The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, February 2, 2018. It has been warm and dry a little too long so although everyone is still cordial, civil and their genuine polite selves; some of the frivolity of a rainy day has been set aside. Chairman Jim O’Banion called the meeting to order at 8:00 am. There was no GSA meeting this morning. We began with a flag salute and for some reason it started ragged, without the “indivisibleness” one would expect. But it things improved as we warmed up to the task. The minutes were approved and the bills paid. Executive Officer Steve Chedester gave the finance reports starting with a review of last year’s budget. The board approved the whole thing.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave the water report saying the federal portion of San Luis Reservoir is full. He doesn’t expect the state side to fill. Millerton Lake is at 71 percent of filling and Pine Flat is about half full. Los Banos Creek picked up 68 a/f due to some local rainfall. Lake Shasta is 64 percent of normal. The Delta is receiving 20,788 cfs and the federal Jones Pumping Plant is moving 2,720 cfs. Out of the 20,788 cfs flowing into the Delta 13,585 cfs is flowing out to sea. When the pumps are ramped up it causes in-Delta channels of the San Joaquin River known as the old and middle rivers (OMR) to flow backwards. Chedester added the state controls its facilities and its biological opinions preventing the state from pumping. Central California Irrigation District General Manager Chris White said under the Cooperative Operating Agreement if the feds pump any more than they are it is charged against them under COA. So to prevent a COA debt the feds have cut back. The state, rather petulantly I think, is not allowing the feds to encroach on its empty storage space in SLR. As O’Banion said, “That makes sense.” I hope this conveys the irony of the situation.
Hoffman continued – The forecast for the next 30-days is above average temperatures and below average precipitation. The wettest year on record for the North, Central and South Sierra Nevada was 1982-1983 water year. The driest was the 2014-2015 water year. The second driest was 1976-1977. This season is tracking along the 1976-1977 path. It was asked if the situation at Oroville Dam could impact the Central Valley Project. Attorney Paul Minasian said he expects the state to continue sending water to the Delta from Oroville. The state is not trying to fill SLR, rather sending as much water south to fill those reservoirs because it doesn’t expect much water from the Colorado River.
Chedester gave his report saying the State Board’s Water Quality Control Plan is moving slower than usual. No proposals from DWR or California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife have been offered to the tributaries. Nothing new on COA. The Cal Water Fix may get some support from the US Bureau of Reclamation as long as it’s a smaller project. There is some modeling going on by Friant to help them get a better idea of what could happen.
Jarrett Martin, CCID gave the SGMA report. He said he’s met with Dr. Ken Schmidt to discuss the water budgets of the individual cities participating in the Exchange Contractor GSA. Palmer McCoy is in charge of public outreach and there will be technical and coordination committee meetings later this month. Martin said most of the work taking place is number crunching and gathering data to work up a GSP.
Chedester said working the SJR Restoration has yielded meetings with Ex Con, the Bureau, Friant and the Natural Resource Defense Council, NRDC. They are working towards a “Foundation for the Funding Constrained Framework for Implementation” of the SJR Restoration. There is a draft of this and once it is finalized it will be sent to Senator Diane Feinstein. It’s up to her to determine if there needs to be further meetings. Feinstein’s aide John Watts is the main contact in Washington DC. There has yet to be any significant development of infrastructure to allow salmon migration through the length of the SJR.
Ex Con is a member of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure JPA. It has been invited to join the Friant backed MOU for an investors group. This is the group with the $100,000 seats. Ex Con sent some redlined critiques. The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority is looking for members to join together to purchase a seat under its special activities agreement. Ex Con has declined, wanting instead to hold its own seat but with complete cooperation with SLDM. On the same subject the California Water Commission is responsible for scoring the 11 applications for the $3 billion set aside in Prop One for surface storage projects. Not one applicant scored one point in the public benefits category, with more than half scoring zero. Assemblyman Adam Grey wrote a letter to Governor Jerry Brown expressing his concern with the CWC’s scoring saying, “. . . CWC’s failure to adequately articulate its judgement criteria. . .” A big part of the problem was the folks doing the scoring were not allowed to ask questions. Whose idea was that? It appears to be an internal decision by the CWC. It was co-signed by 23 other assembly members. White said the MOU is one way to get around some of the operational strings attached to accepting Prop One money.
Chedester continued saying there will be a tour of Ex Con for National Marine Fisheries Service potentates on February 7th. A trip to Washington DC to express CVP contractors’ priorities is set for February 26-28th and the Merced County Farm Bureau will be holding a members’ meeting on March 1st.
Next the Mendota Pool Group has been going through a frustrating time with trying to get a new EIS/EIR together. Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal WD said he would like Ex Con’s Hoffman to develop a good relationship with engineer Bill Pipes. Pipes is the head technical guru for the MPG. Bryant said if water quality starts to decline it hits his district first and of course he doesn’t want that. Jim Stillwell is a “Pumper” and he said he’ll see to it there is better coordination.
White reported on subsidence in the Red Top area saying there is a FEMA grant out there for this and the application is for $13 million. Madera ID has some water to move into the area and with the completion of a couple of projects such as increased recharge ponds and conveyance to move flood and transfer water into the area. Provost & Pritchard engineer Rick Iger said there are now 12-turnouts on the Eastside Bypass that will allow extra pickup of floodwater to apply directly to crops and not just recharge.
Dave Cory gave his report on all things nefarious in Sacramento’s Byzantine regulatory environment. Cory said if a grower is in a low vulnerability area he won’t have to certify his nitrogen plan but will have to file a report. There is still the requirement of publicly posting the nitrogen management plans by anonymous APN numbers for everyone to see. This may very well be the precursor to widespread, one size fits all regulations. Or, it could open up information various NGOs may use to begin lawsuits. This new slew of regulations are expected to be adopted and challenged.
Chedester gave the legislative report and said there is no outright water user tax coming out of Sacramento but beware; it could be hidden somewhere, sometime. From Washington DC there wasn’t much to report. The USBR’s Michael Ryan is now one of the top advisors to the Department of Interior.
Minasian reported next and said Friant is claiming the landowners in the districts own the water rights and the Bureau can’t take the water elsewhere. Now, to make the $500 million claim against the Bureau moving water from Millerton Lake to Ex Con, Friant is also claiming the water contractors have rights. The City of Fresno is claiming its citizens have water rights also. Minasian said this won’t go away as soon as one would like. There will be more about this in closed session. He said the State Board isn’t admitting it but it is slowing down on the through Delta flows.
White started the four managers’ reports saying deliveries are ramping up as is the refuges. The Poso Canal work is finished and CCID’s maintenance is going well. Randy Houk, Columbia Canal Company said they started filling the canals this morning and all the main canals are sealed with either cement or membrane. John Wiersma San Luis Canal Company said routine maintenance is coming along and there will be an annual meeting next month with an election. Bryant said most of the pre-irrigation is finished and there is hope there will be rain. He said there are a couple of guys on drip lines on top of the beds even though they have used sprinklers. Still dealing with drainage and water quality making its way back to the SJR. He said the 218 election passed and a drainage service charge is now going out to growers.
The meeting then went into closed session.
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SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
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.
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
Steve Chedester-Executive Director, Adam Hoffman-Water Master, Joann White-Administrative Assistant, Patty Baldini-Office 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. In the event that the Bureau is unable to make its contracted deliveries of substitute water to the Exchange Contractors, the Exchange Contractors have