Boats & Waterways has an RFP out to clean up the hyacinth from the Delta to the Mendota Pool.

Diedrich thanked Arroyave for taking some of the directors and others to the Delta facilities. He said it was an overwhelming sight. He likened it to chopping down a giant Sequoia with a stone axe. He said after seeing the problem first hand he was amazed at the progress made. Anything in the creeks, streams and rivers washed down to the fish screens. Mattresses, old boats and all kinds of crap.

Water Report

            Liz Kiteck from the Bureau gave the water report saying there is another series of atmospheric rivers coming in. The first storm is on the colder side but there will be increased flows with rain on snow. The next storm is even warmer. She said precipitation in the north is lagging way behind the rest of the state. That’s opposite world. She said Folsom has been filled and drained once already this year.

Kiteck said the releases at Shasta have been low – trying to fill it up. She said the flood control won’t be a problem at Shasta. New Melones is at 47 percent and there is a good snowpack but not a huge watershed. The fed side of San Luis is at 67 percent and there is room for 300,000 plus a/f to fill and it could happen.

Kiteck said the DWR snow index is normal in the Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley is wet by all categories. Snow pack in the north Sierra is 156 percent of average, the central Sierra 196 percent and the southern Sierra is at 230 percent of average. That could go higher as the ASO data comes in. She said in February Shasta levels was concerning as the upper temperature flow gates wouldn’t be in good shape. She hopes the new storms bring more inflow to Shasta. Trinity has had much inflow so diversions will be low. Pumping should continue into April and May and she hopes to see increased allocations. If San Luis fills she said there could be a 215 Water offering from the Delta. Folsom should have higher than normal releases all year and the overall forecast for March is cooler than normal.

Someone asked about the Kings River runoff and if that has any impact. Kiteck said the Bureau is keeping in touch with Friant and she sees this year being similar to 2017. The Kings River folks are expecting 17,000 cfs where that river passes under Highway 99, when the warm storm hits.

It wasn’t mentioned where Tom Boardman was. He usually gives the water report.

Other Reports

Barajas reported there were meetings last month with CalPERS and administrative concern with that. Michael said there is report from the Family Farm Alliance’s recent meetings. Mike Wade said the California Farm Water Coalition in conjunction with SLDMWA will release a statement on the air quality concerns of raising the dam at San Luis Reservoir. He said Keppen did a great job and his statement will be released. He also said the Water Blueprint is working through its strategic plan.

Diedrich said ACWA has established an election committee to develop a more formal election policy. He said the election committee will meet and review nomination and eligibility requirements. He said the voting will be electronic and he expects much more participation. He said to be sure to designate your agency’s voting delegate. There will be a Spring Conference in Monterey.

Petersen reported the Blueprint will be holding its March 15th meeting at the International Ag Center with PPIC’s Ellen Hanak speaking about the future of ag in the San Joaquin Valley. Petersen is vice chair of the advocacy and working with the communications committee. The Collaborative Action Plan met and the steering group has expanded its workgroup membership. All the SLDM members can participate in this way. He said he can’t cover it all and it would be helpful to him for more participation. At this point something happened to the audio and the rest of meeting was a mere whisper.

Closed Session

Open session ended at 11:25am and closed session had two cases of exposure to litigation, one case of initiating a suit and a trash can full of existing courtroom drama. That was about it for this month.

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 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 2023 by Don A. Wright

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 Akroyd, Director Finance: Ray Tarka, Director Water Policy: J. Scott Petersen, Director O&M/Facilities: Bob Martin

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

Consolidated Irrigation District March 8, 2023


By Don A. Wright

The board of directors of the Consolidated Irrigation District met at its Selma headquarters on Wednesday March 8, 2023. The snow is low and a relatively warm rain is heading towards the Central Sierra Nevada Range. CID gets its water from the Kings River after it stops over at Pine Flat Reservoir. That holds about one million acre feet. We’ll find out if flooding is expected in the near future.

The GSA Meeting

CID is the Central Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Director/Chair Ray Moles called the meeting to order at 1:00pm. General Manager Phil Desatoff wasn’t in the room so Assistant GM Michael Carbajal had the pleasure to announce the Kings Subbasin, which includes CKGSA has had its Groundwater Sustainability Plan approved by DWR.

Attorney Lauren Layne explained the GSP is in good shape until the first five-year update is due in 2025. For the subbasins that didn’t pass the test will have 180-days before a State Board hearing is scheduled. The GSA meeting took about nine minutes.

The CID Meeting

Moles called the ID meeting to order. There was the usual housekeeping; consent calendar, no public comments or changes to the agenda.

GMs Report

Desatoff showed up and said the district already has 75 percent of its storage at Pine Flat and that number is growing rapidly. He said the Army Corps of Engineers is predicting 12,000 cfs on the Kings River at Highway 99. There are a number of golf courses along the Kings River that will most likely flood. ACE wants to limit releases from Pine Flat to 1,000 cfs and let the majority of the flows to come down Mill Creek. The land along the Kings River has many homes and the sheriffs are advising evacuation.

Mill Creek is currently running at 200 cfs and this weekend is expected to increase to 17,000 cfs for about half a day. Mill Creek flows into the Kings River about two miles downstream of Pine Flat Dam. Desatoff said there is actually a 6,500 a/f estimated snowpack on the Mill Creek watershed. That is very rare for a watershed that low in elevation.

