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California Water Commission December 14, 2017

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The California Water Commission reopened yesterday’s meeting after an overnight recess. The meeting is held at the Resources Building in downtown Sacramento on Thursday, December 14, 2017.  Downtown Sacramento has some of the most interesting architecture of any city in the Valley but I don’t recall ever visiting here when the they haven’t torn up at least one of the main streets for getting around. They also have by far the skinniest parking places anywhere. Despite all that Chairman Armando Quintero called the meeting that started yesterday back into session shortly after 9:00 am.

A man from Chowchilla, Hugh Jacklin I believe, said when he was a child Boise Cascade cut his water off. Put his family out of business. He’s 70-years old and said the San Joaquin River has one dam and it’s too small. He thought at one time you couldn’t build anything in California but after seeing high speed rail he sees it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not or how much it costs. So, he told the board to move the intake pumps to the Sacramento River. Sean Crook Cal Farm Bureau Federation surface storage was a rally point. He said we feed the world and cannot afford to ignore Temp Flat and Sites.

The first item after public comment was an SGMA update. Much of what was covered is familiar to readers. Taryn Ravazzini* with DWR SGMA overview said 99 percent of the basins now have had GSAs formed. She said the CWC hadn’t had an update since before the GSA formation deadline. Mark Nordberg said local agencies did a great job meeting the June 2017 GSA formation deadline. He gave a numerical breakdown of the formation by critical designation. The next big step is to deal with basin boundary modifications and once DWR has reviewed the requested modifications it will present its findings to the CWC. Nordberg said DWR has financial and facilitation support. The financial comes under Prop One grants. He said the facilitation process helped the GSAs get through some difficult governance issues. DWR has four regional offices: Red Bluff, West Sacramento, Fresno and Glendale. The regional boundaries don’t coincide with the basin boundaries. He said the Fresno office will be dealing with the bulk of the critically over-drafted areas and is very busy. Commissioner Daniel Curtin asked if there is any further problems with GSA formation and there wasn’t anything notable to report.

Another DWR guy, Steve Springhorn, spoke but I didn’t catch his name. He said the technical assistance from DWR to the GSAs includes guidance and education. This begins with fundamental knowledge of SGMA and the best management practices as given by DWR. The BMP 6 is in draft form now and has new terms such as how to define what sustainability means to the stakeholders. He referred to the DWR’s SGMA website. There are a lot of maps available and the data represented by these maps. One shows the nexus between land use and water use. Some of the data runs a couple of years behind – it takes a while to compile enough of this to be of use. Some of the data such as the SVSim model data will be coming out soon. It may be a small thing but the preview I saw had some new icons for the undesirable results. Sort of an evil emoji from the bowels of government. Commissioner Maria Herrera asked about the placement of monitoring wells and the funding. She was told 20 to 30 wells in the 21 critically over-drafted basins could be drilled with Prop One funds. She urged the wells be located in disadvantaged communities DAC. She works for Self-Help Enterprises and said some of the communities have been found to be disadvantaged since the last map. She wants them included on the new maps. The DWR guy said there’s someone to take care of the maps.

DWR’s Trevor Joseph talked about financial assistance from Prop One; specifically the $101 million set aside for GSAs. $6.7 million has already been awarded to Counties with stressed basins. More than $86 million will be awarded early next year for GSPs and DACs. Commissioner Carol Baker asked how far the funding will go for DACs. Joseph said there is more than enough funds to meet the statutory requirements of serving DACs.

Commissioner Joseph Byrne thanked the staff and asked how many folks are attending the technical meetings and workshops. Ravazzini said they are well attended. Joseph said there are 12 advisory groups DWR meets with regularly. There was a workshop recently in Clovis that was mentioned and there were more than 175 folks who showed up. Byrne asked about the transition from GSAs setting up under MOUs and turning into JPAs. Nordberg said that’s a local decision and that is being tracked on the DWR website. Commissioner Joe Del Bosque said SGMA isn’t popular but DWR staff has been very helpful and he thanked them. Baker asked for a more detailed presentation on a regional basis. She said based on yesterday’s discussions project proponents are very aware of the need to satisfy SGMA requirements. She wants to know how WSIP and SGMA is lining up, how are they communicating? CWC Executive Director Joe Yun said to use SGMA as a criterium for making decisions. Joseph said in the GSP regulations will include how groundwater flows migrate between sub basins and basins. He said local GSAs are being encouraged to define the sustainability for cross boundary flows. Yun said as the commissioners make determinations they may be contingent on how GSP issues can be resolved. He said WSIP could be used as an incentive and the CWC doesn’t make the final award until after all this is worked out. Curtin said the analysis of some of yesterdays proposals for water banking may change due to SGMA. He wasn’t sure if groundwater storage is defined as a public benefit. CWC staff is looking at the SGMA inter-play. Quintero said he sees DWR’s efforts and thanked them. He also wants folks to start thinking about groundwater storage as they do about surface storage. He wanted to know what the big gaps are in what the good groundwater recharge areas are. One of the DWR guys said this is one of the gaps; how does the groundwater flow. There are specialist working on this very subject with pilot projects. Subsidence is another area that needs to be looked at closer. Due to the economy of scale it makes sense for the state to provide that info as it would be difficult for GSAs to get enough thorough info. I asked them to keep an eye out for unintended consequences.

Next CWC Program Manager Hoa Ly ran through with the board how staff will rank the proposals from yesterday and how the commissioners should consider the scores. There is a category called Maximum Conditional Eligibility Determination. There is also the Public Benefits Ratio. The MCED is a “not to exceed” amount of potential funding and it will be based on eligible Program cost share and project rank. There are three ranks with 100 as perfect: rank one – 85 or higher, rank two -70-84, rank three – less than 70. Staff will provide the commission with a suggested MCED for projects in ranks one and two. The PBR will be posted in early 2018. Other important deadlines include March 2018 when the CWC determines final PBR. May 2018 CWC determines project scores. June 2018 CWC determines MCED and early funding can be awarded. Byrne said some of his take away from yesterday leaves him wondering about how Fish & Wildlife may impact things. The CWC may take it one way but other agencies take things another. Yun said the PBR review is crafted from staff response from all the applicable agencies. He said conversations with the other agencies are starting this month. Quintero asked to have F&W and State Board representatives at future meetings. Curtin said the proposals are static and the potential benefits are varied. He said in Australia they measure the amount of water available for the environment as determined by the government as the value. He said one day the salmon problem on a stretch of water may be solved in 10 years but there still needs to be a public benefit and the enviro benefit doesn’t go away. That sounded to me like scary man. I hope I’m wrong but that sounded like a perpetual water tax on all other beneficial uses beyond the enviro.

Jim Watson Manager of the Sites program told the board it is a moving target. He said the commission needs to keep in mind the complicated projects like Sites can adapt in the future. Just because it doesn’t align with each wish from a list doesn’t mean it can’t.

The last item was what to put on the agenda for the next meeting. There was some mention about signing papers dealing with sexual harassment while driving and a request for a briefing on Article 21 Water. One of the commissioners wanted to learn more about SWP allocations since the subject was very much a part of the Prop One applications. Good for her. The meeting adjourned at 11:10 am.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2017 by Don A. Wright   No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.  *Took me a while to find that name and spelling.

CALIFORNIA WATER COMMISSION – Chairman Armando Quintero, Vice-Chair Carol Baker, Andrew Ball, Joseph Bryne, Daniel Curtin, Joe Del Bosque, Maria Herrera, Catherine Keig and Dave Orth. Executive Director Joe Yun