By Don A. Wright
The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, August 4, 2023 at its Los Banos headquarters and by telephone. Members of the public are asked to attend by phone. Also they’re back to starting at 8:00am again. For a while there the start time was 9:00am, but since I’m no longer driving to Los Banos it’s still all good. One of these days Ex Con and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority will merge their offices into one building that will also house a museum. I expect a glorious boardroom where everyone will have a seat and plenty of power outlets to plug a computer into. That’d be nice.
The meeting began with Chairman Chris Cardella leading the flag salute. Executive Officer Chris White announced there needs to be an addition to the agenda since it was posted – item 12c in the legislative report. The board agreed. Director Mike Stearns was on the phone but his location wasn’t published in time, he can comment but not vote. Then as if that wasn’t enough excitement, they moved item 10b to after closed session. The minutes were approved and there was no public comment.
Joann White gave the money talk and as usual she did such a good job the board voted to pay its bills and approve her report.
Water Master Adam Hoff said winter has finally come to an end. There was more than 2.1 million acre feet released from Millerton so far. Friant Dam is currently releasing 300 cubic feet per second and about 125 cfs is reaching Sac Dam, which is the target flow. Lake Shasta is at is close to 4 million acre feet. San Luis Reservoir is full. Unfortunately, you can’t see the charts and graphs presented when you’re listening in on the phone and they were not included with the agenda. But this is all public record. There have been spills on Friant Dam but that will now end and Millerton Lake drawdown will start now. Same for Pine Flat on the Kings River.
The Jones Plant is pumping at five units and should continue through the end of September. There could be an X2 consideration starting in October. That is the measurement of salinity intrusion from San Francisco Bay into the Delta. If the X2 line moves too far upstream more through Delta flows are used to push it back to the West. That means less water to pump to the south. The Delta is ground zero for so much of the water issues in California. The area hasn’t been natural since California’s Gold Rush in the 19th century. Before there were dams salt water would make its way to Sacramento and Stockton during dry years. Islands were really islands, now many of them have a surface area lower than the water line and have to be maintained by levees.
Ex Director Report
White said the office is buzzing with operational issues now that flooding is no longer a threat. He’s been working on transfers and legislation response. It was a short report.
Steve Chedester said he’ll also be brief. The Mendota Pool (fish screen?) design is on its way to reaching the 90 percent design milestone. Five Rubicon gates have been ordered and that’s it for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program.
Chedester said Orestimba Creek Project construction started last month. The earth work is almost completely finished and they are starting concrete pours on the check structures right away. The NEPA/CEQA permit is filled out and the geotechnical work is wrapping up.
Dave Cory reported the “enviro so called justice” NGO mob is challenging the groundwater protection program but didn’t file their petition before the State Water Resources Control Board in a timely manner. So, we’ll see.
On a more local level the Regional Board said the nitrate issue could sweep in more restrictive regulations but the township has been selected as the boundary lines per measuring unit. There are agreements being developed with other agencies and interests on how to best deal with these new goals.
White said on the state side the big three dangerous bills have been tamed due to the joint lobbying from a broad group of opposition. The state legislature is on recess at the moment. On the federal side I think they’re also on recess in Washington DC. I think I heard White say the Department of Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Water & Science Tanya Trujillo resigned and has been replaced.
The board will be looking to update its lobbying efforts and an ad hoc committee has come up with a recommendation. This is item 12c added. The proposal was attached for the board to look at. The cost will be $47,500 annual at least for the first year. Invariant is the name of the firm and it will be dealing with federal matters. The board approved.
White said he’ll ask Lighthouse Public Affairs to report at the October meeting and give an update of what they’ve been up to.
Andy McClure reported the never ending GSP protest for a plan that was never implemented is still being litigated. The Del Puerto Canyon suit from some Friant members is going to court on appeal I believe. The Sierra Club suit has had a remediation session but everything else from that report is in closed session.
John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company reported deliveries are up and a capital project financing effort will soon start.
Jarrett Martin, GM Central California Irrigation District said they are fighting aquatic weeds and setting up tours of the area.
Cardella reported for Columbia Canal Company as you may recall we lost General Manager Randy Houk recently. Cardella expressed the sense of loss CCC is experiencing. He thanked the CCC staff for stepping up and for all the help the other Ex Con members have been providing.
Info & Closed Session
White reported the Ag Leadership Program will be coming through and there will be a tour and dinner. He said this has been a big benefit and thanked the board for its support. That was that, all there was and the meeting went into closed session at 8:38am for seven items. Go be good to yourselves and others.
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SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
DWR SGMA Identifier #5-022.07
The Exchange Contractors cover almost a quarter of a million acres in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties.
The Exchange Contractors Water Authority mission is to effectively protect the Exchange Contract and maximize local water supply, flexibility and redundancy in order to maintain local control over the members’ water supply.
Chris Cardella -Chair Columbia Canal Company, Mike Stearns-Vice Chair Director Firebaugh Canal Water District, James L. Nickel-Treasurer San Luis Canal Company, Eric Fontana- Director Central California Irrigation District
Chris White-Executive Director, Steve Chedester- Director Policies & Programs, Adam Hoffman-Water Resources Specialist, Joann White-Director Finance and Human Resources, Darlene O’Brien- Administrative Assistant, Andy McClure-Attorney Minasian Law Firm.
From the Exchange Contractors’ website: www.sjrecwa.net The San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors hold some of the oldest water rights in the state, dating back to the late 1800s. The rights were established by Henry Miller of the legendary Miller and Lux cattle empire. In 1871, Henry Miller constructed canals to divert water from the San Joaquin and North Fork of the Kings Rivers for irrigation of his vast acreage. Today, several of the original Miller and Lux canals are operated by the Exchange Contractors.
Although Henry Miller’s canals served the irrigation needs of his estate in the western portion of Fresno, Madera, Merced, and Stanislaus counties, in order for more growth on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley to occur, more water was needed. In 1933, the United States Department of Interior undertook the Central Valley Project, a vast undertaking to build dams throughout the great Central Valley including the Sacramento, American and San Joaquin Rivers. When construction of the Friant Dam (north of Fresno) was under consideration, feasibility studies showed that irrigation development of the Friant Project between Chowchilla and Bakersfield depended upon water being diverted from the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam and brought to the east side of the valley, via the Friant-Kern Canal.
To accomplish this, the government asked the heirs of Miller and Lux to agree to “exchange” where they receive their pre-1914 appropriative and riparian water from the San Joaquin and Kings Rivers for guaranteed deliveries of “substitute” water from the Sacramento River by means of the Delta-Mendota Canal and other facilities of the United States. This agreement, known as the “Exchange Contract,” along with the accompanying “Purchase Contract,” were reached in 1939 and that led to the name “San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors.” In normal years, the Exchange Contractors are guaranteed 100% of their contractual water allotment (840,000 acre feet) and in critical years the amount is 75% (650,000 a/f).
The Exchange Contractors, however, did not abandon their San Joaquin River water rights. Instead, they agreed not to exercise those San Joaquin and Kings Rivers’ water rights if guaranteed water deliveries continued through the Delta-Mendota Canal or other facilities of the United States.