The regular monthly meeting of the Chowchilla Water District board of directors was called to order by President Kole Upton at 1:33 p.m. on September 14, 2022. Board members Mike Mandela, Roger Schuh and Vince Taylor were in attendance along with General Manager Brandon Tomlinson, General Resource Manager Doug Welch and Treasurer Lela Beatty.
Public comment was provided by Christina Beckwith, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, who spoke about a number of upcoming events.
With no additions to the agenda, the board first heard from Wilson Orvis, Chief Financial Officer for the Friant Water Authority. He presented detail regarding the 25-year rolling average cost allocation correction or “true-up.” Friant allocates operation and maintenance costs of delivering water to contractors corresponding to their percentage of total water delivered based on a 25-year rolling average. Orvis had previously notified all Friant contractors that an error had been found in allocating costs for FY 2020 and 2021. Friant staff, finance committee and board had approved these adjusted calculations which in some cases, including Chowchilla WD, resulted in higher costs and additional money owed. The CWD increase was about 10% with a resulting amount to be paid of $174,849.54. The procedure implemented by Friant was that there would be no interest charged on balances paid by December 31, 2022, but that interest would be charged on amounts remaining unpaid after that. While there, Orvis also did a new spreadsheet showing both the CWD water deliveries and percentages along with a comparison with the Madera Irrigation District.
While the directors were disappointed with this additional expense, they appreciated Orvis’ attendance and discussion, because, as President Upton noted with a smile, “Most of us went to Chowchilla High School so we’re a little slower.”
Based on the availability of legal counsel, the board then went into a 20-minute executive session to consider a real estate negotiation between the District and a landowner.
Returning to open session, the Chowchilla GSA board meeting was convened. Resource Manager Welch who coordinates the GSA work reported that the comment period on the revised GSP ends on September 30. He said he along with Stephanie Anagnoson, Madera County Director of Water and Natural Resources, and John Davids of the engineering firm have been meeting with Chowchilla white area growers following the defeat of the 218 proposal in the subbasin. There is interest by these growers in finding a way to fund the GSP, but there is much organizational work to be done and financing to arranged. Welch said he believes Anagnoson and her staff are doing their best to help farming survive in Madera County, even though she has come in for personal criticism. Everyone knows that farmers’ livelihoods are at stake so it’s understandable that emotions run high, he said.
The board then had a more general discussion of the issues around water measurement and the imposition of penalties that had been the subject of the meeting held the day before in Madera. Roger Schuh said he believed even larger penalties are needed to discourage growers from exceeding their allocations but that there must be agreement on the validity of the tools to measure water use. Welch explained that SGMA law caps the penalty per acre amount at $500, although it does allow for a $1000 fine per farm and a daily fine that can be imposed. Several directors described how Irriwatch satellite measurements did not compare at all with their metered results.
With that, discussion turned to the new position of domestic well coordinator as required by the GSP. This person will collaborate with private landowners who will be able to receive up to $30,000 for repair of a domestic well impacted by dropping water tables. While this person will be an employee of CWD, the district will be reimbursed for 70% of the costs by the other GSAs, including the county which pays half. Tomlinson noted that there is $100,000 in the budget but that includes not only salary but benefits, office expenses and a vehicle. It was moved, seconded and approved to advertise for the position.
With that, the GSA board meeting was adjourned at 2:50 p.m. and the CWD board meeting was once again convened. Ms. Beatty gave the treasurer’s report for August, noting income at $4,341,307.61, expenses at $1,146,031.84 and the cash on hand balance on September 1 of $18,587,851.65. Her report was approved along with the warrant of bills to be paid totaling $947,147.58. The report comparing financials with the budget was also accepted. The minutes of the August 10 board meeting were approved.
In his general manager’s report, Tomlinson said that a formal proposal had been submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers to do a study about raising the height of the Buchanan Dam, thereby increasing the capacity of the reservoir behind it to as much as 200,000 AF total, a 30 percent increase called for in the GSP. The study could cost up to $3 million with the District required to pay half. Tomlinson said that if this request is approved, it’s more likely to occur in 2024 than next year.
He noted several operational items and then said that employees had asked about the availability of a portable toilet on work sites. It was agreed that Tomlinson check with vendors and buy one. He concluded saying that the Friant Water Authority board retreat will be in November in Paso Robles.
Directors were invited to comment. Mandala said pumps are quitting in his area and Schuh agreed the water table is dropping. On that note, President Upton adjourned the meeting at 3:25 p.m.
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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.