The Buena Vista Water Storage District held its Wednesday, May 19, 2021 board of directors meeting on Zoom from its Buttonwillow headquarters. Chairman John Vidovich called the meeting at 8:30am sharp. He really knows how to run an efficient meeting and jumped right in with the agenda. The minutes were approved.
BVWSD a way of setting up its consent calendar that’s unique. Instead of lumping them together they are spread throughout the agenda where they would naturally reside. For example: a routine O&M or financial matter would still be under those headings but would have an asterisk beside it to indicate it’s a consent item. Any director or member of the audience can pull the item. The consent calendar was approved with the public pulling one item on to the regular agenda.
Marybeth Brooks gave the financial report and it was approved.
General Manager Tim Ashlock reported on the drilling tests for Jerry Slough Farming properties and the potential land acquisition. The board was concerned with the price and suitability of soil conditions. Director Jeoff Wyrick pointed out its $80,000 per acre deal and he would like to see further reports and analysis before a decision is made. A committee will review the reports and the board felt that it should come before the public at the next scheduled meeting.
The Water Plan
Ashlock said the district’s Ag Water Management Plan has to be advertised for two weeks before the board approves it. Cal Poly is seeking a grant to study the efficiency of water banking and refine that problem. The focus of the USBR WaterSmart matching grant will be evaporation measurements and modeling. The University needs funds to meet the matching grant. The board agreed to finance up to $100,000 towards the $200,000 needed to qualify for the grant. Vidovich said he’d be willing to have his company pitch in $5,000. Anyone can help out and the board felt the district would be spending at least that much if not more to acquire the same data.
Andrew Bell gave the water forecast report saying if all goes well the district will get 16 percent of its average Kern River supplies and five percent of its State Water Project supplies. That gives the district a total of 66,000 a/f. Vidovich said we’re surely in a drought. BV has been able to sell extra surplus water over the years to fund its projects. He said currently the neighbors are pumping like crazy. This may be a year where it makes sense for growers to pump and the district to sell the surface supplies. If the district can sell 10,000 a/f in today’s market it would earn more than $10 million. At first blush this idea didn’t spark anyone. The board was concerned the district’s growers could be punished financially for using surface supplies. Wyrick said this is a slippery slope. DWR will ask why the district is pumping when there’s surface water. He also pointed out this is against the Kern County interests arguing for Kings River overflow. That topic will be a subject before the State Board.
That opened up comments from growers. I couldn’t tell who was speaking but one grower said if you want to sell the water he’d be getting, that would take water out of the district and that isn’t attractive. He said if the district sells water for $1,000 per a/f you’d best make the grower’s incentive commensurate. Growers can purchase surface water in BV for $45 per a/f. Someone had suggested paying growers the difference of $60 per a/f. The extra $15 didn’t strike a spark for anyone. Others in the room were against the idea in concept as they felt the water has to stay in the district. Vidovich pointed out selling water allowed funding for a new pipeline to the north and land for more recharge and those projects didn’t come directly from the growers’ pockets. He said when he first came to BV it was primarily cotton and now the trees are maturing. Projects to help the stability of the district’s supplies need to be a part of the decision. He said Rosedale Rio Bravo has been doing the same thing. These sales have resulted with more water for BV. He said call him selfish but he wants a good water supply for his land in the district. A director, I believe Terry Chicca, said for many places in the district having surface water to blend with well water helps the quality. They can grow on just well water but the blend can make a marked difference in production.
The board believes eventually the district will have enough water to meet SGMA, its growers and have some for sale. Ashlock said in a past year not so long ago, before pipelines, the channel losses could eat up a third of the supplies available. Without pipes this year’s supplies are so low it wouldn’t allow a run. A motion was made to offer to pay growers on a voluntary basis, to pump instead of taking surface supplies. Wyrick asked if the notice letter will state that the growers will be paid whatever amount, $60-80 per a/f to pump and the district will sell the saved surface supply for $1,000 per a/f or more. The board approved the incentive to pump and it was stated however the letter is worded it will be appropriate. Wyrick was the lone nay vote.
BV has a committee to look into the grower pump back program. Water quality standards are a concern and the committee is looking at those issues.
Water Sales was also an item. BV has stored water in banking it could sell – I believe this will not have any direct impact on the earlier incentive. There is also a committee and it needed to know how much banked water and at what cost transactions could be made. Wyrick reiterated he believes the board needs more transparency and the committee should come back to the board. He said it may be legal to give committees more authority but it won’t set well with the growers. An amount of 10,000 a/f was mentioned and it mostly would come from the Pioneer Project. Someone said if that water is carried over that would give more to growers. The board voted to give the committee authority to sell 10,000 a/f with Wyrick voting the lone nay.
The district is looking at a banking facility at the Daly Ranch that would only allow recovery by landowner pumps. A negative declaration had to be issued under CEQA and that required a resolution. It would also bind the district from installing recovery wells. Ashlock said there are grower wells all around the property and there are landowners prepared to sue if the district puts in wells. Chicca said the project was designed and sold as a landowner recovery benefit project. Vidovich said it doesn’t sound right that the district would build a bank and limit who, including the district can benefit from it. That will be discussed further in closed session.
A grower asked about a pipeline in the Elk Grove area that was on consent calendar and he asked to speak with staff after the meeting.
Vidovich asked to discuss a matter in open session that was slated for closed. There is a 400-acre piece of property the district is taking over and it shouldn’t be paying property taxes as a public entity. But it has had to pay Kern County more than $350,000 and BV is considering suing to get that money back. There were a couple of questions: would the attorney fees cost more than the $350,000 and if the district wins, does the county have the money? Vidovich said there is the possibility of settling. The motion was made and passed that Director Julien Parsons will be providing oversight on this matter. The meeting then went into closed session at 9:37am and that was that.
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Buena Vista Water Storage District was organized in 1924 to manage the irrigation, drainage systems and water rights originally held by Miller & Lux. The district controls an average 130,000 a/f of Kern River water and approximately 21,000 a/f of supplies from the State Water Project. BVWSD is its own GSA. Board of Directors meetings are held the 3rd Wednesday of the month at district headquarters located at: 525 North Main Street, Buttonwillow, CA 93206. Phone: 661/324-1101 www.bvh20.com General Manager/Engineer: Tim Ashlock, Engineer Andrew Bell, Controller: Marybeth Brooks, Attorney: Robert Hartsock or Isaac St. Lawrence
Board-President: John Vidovich, VP: Terry Chicca, Secretary: Jeof Wyrick, Julien Parsons, Craig Andrew