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Exchange Contractors December 7, 2018



The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, December 7, 2018. You couldn’t see 40 feet at my house when I left at 6:30am but at Ex Con it was sunny and bright. Also, Ex Con now starts at 8:30am which means I would have been late but I was actually early. It gives a little breathing room because there are lot of folks you get to know and only see once a month – so it’s a nice way to break into the day with a visit. Also, the Exchange Contractors GSA meeting is held first and the regular Ex Con meeting starts at 9:00am.


We all saluted the flag – I don’t know why any public agency wouldn’t want to start their meeting that way. Then we introduced ourselves and President Jim O’Banion asked Joann White to give the financial reports and she did. Then Executive Director Chris White talked about invoicing folks for the budget while waiting for some grant funding.

The Ex Con GSA has a different way of billing for SGMA expenses. The individual landowners aren’t billed, the four-member entities pay the GSA expenses. They do charge their own landowners separately. In fact, as Randy Houk General Manager Columbia Canal Company pointed out to me, CCC and San Luis Canal Company don’t have to hold a 218 election to raise assessments because they are privately owned entities.

Jared Martin, Assistant GM Central California Irrigation District gave a report on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan development. Things are going fairly well. There was a trash can full of MOUs, memorandum of understanding with cities within the Ex Con GSA boundaries. The Cities of Gustine, Los Banos Mendota, the County of Madera GSA and the Turner Island WD GSA. Each of these MOU partners have their own groundwater quality problems; from hex-6 to salt. Attorney Paul Minasian said Ex Con isn’t getting its fingerprints on any of these problems but will be a part of identifying the solutions. The board agreed to the MOUs and a consulting services from the engineering firm of Woodward & Curran to administer the Prop One grant money. The terms of the agreement are in the packet and Ex Con will be reimbursed for the costs.

Regular Ex Con Board

The GSA portion of the meeting adjourned at 8:55am. Too early to start the 9:00am regular meeting. So, under non-actionable items Watermaster Adam Hoffman gave the water report saying demands are down to under 300 cfs. The recent storms helped make up for some pumping ground lost in November and San Luis is filling. Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River and Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River are getting a boost from the storms as well. The federal Jones and state Banks pumping plants in Tracy are pumping, a bit below average in November but again, it’s ticking up this month.

Just as Hoffman finished O’Banion stepped out to take a call as Vice Chair Chris Cardella, CCC walked in. CCC Alternate Kim Brown gave up her set at the table as Cardella get the minutes approved. O’Banion came back, took his seat and all was right with the universe again. Joann White gave the finance report for Ex Con and bless her heart; her voice was so horse it’d give a sore throat just listening. But she didn’t act sick and her hair was perfect.

Staff Reports

White gave the XO report and said Ex Con is full steam ahead river restorers when it comes to fish screens and a seepage project. An 18-inch seepage interceptor line and a 20 feet deep slurry wall is under design currently to protect some land owned in Firebaugh Canal WD, if I’m not mistaken. Former Ex Con XO Steve Chedester is now the Director of Policy & Programs. He and John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company are in charge of the fish screens, or at least in charge of reporting on the fish screens. There are painful funding and permitting issues with the US Bureau of Reclamation. White, also GM of CCID asked Houk to talk about the MLT escrow. Houk said CCC retained the water rights on the MLT property owned by four partners. The Bureau purchased the property but hasn’t done anything since February 9th and that holds up other projects. Houk said the paperwork has disappeared down a black hole in Sacramento. He said he tried to light up the Bureau at the recent ACWA meeting in San Diego. It appears the Bureau doesn’t have good internal communication. He said the Bureau attorney wasn’t aware of the seepage issues on the property. CCC has been paying for the work it’s doing at the property on behalf of the USBR. So far the only money that has changed hands has been between the Bureau and the property sellers. The Bureau owes about $100,000 on this program. CCID is standing firm with CCC and won’t help on these matters until the Bureau comes clean with the money it owes.

