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Chowchilla Water District & GSA May 10, 2023

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By Joel Hastings

At its May 10 meeting the CWD Board set the water rate for the coming season at $96 / AF, while still providing water at no charge for dedicated recharge. Here’s how it went.

The GSA Meeting

The Chowchilla Water District board of directors regular monthly meeting was called to order at 1:32 p.m. on May 10, 2023. Vice President Roger Schuh wielded the gavel in the absence of President Kole Upton. Directors Mike Mandela and Vince Taylor were joined shortly after by Director Russell Harris. While there were no additions to the agenda and no public comment, David Scheidt of Fresno-Madera Farm Credit and Jose Cano of Water & Land Solutions were present.

The board immediately convened as the GSA board and heard a report from Doug Welch, general resource manager, who coordinates GSA activities on behalf of the District. In making necessary changes to the GSP, Welch said the effort was to mirror the successful Merced GSP. He said the committee had met with Sean Maguire, member of the SWRC board, who was informed and interested in what is being done. Welch said that neither the SWRCB nor the Chowchilla group wants to go to a public hearing.  There will be another meeting of the GSP technical committee to review a redlined revision of the plan which will be submitted to the SWRCB.

The Meeting

Reconvening as the CWD board, the treasurer’s report from Lela Beatty was heard. She said that receipts for the past month amounted to $292,567 while expenditures totaled $1,056,376 leaving an ending balance of $17,255,341.94. This report was approved as was the warrant of bills to be paid totaling $553,584.57. These reports were approved with unanimous votes along with the budget update.

With the notification earlier that the District would receive 100 percent of its Class 1 water and 70 percent of Class 2, General Manager Brandon Tomlinson gave the board the budget assessment he and Treasurer Beatty had worked on just that morning, reflecting actual water sales at the $75 / AF price that had been in effect since the last meeting. He said there is water coming down every channel, maxed out at the CWD end of the Madera Canal. Recharge has amounted to some 100,000 AF which was greeted with approval by the board.

With Friant flood flows going down the San Joaquin River, CWD is paying for all the water it is receiving… about $45 – $47 for Class 1 and ten dollars less for Class 2. With total deliveries projected at 160,000 AF at a 60 percent efficiency rate and after considering riparian flows of 16,000 AF, the budget was calculated at $14.3 million of income from net sales of 143,000 AF at $100 / AF, a rate he recommended. He projected CWD net income at just under $391,000. He said a new rate could take effect on Monday, May 15.Technoflo

Rate Setting

With that, the directors discussed various rate options, as high as $125 and as low as $90 / AF. The directors expressed the hope that growers in the District would use the water as opposed to pumping ground water. It was pointed out that PG&E electric rates to run pumps are typically higher in the summer. The notion that the District exists for the benefit of its members, not just to make a profit was also pointed out, but without a margin, the District cannot function. The members were also well aware that neighboring districts had set lower rates… $75 in Merced and $72.50 in Madera ID.

The board questioned Tomlinson about cuts to the expense budget, but he said there were no significant reductions to be made. Finally, a motion to set the rate at $96 / AF was made, seconded and then passed on a three to one vote, with Harris advocating for the recommended $100.

Staff recommended and the board unanimously agreed that water used solely for recharge purposes would still be made available at no charge. Staff is to review customer applications to verify that no crops are being watered, as is currently the case. Also, the District itself receives any recharge credits.

Other Reports

With that important decision made, the board finished up with routine business, first approving the minutes of the April 12 meeting and then hearing the monthly GM report. Tomlinson’s  standard report in the board packet included April 30 storage totals in Eastman and Millerton Lakes, maintenance done on CWD infrastructure for water conveyance and equipment repairs and maintenance. He said a new mechanic has been hired who it appears will fill the bill nicely.

Lidco Inc.

In a summary sheet handed out at the meeting, Tomlinson showed current storage behind Buchanan Dam at 143,278 AF with water released in April totaling 12,118 AF.  Behind Friant, the current total is 180,813 AF with 23,116 AF released in April and water currently flowing at 500 CFS. His info sheet also included the precipitation in the Valley exceeding normal ranges, the snow accumulations in the Sierra in percentage of normal terms and the total amounts of recharge in seven CWD basins – 4748 AF for the season. In April, recharge basin deliveries totaled 1247 AF and total water delivered amount to 12,472 AF.

He concluded his report saying that the Ewing organization continues to move forward on the Buchanan Dam project and was also investigating the possibility of an “intertie,” a pipeline to move water between Bear Creek and the District.

At 3:25 p.m. the board moved into closed session to review litigation and real estate negotiations.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2022 by

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.

Chowchilla Water District is in the CWD GSA DWR# 5-022.05