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Consolidated Irrigation District March 8, 2023

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By Don A. Wright

The board of directors of the Consolidated Irrigation District met at its Selma headquarters on Wednesday March 8, 2023. The snow is low and a relatively warm rain is heading towards the Central Sierra Nevada Range. CID gets its water from the Kings River after it stops over at Pine Flat Reservoir. That holds about one million acre feet. We’ll find out if flooding is expected in the near future.

The GSA Meeting

CID is the Central Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Director/Chair Ray Moles called the meeting to order at 1:00pm. General Manager Phil Desatoff wasn’t in the room so Assistant GM Michael Carbajal had the pleasure to announce the Kings Subbasin, which includes CKGSA has had its Groundwater Sustainability Plan approved by DWR.

Attorney Lauren Layne explained the GSP is in good shape until the first five-year update is due in 2025. For the subbasins that didn’t pass the test will have 180-days before a State Board hearing is scheduled. The GSA meeting took about nine minutes.

The CID Meeting

Moles called the ID meeting to order. There was the usual housekeeping; consent calendar, no public comments or changes to the agenda.

GMs Report

Desatoff showed up and said the district already has 75 percent of its storage at Pine Flat and that number is growing rapidly. He said the Army Corps of Engineers is predicting 12,000 cfs on the Kings River at Highway 99. There are a number of golf courses along the Kings River that will most likely flood. ACE wants to limit releases from Pine Flat to 1,000 cfs and let the majority of the flows to come down Mill Creek. The land along the Kings River has many homes and the sheriffs are advising evacuation.

Mill Creek is currently running at 200 cfs and this weekend is expected to increase to 17,000 cfs for about half a day. Mill Creek flows into the Kings River about two miles downstream of Pine Flat Dam. Desatoff said there is actually a 6,500 a/f estimated snowpack on the Mill Creek watershed. That is very rare for a watershed that low in elevation.

CID has been investing in recharge basins and is spilling into everywhere it can. All the landowners are being encouraged to take on as much surface water as possible. Austin Hubble, MEI Farms said High Speed Rail is blocking his flows but he’s figured out how to reroute up to 10 cfs. Desatoff said HSR was warned water is coming and HSR actually cooperated.

CID Watermaster Walt Frost said he will take as much as possible since events like this come along so rarely. Desatoff said last time there was a wet year as close to this year, the ponds got a little too full. There was a stretch on Clovis Avenue that only the dotted line showed. Moles praised the CID staff for their hard work above and beyond their required duties. CID is willing to get water to non CID land. There is an estimated four million a/f on the Kings watershed.

I’ve been curious how this year compares to previous water years. In 1862 there was a massive flood that transformed the San Joaquin Valley into a lake. That was before records were kept. The 1905 and 1968-69 water years are comparable and flood control is better now. But the amount of water expected this weekend is going to overwhelm the system as far as the capacity to capture much of the water coming down hill. The way Kings River water is divided by the recipients is so complicated ancient Chinese Astrologers have been known to assume the fetal position and whimper for days upon exposure. But if I understand top of schedule contractors, those with the first rights to the water inflowing to Pine Flat Lake, can lose storage as flood flows are released. While others gain. I won’t try to untangle this knot here but it looks like CID is going to have a great deal of water. I asked if they’d looked into banking some water at Semitropic but I was threatened to be expelled from the meeting.

Carbajal said there are projects on the calendar that could even be completed in time to provide more recharge this season. He said the engineering firm of Provost & Pritchard is meeting with staff to finalize the design and construction could begin soon.

There was a question about getting supplies to a portion of the westside of the district and I’m not sure what happened. You may want to contact management but if I understood CID overflowed a canal and sued itself for a claim but that can’t be right. Somehow or other they are making it work.

Desatoff said the freezing level for the past storms was at 3,000 to 4,000 feet elevation but this storm is going to have a freeze level above 5,000 feet and that will wash the hills bare of snowpack. The snow water equivalent is 180 percent. Hubble read the Bulletin 120 report that just came out but was still a week or more old.

A grower asked about the raisin crop this year. Raisins are a big crop in CID and he asked about keeping canal levels up during harvest. It is usual procedure for the district to shut off the canals during harvest to prevent any accidents that could occur with spills for those who dry the grapes in trays on the ground. The dry on the vine growers also want less humidity during this time.

In other news there needs to be a new ag water management plan submitted to DWR by the district. There are also four proposals to estimate the district’s groundwater capacity. Desatoff said in 1982-83 the delivery season lasted 18-months. With that the groundwater levels improved greatly. There is now far more interest in recharge. Desatoff said of all the sources flowing to the Tulare Lake bottom area only the Kings River has a diversion to send it to the Mendota Pool.

Desatoff said CID needs an additional 2,000 acres of recharge basins to take better advantage of banking its water supplies within the district. This could include agreements on cost and yield sharing with other agencies.

Director Mitch Ritchie said if the district works on banking with CID growers for in district recharge it would keep the water in CID as opposed to other agencies. He also said this water must stay in the district. Desatoff and Layne both said if growers want to participate and the water will be metered this is possible. Grower Jerry Rai said all the costs must be measured like retiring land to dedicated to recharge.

Moles said growers’ farming operations are being hampered by on farm recharge and if the farmers don’t want that in a particular year the projected yield is off. Having dedicated recharge that belongs to the district is going to operate the same way every time there is a possibility to do so.

Layne said it most likely will require all the GSAs in the subbasin to sign on to a unified system to pass the water around within the subbasin. There are problems with working with some growers and not others in the district and problems with working with other agencies.

Director Tom Chandler asked about the grant programs and how this could help growers. Layne said CID is working with Provost & Pritchard to find all the grants possible. There are more grants expected. I’ve been hearing there is a good deal of federal dollars coming from Washington and better coordination between federal agencies.

Rai said both he and Moles have a similar profile of growing in CID and Raisin City Water District which is in the McMullen Area GSA. He said he has land to recharge within CID and he wants the first option of recharge to be reserved for CID growers. And there needs to be incentives. He said now is the time to think policy to keep the water in the district instead of down the South Fork of the Kings River. Moles said that would be a board decision and the board is listening.

Rai said the on farm recharge in one of his almond orchards has caused soil health problems. He said he wants dedicated ponds for growers. Director Tony Lewis asked Rai what happens to the growers when CID get’s its additional 2,000 acres of recharge? Desatoff added at a certain point the district’s conveyance from the Kings River is limited without adding more diversion points on the river. He said DWR is concerned with pushing chemicals into the groundwater. He said the district is considering everything with an eye towards controlling its own fate as much as possible. Rai said it could be a way for CID to bring in more income without another 218 election.

Closed Session

The open session of the meeting ended at 2:59pm. There were four items in closed session and they all had to do with lawsuits. That was all from CID. Go be good to yourself and others and remember Who it is that really supplies the water.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2023 by Don A. Wright

CONSOLIDATED IRRIGATION DISTRICT – 2255 Chandler St, Selma, CA 93662 Telephone; 559/896-1660

CID covers 145,000 acres mostly in South Central Fresno County. Surface water supplies: Kings River   CID is its own GSA

General Manager – Phil Desatoff, Attorney – Doug Jensen, Water Master – Walt Frost, Controller – Gail Hoffman

Board of Directors – President Tony Lewis, Tom Chandler, Greg Thonesen, Ray Moles, Mitch Ritchie