Digital Marketing Services

Chowchilla Water District, June 14, 2023



By Joel Hastings

The Chowchilla Water District board of directors meeting was called to order at 1:30 p.m. on June 14, 2023, by President Kole Upton… right on time as usual. It was held at the District offices in Chowchilla with the full board in attendance. With no agenda changes nor public comment, President Upton moved to the GSA board meeting.


With public comment invited here, Mark Hutson, a grower and representative of the Madera Chowchilla Resource Conservation District, invited all to a public meeting to be held on June 21 focusing on grower experience with on-farm recharge. He then said he was putting his grower hat on to express concern about several of his neighbors, growers in the CWD area, who continue to pump groundwater instead of using available surface water as he does. He did not have a specific recommendation for board action but said he wished the board could do something. President Upton asked him if he had talked to the neighbors. Upton said he found that going to see his neighbors personally to encourage them to use surface water often made a difference. Local grower and former board member Mark Wolfshorndl said he shared some of these concerns as well. (Also in attendance but offering no comment was Jose Cano of Water & Land Solutions.)

There was further discussion with directors agreeing that asking or even requiring growers to use available District water instead of pumping would be desirable. Resource Manager and former General Manager Doug Welch said that regulations allowed the GSA to limit pumping and he referenced the Madera GSA water allocations. Vice president and Director Roger Schuh said he would support the creation of an ad hoc committee to come up with ideas. Director Russell Harris said it’s time to stop talking and start doing.  With that discussion, Upton asked Schuh to form a committee to develop potential strategies and bring them back to the board for consideration. While no further formal action was taken, it appeared this approach had the full support of board members.

Public Hearing

At 1:45, a public hearing was convened to hear public comment on further revisions to the Chowchilla Subbasin GSP and a revised MOU with the other GSAs in the subbasin to include mitigation for small municipal water systems along with private domestic wells used for drinking water. Resource Manager Welch said that John Davids of Davids Engineering in person at the meeting would be presenting the details, with assistance from his colleague on Zoom, Katie Klug, along with Bernadette Boyle and Pete Leffler from Luhdorff & Scalmanini, also participating online. These revisions in the GSP cover groundwater levels and subsidence. The revised MOU as noted adds shallow community systems used for drinking water. These revisions to the GSP had already been approved by the other GSAs covering the Chowchilla Subbasin… Madera and Merced Counties and Triangle-T Water District. Several members of this board also saw this detail during the presentation at the Advisory Committee meeting held June 5 and reported on The detailed slide set used in this presentation can be found at the Madera County website here.

While there was no further public comment, board discussion zeroed in on the particular changes made. In response to a question, it was stated that the Subbasin currently is overdrafted by 80,000 AF per year, with the District portion of that at 20,000 to 30,000 AF. Upton asked what the situation would be if the District GSA came into balance, but neighbors did not. Davids said that if the revised GSP is fully implemented, the Subbasin will come into balance by 2040. He said this plan represents the starting line, not the finish.

During discussion of the domestic well mitigation MOU, it was confirmed that the term shallow wells refers to those that are only several hundred feet deep. The Subbasin already has a mitigation program under way for individual wells to be administered by the District, but language to include the community systems was something noted as important by DWR.

After these staff presentations and board discussion, and with nothing from the public, the board voted unanimously to approve the GSP and MOU revisions. The Subbasin GSAs can now submit the final program to DWR, with the expectation, if not the certainty. that it will be acceptable to DWR thus avoiding a hearing in front of the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).

Chowchilla Water District

Reconvening as the District board, the directors heard from Ryan Jolley of the firm Bryant L. Jolley, CPA in Firebaugh who presented the audit report for the District’s financials for 2022. He said the District assets totaled just under $50 million and had increased by a net of $4.3 million at the end of the past year. He said it was a clean audit with no new footnotes, no disagreements with management and no difficulties completing the audit. The board accepted the audit results with a unanimous vote.

The board next approved the warrant list of bills through June 14 totaling $3,633,528.46 as presented by Treasurer Lela Beatty. The financial report also accepted showed an ending balance on June 1 of $14,532,096.58.

Next the board considered a request from Mark Hutson to reduce his water bill. While he had been present earlier as noted above, he was not in the room for this discussion. His letter said that when free recharge water had been available earlier in the spring, the District pipe to his property had been shut down for repairs. Therefore, when the facilities were ready for delivery, he paid the higher price that had been put in place. After discussion, the board took no action.Lidco Inc.

The board approved an agreement on riparian water between the District and Creekside Land Company, LLC. The document had been prepared by legal counsel on both sides and documented an understanding that had already been in place.

A work order to continue geographical information system (GIS) work to be performed by Provost and Pritchard was presented and approved. It is to be done particularly for the high speed rail right away through the District, but GIS has been part of the overall management plan for the District.

A reimbursement agreement documenting procedures to be followed by the District for invoicing the High Speed Rail Authority was reviewed and approved as were the minutes of the May 10 meeting.

GM Report

General Manager Brandon Tomlinson had several handouts detailing water volumes in Eastman and Millerton Lakes, also showing outflow rates and volumes. His written reports also listed work done on District infrastructure, vehicles and equipment. He said an agreement to wheel water for Triangle T for the wheeling fee was in the works and might require a special board meeting. The Ewell Group, consultants charged with obtaining support for the expansion on the Buchanan Dam, has been in Washington DC to meet with Congressman John Duarte and others. They report that now that the budget impasse has been solved, attention can be focused on water issues.

Tomlinson said that the District will have to begin to consider purchases of electric vehicles now that a deadline of January 2024 has been set for trucks over 8500 lbs. Unfortunately, he said, most of the incentives are for ag based organization… i.e., farms… rather thanAmerican Groundwater Trust public agencies like the District. He said it’s necessary to begin planning for this year’s election / reelection of directors being conducted from July 17 to August 11. Terms will be up for Upton, Harris and Mike Mandala. He finished by saying across the District there might be as much as 100,000 AF of recharge this season.

Shortly after 3:00 p.m. the board moved into closed session with the agenda saying there would be consideration of three items of anticipated litigation, two current cases and a real estate negotiation.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.

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.


Get Our Latest Water News Delivered To Your InBox

Subscribe today to be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

We respect your privacy and value your readership. We will never sell your information to 3rd parties.


Kaweah Subbasin Coordination, September 27, 2023

By Don A. Wright The three Groundwater Sustainability Agencies that...

Kern Groundwater Authority GSA September 27, 2023 Don A. Wright The Kern Groundwater Authority Groundwater Sustainability...

Greater Kaweah GSA September 26, 2023

By Don A. Wright The Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency...

Madera Irrigation District Board of Directors Special Meeting, September 20, 2023

By Joel Hastings On September 20 at 10:31 a.m., President...

Westlands Water District September 19, 2023

By Don A. Wright The Westlands Water District held its...