The board of directors of the Chowchilla Water District held its regular monthly meeting on November 8, 2023, at the District offices in Chowchilla. President Kole Upton called the meeting to order a moment after 1:30 p.m. when it was determined a quorum was one hand, which included himself and Vice President Roger Schuh along with Director Vince Taylor. Also sitting at the table was Karun Samran, chosen in the election just the day before and due to begin his term officially on December 1, 2023. A local farmer, he has been active with the grower group that is in negotiation with Madera County raising funds to participate in the county GSA covering the so-called white areas. He succeeds Director Mike Mandala. The fifth board member is Russell Harris who was not in attendance at this meeting.
Public comment was invited but none was forthcoming although a Fresno Madera Farm Credit staffer was in attendance, Michael Moore, operations assistant in the Fresno office. An item was added to the agenda detailed below, appointing two board members to outside agencies.
The group then convened as the board of the CWD GSA. Doug Welch, general resource manager, was on the phone this time, saying he was feeling a bit under the weather and so was not in the office. A statistical review sheet of water receipts and deliveries for the calendar year 2023 was available to meeting participants with highlights referenced by Welch. Total water received from all sources amounted to 420,379 Acre/Feet. Of that, there was Class 1 water at 55,433 AF and Class 2 at 24,508 AF. Flood release water early in the year was substantial with 140,754 AF from Buchanan Dam and 31,136 from Friant. Welch said that in total for the 12 months of 2023, recharge in the District amount to 138,464 AF, one of the higher totals on recent years, not surprisingly.
Upton asked if a proposal had been received from Davids Engineering to amend the GSP to pass muster with Department of Water Resources (DWR). The answer was not yet. Welch went on to say that the state board had had a meeting in Kern County on November 3 and that “it doesn’t look to good for Kern County right now.” Upton continued to express concern that progress be made for the Chowchilla Subbasin GSP to get approved.
Welch asked General Manager Brandon Tomlinson to give an update on the domestic well mitigation program that has begun. Tomlinson said there have been two applicants based on early publicity. He said the website is still under construction and that an informational flyer is in development. Director Schuh said it’s a good thing to reach out and wanted to know that the information would reach all who need it. Tomlinson said mailing lists are being shared with Triangle T Water District to cover the geography.
With no further questions for Welch, the CWD board reconvened at 1:41 p.m. Treasurer Lela Beatty reported receipts of $1,910,959.79 and disbursements of $3,786,460.05 leaving a balance of November 1 of $20,800,914.88. The warrant of bills amounted to $333,502.26. Both reports were approved but only after Schuh raised a question about the $46,500 payment to the Madera Chowchilla Water & Power Authority (MCWPA) for September operations and maintenance. He said he thought the point of this joint venture with MID was to earn income from power generation. Beatty said there is a monthly sharing of expenses for the Authority with MID, but the revenue comes from PG&E. Schuh asked about income and after checking, Beatty replied that year to date revenue for Chowchilla has been over $450,000 through August. The budget report was also approved after confirmation that there were no unexpected variances.
The minutes from the October 17 meeting were approved. The new agenda item was to act for the record approving Roger Schuh as the District’s representative on the Friant Water Authority board and Vince Taylor as the representative on the finance committee of MCWPA.
Chris Mayo gave his operations and maintenance report summarizing his written report noting eight items accomplished around the District and work in the shop on six items of vehicles and equipment. During discussion, it was noted that the plan is to stop water deliveries mid-month which will allow for a more complete effort to make repairs and fix leaks in the infrastructure. In a letter to District customers dated October 30, notification to Mayo and the District office had been invited to highlight areas needing attention. In that same letter and in the O & M report, it was indicated that over 90,000 AF would be stored in Eastman Lake which would allow another good water year in 2024.
In a last item of new business, the board considered a staff request to declare as surplus equipment a 1995 International boom truck with over 161,000 miles. Inquiries about its value revealed that some repairs would be needed before consigning to an auction and that it had been recently certified for the boom to operate only at 180 degrees, not a full circle. At auction, it was supposed it might bring $15,000 and a new truck has already been delivered. Even so, the directors said that for such a low price, the truck might as well be kept for smaller jobs or for a project when the new vehicle was at work somewhere else. Schuh said that if a director could buy it, he would at that price, so the decision was to hold onto it.
In his GM report, Tomlinson said that Friant will be going offline in the next week leaving CWD with 5500 AF in Millerton Lake. The question was asked under what circumstances might the District be allowed to carry over this water. Tomlinson said he would check. Regarding personnel, another employee has met the Class A license requirements.
With Welch still on the phone line, Schuh asked about the engagement of Davids Engineering to develop new solutions to bring the GSP into compliance. He asked about a land fallowing program or even a water extraction fee. Welch said everything is on the table but it’s not encouraging that DWR has not been responding to a request for another meeting. Upton said, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, that because DWR has been critical of a number of GSPs it might be a good sign they had not responded.
Schuh said that at the last meeting he had proposed the idea of a getting a grower group together to brainstorm actions to reduce groundwater use. He admitted he had not followed through and pledged to make that effort. Welch suggested that it might be preferable to wait until after the first of the year.
Upton invited directors’ reports before going into closed session. Schuh said that the Friant Authority board was scheduling another retreat. He had attended last year and said he found it to be a real work session so while he would go, he was not looking forward to it. With no other reports, at 2:08 p.m. the board moved into closed session to discuss three items of potential litigation, two existing legal matters and further real estate negotiations.
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Chowchilla Water District – PO Box 905 – 327 So. Chowchilla Ave., Chowchilla, CA 93610 559/665-3747 website www.cwdwater.com
Staff: General Manager – Brandon Tomlinson; General Resource Manager – Douglas Welch
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.