Vice-President Roger Schuh called to order the regular monthly board meeting of the Chowchilla Water District and GSA at 1:32 p.m. on November 9, 2022. Present were Directors Mike Mandala, Vince Taylor and Russell Harris. President Kole Upton was not in attendance. Public comment was invited but none was forthcoming in person or on the open phone line. Also attending from the public were David Scheid, a relationship manager for Fresno-Madera Farm Credit and his colleague, Michaela Hageman. Kristi Robinson representing Triangle T Water District was here too.
Moving into the Chowchilla GSA board session, the group heard from Doug Welch, former CWD manager who now heads up the GSA work. He reported that the Madera County GSA has given two presentations on a land repurposing program scheduled for launch in 2023. He noted that Merced County is working on a similar program. Directors inquired how it would operate and Welch replied that the details have not yet been finalized.
Welch said that the draft Land Subsidence and Interconnected Surface Water Work Plans are being reviewed by staff and will be submitted to the state DWR before the end of the year. These revisions were required by the state review of the initial GSP for the subbasin. The projected additional costs total about a million dollars and it is hoped that grant funds can be made available. He said the domestic well mitigation program is virtually complete and set to begin next year.
Finally, he reported that representatives from Chowchilla WD, Triangle T WD and Madera County had met with growers in the white area of the Chowchilla Subbasin. The topic was the progress the grower group is making towards their plan for creating a non-profit benefit corporation to conduct the actions required in the GSP, since the 218 funding plan was defeated. The goal here is to create a water district and become the GSA for that part of the subbasin. Welch said the group was encouraged to move forward promptly since the state will be monitoring the progress across the county. Welch shared two documents developed by the growers. One was a letter to growers dated November 1 inviting attendance at a meeting on December 14 at 2 p.m. at Farnesi’s Steakhouse. The second was a draft bullet-point summary of what a memorandum of understanding might include between the group and the county board of supervisors.
Two members of the CWD board are part of this grower group. Russell Harris said that while no one disagrees that the work must be done, the group believed they could execute the plans more effectively than the county. Roger Schuh noted that his expectation is that the costs will be about the same.
Chowchilla Water District Meeting
With the CWD board meeting reconvened, Treasurer Lela Beatty reported income for October totaling $379,450 and expenditures of $741,916 leaving a fund balance of $19,015,859. The report was approved unanimously. The monthly warrant of bills to pay totaled $490,955.25, approved for payment. The monthly report on actual expenditures versus budget was presented by General Manager Brandon Tomlinson, who said things are in line with recent years. There was no discussion, and no action was required.
The “true-up” for the past 25 years of billings from and payments to Friant Water Authority was the next agenda item. Tomlinson said that a meeting was set with Wilson Orvis, the Friant CFO, to review the year by year numbers in detail to resolve the differences. Discussion included the old term “obligation” water in very wet years when the District had to commit to take water from Friant but could not physically take it. Former manager Welch agreed to provide context for the discrepancy in numbers from the early years of the agreement.
Minutes of the October 12, 2022, meeting were approved unanimously without discussion. An easement requested by PG&E was reviewed with the clarification that while the “footprint” was slightly altered, there was no additional square footage as there had been in an earlier version. GM Tomlinson was authorized to sign the agreement with unanimous approval.
GM Tomlinson presented his monthly report covering operations and maintenance, personnel and equipment. Treasurer Beatty noted that a 2009 pickup truck that sold brought $5000 at auction with the District realizing $4500. Tomlinson said cement structures to increase the effectiveness of recharge basins had been installed and that a number of dry wells were being drilled and filled with crushed stone. There was discussion about the kind of rock used with an inquiry about using river rock which, while not having to be paid for, might involve trucking costs. Ms. Robinson of Triangle T asked if neighboring domestic wells were monitored as the dry wells were installed, with the expectation that groundwater levels might improve. All agreed this was the desired outcome but not enough has yet been done to really get a measurement on this.
Tomlinson said that 50 applications had been received for three open positions on the CWD staff. Possible successful candidates were identified subject to drug testing and final review. Several employees had participated in confined space rescue training offered by Madera ID.
Changing California emission regulations for older off road diesel equipment means that there might be a bit more flexibility to conform to air quality regulations. Even so a dozer and a grader may have to be retired by 2028. The possibility of installing a cleaner, conforming engine in the grader will be investigated. Subsidy funds for conversion available to agriculture are not available to the District as a public agency.
There were no reports from directors, and it was noted at this point, shortly after 2 p.m., that a closed session was set for 2:30 p.m. The directors discussed the almond market with the comment that the thousands of acres of trees being pushed over for lack of water might have the unintended benefit of increasing prices in the next several years. Directors noted that based on current prices, “everyone” wants to grow tomatoes. Also, as Farm Credit’s Scheid was leaving, he introduced himself and said he was attending area water organization meetings in order to become better informed. With that the Board moved into closed session and the public was excused.
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Chowchilla Water District – PO Box 905 – 327 So. Chowchilla Ave., Chowchilla, CA 93610 559/665-3747 website www.cwdwater.com
Board: Kole Upton – President, Roger Schuh – Vice President, Mike Mandala – Treasurer, Russell Harris, and Vince Taylor
PROFILE: Formed in 1949, the Chowchilla Water District serves about 85,000 acres situated in southern Merced County and northern Madera County on the eastside of the San Joaquin Valley. The District serves about 85,000 acres in southern Merced and northern Madera Counties. It’s over 400 water users have an average farm size of about 162 acres. Buchanan Dam was constructed in 1975 and is operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The maximum capacity of the dam is 150,000 acre-feet and has a maximum conservation capacity of 140,000 acre-feet. The District also has appropriative water rights issued by the State Water Resources Control Board to divert water from the Chowchilla River. The Madera Canal supplies water from Friant Dam to the Chowchilla Water District. The District has contracted with the Bureau of Reclamation for 55,000 acre-feet of Class 1 Water and 160,000 acre-feet of Class 2 Water. With Madera ID, the District owns the Madera-Chowchilla Water & Power Authority which operates the Madera Canal and four hydroelectric power plants located on the Madera Canal.