White reported Ex Con is working with Reclamation and State Board on a tour of the Los Banos Creek Detention Dam. Sean McGuire is slated to be on this tour and he was just appointed to the State Board. Ex Con is also setting up tours with State Legislature members and met with Nina Hawk and Garth Hall of Santa Clara Valley WD to talk transfer water. In other news White said Ex Con is researching new insurance possibilities. There is also a tour of the Glenn Colusa ID and Tehama Colusa fish screens later is month.

Wiersma reported things are going well in cleaning up Sac Dam so far. Even though Sac Dam is supposed to be upgraded under the San Joaquin River Restoration program but with SGMA and the possibility of flooding SLCC didn’t want to wait. Wiersma also thanked CCID for helping so much with the facilitating of this project. Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal WD said the subsidence in the area has cut off or soon will cut off head pressure to SLCC users. I think Bryant wanted to point out just how important this project is. Sac Dam will be raised three feet. Wiersma said three feet is a number to try to make everyone happy. The subsidence took two feet of freeboard and the three feet gives some wiggle room for a few years. He said for about $1 million they are getting a good band aide to last for a dozen years or more.

White said the Orestemba Creek recharge pilot program has some data and Martin gave a report. He said the ponds are thirsty and the upper aquifer has made gains, but the lower aquifer is being impacted by surrounding pumping. After talking with Dr. Ken Schmidt there are plans to put an extraction well for testing on a predetermined site. There were many other graphs and technical talk given. There is water getting below the clay layer, so further subsidence shouldn’t be a problem if all things are managed correctly.

Law & Legal

Attorney/consultant Dave Cory gave his report. Poor guy, he reports on the Regional and State Boards, so the amount of good news he gets to bring to the table is limited. Mark Bradford of Sacramento has replaced John Constantino to the Regional Board. Cory said he hates to see Constantino leave but has reason to hope Bradford will be a good replacement. Bradford has experience with underground tanks.

White and Chedester will be going to Fresno later today to meet with Governor elect Gavin Newsom and other water folk. He said Steve Moore who fills the sanitary engineer seat on the State Board is resigning and it looks like McGuire will be a good replacement. Additionally, State Board Chair Felicia Marcus has expressed interest in being reappointed. The Ex Con packet stated, “This will be a key appointment and something the Exchange Contractors should consider weighing in on.” It didn’t say whether or not it would support or oppose the reappointment.

Minasian gave his report saying the Newsom folks haven’t been warm on the Delta Tunnels. He said his staff is preparing an interactive program for Ex Con to work through – in case an earthquake causes a disruption in its Delta supplies. There is a bunch of other stuff in closed session.

Four Entities

White said November deliveries were high up until the rain before Thanksgiving. Wiersma said the same thing and he expects that to continue considering the current cropping patterns. Demand has gone down and that’s good because of all the construction going on at Sac Dam. Houk said he hopes to get most if not all of the current projects completed by the end of the year. Bryant said FCWD is still making deliveries and probably will until Christmas. He’s keeping some water from going to SLCC to help with the construction. Also, the local track superintendent of the rail road has been very concerned about a culvert collapsing. Bryant said the powers in Omaha don’t get it and it has been as tedious as doing dental work on a crocodile. The Mid Pacific Region Water Users Conference will be in Reno January 23-25 next year. And the meeting went into closed session.


DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide his clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, 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.’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW 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 2018 by Don A. Wright


Main Office: 541 H Street, P.O. Box 2115 Los Banos, CA 93653 Office 209/827-8616 Email:

The Exchange Contractors cover almost a quarter of a million acres in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties.

Mission Statement

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.


James O’Banion-Chair Central California Irrigation District, Chris Cardella-Vice Chair Columbia Canal Company, James L. Nickel-Treasurer San Luis Canal Company, Mike Stearns-Director Firebaugh Canal Water District


Chris White-Executive Director, Steve Chedester- Director Policies & Programs, Adam Hoffman-Water Resources Specialist, Joann White-Director Finance and Human Resources, Patty Baldini-Office Assistant, Darlene O’Brien- Administrative Assistant, Paul Minasian-Attorney


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.

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