CID has been investing in recharge basins and is spilling into everywhere it can. All the landowners are being encouraged to take on as much surface water as possible. Austin Hubble, MEI Farms said High Speed Rail is blocking his flows but he’s figured out how to reroute up to 10 cfs. Desatoff said HSR was warned water is coming and HSR actually cooperated.

CID Watermaster Walt Frost said he will take as much as possible since events like this come along so rarely. Desatoff said last time there was a wet year as close to this year, the ponds got a little too full. There was a stretch on Clovis Avenue that only the dotted line showed. Moles praised the CID staff for their hard work above and beyond their required duties. CID is willing to get water to non CID land. There is an estimated four million a/f on the Kings watershed.

I’ve been curious how this year compares to previous water years. In 1862 there was a massive flood that transformed the San Joaquin Valley into a lake. That was before records were kept. The 1905 and 1968-69 water years are comparable and flood control is better now. But the amount of water expected this weekend is going to overwhelm the system as far as the capacity to capture much of the water coming down hill. The way Kings River water is divided by the recipients is so complicated ancient Chinese Astrologers have been known to assume the fetal position and whimper for days upon exposure. But if I understand top of schedule contractors, those with the first rights to the water inflowing to Pine Flat Lake, can lose storage as flood flows are released. While others gain. I won’t try to untangle this knot here but it looks like CID is going to have a great deal of water. I asked if they’d looked into banking some water at Semitropic but I was threatened to be expelled from the meeting.

Carbajal said there are projects on the calendar that could even be completed in time to provide more recharge this season. He said the engineering firm of Provost & Pritchard is meeting with staff to finalize the design and construction could begin soon.

There was a question about getting supplies to a portion of the westside of the district and I’m not sure what happened. You may want to contact management but if I understood CID overflowed a canal and sued itself for a claim but that can’t be right. Somehow or other they are making it work.

Desatoff said the freezing level for the past storms was at 3,000 to 4,000 feet elevation but this storm is going to have a freeze level above 5,000 feet and that will wash the hills bare of snowpack. The snow water equivalent is 180 percent. Hubble read the Bulletin 120 report that just came out but was still a week or more old.

A grower asked about the raisin crop this year. Raisins are a big crop in CID and he asked about keeping canal levels up during harvest. It is usual procedure for the district to shut off the canals during harvest to prevent any accidents that could occur with spills for those who dry the grapes in trays on the ground. The dry on the vine growers also want less humidity during this time.

In other news there needs to be a new ag water management plan submitted to DWR by the district. There are also four proposals to estimate the district’s groundwater capacity. Desatoff said in 1982-83 the delivery season lasted 18-months. With that the groundwater levels improved greatly. There is now far more interest in recharge. Desatoff said of all the sources flowing to the Tulare Lake bottom area only the Kings River has a diversion to send it to the Mendota Pool.

Desatoff said CID needs an additional 2,000 acres of recharge basins to take better advantage of banking its water supplies within the district. This could include agreements on cost and yield sharing with other agencies.

Director Mitch Ritchie said if the district works on banking with CID growers for in district recharge it would keep the water in CID as opposed to other agencies. He also said this water must stay in the district. Desatoff and Layne both said if growers want to participate and the water will be metered this is possible. Grower Jerry Rai said all the costs must be measured like retiring land to dedicated to recharge.

Moles said growers’ farming operations are being hampered by on farm recharge and if the farmers don’t want that in a particular year the projected yield is off. Having dedicated recharge that belongs to the district is going to operate the same way every time there is a possibility to do so.

Layne said it most likely will require all the GSAs in the subbasin to sign on to a unified system to pass the water around within the subbasin. There are problems with working with some growers and not others in the district and problems with working with other agencies.

Director Tom Chandler asked about the grant programs and how this could help growers. Layne said CID is working with Provost & Pritchard to find all the grants possible. There are more grants expected. I’ve been hearing there is a good deal of federal dollars coming from Washington and better coordination between federal agencies.

Rai said both he and Moles have a similar profile of growing in CID and Raisin City Water District which is in the McMullen Area GSA. He said he has land to recharge within CID and he wants the first option of recharge to be reserved for CID growers. And there needs to be incentives. He said now is the time to think policy to keep the water in the district instead of down the South Fork of the Kings River. Moles said that would be a board decision and the board is listening.

Rai said the on farm recharge in one of his almond orchards has caused soil health problems. He said he wants dedicated ponds for growers. Director Tony Lewis asked Rai what happens to the growers when CID get’s its additional 2,000 acres of recharge? Desatoff added at a certain point the district’s conveyance from the Kings River is limited without adding more diversion points on the river. He said DWR is concerned with pushing chemicals into the groundwater. He said the district is considering everything with an eye towards controlling its own fate as much as possible. Rai said it could be a way for CID to bring in more income without another 218 election.

Closed Session

The open session of the meeting ended at 2:59pm. There were four items in closed session and they all had to do with lawsuits. That was all from CID. Go be good to yourself and others and remember Who it is that really supplies the water.

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 2023 by Don A. Wright

CONSOLIDATED IRRIGATION DISTRICT – 2255 Chandler St, Selma, CA 93662 Telephone; 559/896-1660

CID covers 145,000 acres mostly in South Central Fresno County. Surface water supplies: Kings River   CID is its own GSA

General Manager – Phil Desatoff, Attorney – Doug Jensen, Water Master – Walt Frost, Controller – Gail Hoffman

Board of Directors – President Tony Lewis, Tom Chandler, Greg Thonesen, Ray Moles, Mitch Ritchie