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Chowchilla Water District & GSA Board, April 12, 2023

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By Joel Hastings

The board of directors of the Chowchilla Water District met April 12, 2023, in its regular monthly session, voting to raise the price of water to District irrigators to $75 / AF (per acre foot) effective April 17, but lowering the price from $10 to $0 / AF for those who can show exclusive use for recharge. This is a temporary situation based on flood flows from Friant with the likelihood of moving the price at some point to a more realistic number in the neighborhood of the budgeted figure of $118.

President Kole Upton called the meeting to order at 1:35 p.m., inviting members of the public to identify themselves… they were Mark Hudson, a local grower and member of the Madera Chowchilla Resource Conservation District, who said the RCD had organized a plastic pick up day at the office parking lot of the Madera County Farm Bureau on April 17. He also said that a recharge information program for growers had been held earlier that day in Madera. Also present were Geoff Vanden Heuvel on the staff of the Milk Producers Council along with this reporter.


The roll call showed four board members present and Director Russell Harris on the phone, arriving after 2 p.m.

The board moved into its GSA session with Doug Welch presenting. He said the Annual Report for the Chowchilla Subbasin had been prepared and submitted to DWR by Davids Engineering and Luhdorff & Scalmanini firms. The 76-page report is posted on the Madera County website and copies were provided to the directors. Welch called attention to several charts in the document showing the location of 36 measuring wells, water budgets, changes in water levels and extraction rates, in several instances with annual figures going back to 1989. The overdraft for the 2021 – 2022 year stands at 193,905 AF but with the wet year and recharge activities, Welch predicted a much better figures a year from now. The report also included descriptions of various projects undertaken to reduce overdraft and progress to date.

Welch also reported that on March 2, DWR had issued an inadequate determination for the Subbasin GSP. The deficiencies were insufficient documentation to show how new water level thresholds would be met and therefore how subsidence would be reduced. The Advisory Committee had met on March 15 with the understanding that if revisions were submitted within 60 days that satisfied DWR, the plan could be approved. Therefore, the Committee  recommended approval of a contract with Davids Engineering to provide the necessary additional revisions. The board acted to approve the contract in the requested amount of $141,390.Technoflo


Reconvening as the CWD board, the group approved the financial reports presented by Treasurer Lela Beatty. Receipts for March totaled $958,278.26 and disbursements amounted to $1,254,412.76 leaving an ending balance on April 1 of $18,019,150.93. The warrant of bills approved for payment amounted to $1,615,777.15. The monthly budget report was also approved.


Two routine resolutions to be submitted to Madera County were passed without objection. The first was the estimation of the sum of monies needed for the operation of the District in the coming year. This budget calls for expenditures of $17,809,349, of that, $10,195,525 is for water purchases. Income of that same total figure is projected, including water sales at $10,761,256. A second resolution objected to the county’s sales of three properties for delinquent taxes in order to preserve the District’s lien on them for unpaid water bills.

The minutes of the March 8 regular meeting were approved.

GM Report

General Manager Brandon Tomlinson began his monthly report saying that the District would receive 100% of its Class 1 allocation and 70% of Class 2 water, with the possibility of an even higher allocation. With that in mind, he recommended that the price for selling District water to customers should be raised from $10 / AF to $40 / AF, effective April 17. He said by getting some revenue now, the price would not have to be raised so high later, since a figure of $118 / AF is in the budget.

At this point a long discussion and various smaller conversations broke out, all expressing the desire to encourage recharge, to capture flows to keep water in the District, to understand the impact of the Governor’s emergency resolution on water moved to white area lands and still to remain financially sound for District operations. The directors came at these issues from a wide variety of viewpoints. It was a lively discussion that lasted over an hour and even so, there was no acrimony whatsoever, but a free exchange of ideas.

Lidco Inc.

The group ultimately unanimously approved two resolutions. One was to set the price of water sold to District customers for irrigation at $75 / AF effective April 17. The second was to offer water at no cost to landowners who could document use for recharge only, to be determined by District staff. An information letter will be sent to District landowners providing this information and encouraging recharge but cautioning this pricing structure will only be in effect for an undetermined about of time while there are flood flows, likely not very long.

GM Tomlinson finished his report, saying Congressman John Duarte will be at the District offices Friday morning along with consultant Roger Ewell. There will be a short tour and a request for support of the expansion of Buchanan Dam. Director Roger Schuh commented briefly about a Friant meeting he had attended. Then the group gratefully accepted the chair’s adjournment hammer at 3:20 p.m. with no closed session.

As we were all leaving, Chair Upton told this reporter with a chuckle that he could report the meeting convened and then the chair immediately lost control of the session. He also asked to be remembered to WaterWrights Publisher Don Wright, which is being done with these words.

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Chowchilla Water District – PO Box 905 – 327 So. Chowchilla Ave., Chowchilla, CA 93610   559/665-3747 website

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.