The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, January 5, 2018. One of the things uniting the water community in this Valley is the shared experience of illness during the holidays. It seems like everyone had the crud sometime between Christmas and New Years. There are some changes at today’s board; Darcy Villaere is the new director from Firebaugh Canal Water District. He said he’s Bill Jones nephew and appears sound and fit for the gig. Also, Chase Hurley left a big footprint when he left San Luis Canal Company as its General Manager. A gentleman named John Wiersma has taken that title.
Ex Con GSA
The meeting began at 8:00 am with Chairman James O’Banion calling the San Joaquin River Exchange Contractors Groundwater Sustainability Agency with a flag salute. The GSA meeting had a couple of things going on. A conflict of interest code was approved. Executive Director Steve Chedester told the board there is work going on with the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. He had Jared Martin, Engineer at Central California Irrigation District give a report. Martin said Merced County has covered 40,000 acres of white area and will be providing its portion of the GSP. A big chunk of this white area is comprised of federal wildlife refuges – although exempt from SGMA they want to be a contributing part. The City of Los Banos is submitting a water budget of its own and Dr. Ken Schmidt is helping out. The board was presented an estimated budget for Ex Con’s share of the GSP with and without grant funding. It isn’t cheap. Without grants Ex Con could be out $326,000. With grant funding that drops to $208,000. Martin said he fully expects to get the grant money. This is Prop One funding. Each sub basin is eligible for either $1 million or $1.5 million depending on factors such as critical over draft designation and how disadvantaged their communities are. This money is split between the GSAs within the sub basin to develop their portions of the GSP. Martin said things are going forward even before the grants money gets here. Chedester said historically for water studies Ex Con has shared costs with the cities at fifty percent. The GSA needs guidance on this as it is not policy. Chris White, GM CCID said Ex Con has very good relations with the cities and this is probably the best way to go about this. The board approved the grant split by a very complicated motion. And that was the end of the GSA meeting.
The regularly scheduled Ex Con meeting began at 8:38am. The first item was approval of the minutes. There were only three of the four directors present Villaere had to second things he wasn’t originally present for; like last month’s minutes. Chedester gave the board a guided tour through the authority’s finances and they loved it; approving treasurer reports, paying the bills and such. The board also approved the annual statement of investment policy by resolution. There was also a review of annual contributions Ex Con gives to other groups and charities such as ACWA and California Farm Water Coalition. All fine, above board and generous without gifting of public funds.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave the water report saying Ex Con had a demand of 514 cfs, mostly to the wildlife refuges. Friant is releasing 380 cfs. Shasta has 3.2 million a/f in storage or 112 percent of average for this time of year. San Luis Reservoir has 1.6 million a/f or 117 percent of average. A little more than 913,000 a/f of that is federal water. Millerton Lake has 355,000 a/f or 128 percent of average. Hoffman said the recent storms have not yielded enough to make much of a difference in the Delta outflow. Not enough to increase pumping. White said the SJR reservoirs have already dumped enough storage to be OK with flood control. So that means the storm inflow after it is attenuated by the system is only 1,000 cfs bump. White said SLR is expected to fill the fed side and there are another series of storms coming. So far most of the moisture has been diverted north. The next storms could land and make a real difference. Hoffman said there is a storm coming next week that should hit the central Sierra. Snow and rain has been poor so far this year. I know everyone is asking themselves, “What does this mean to Don Wright?” Well, rest easy, we could get an inch or more at my place.
Next Chedester gave his report saying the only thing on the Cooperative Operating Agreement between the federal Central Valley Project and the state’s State Water Project is the US Bureau of Reclamation said if the base line isn’t agreed upon by July of this year it’s sending out an off-ramp letter. He said the Cal Water Fix has had much happen. On the SJR restoration side there are still many ups and downs but it appears Senator Diane Feinstein is getting tired of the Bureau’s action or inactions. The SJR restoration has been a major pain for CVP water contractors. Friant contractors have been threatened with huge loses of supplies because this program requires enough water to be released from Friant Dam to allow salmon to migrate back up the river as far as the base of the dam. This drains storage. Ex Con has been threatened by the increased flows causing flooding and seepage. The San Joaquin River has been dammed at Friant for more than 70 years. When the river ran wild before then there were several meandering channels across the Valley’s floor depending on the water year. Some years there were no flows. How does one restore these conditions? Only the government spurred forward by enviro lawsuits. . . There was a long discussion regarding matter and the exposure to the growers in the area. Due to the size of Millerton Lake being too small for the SJR water yield a new dam upstream has been proposed. Temperance Flat is such a dam. A JPA has been formed to promote its construction and an investor group has been formed as well through a MOU. Ex Con has commented on the MOU and that will be brought up later this month. The JPA applied for a Prop One grant before the California Water Commission. * Next month folks from the National Marine Fisheries Service will tour Ex Con and there is an opportunity for CVP contractors to unite and go to Washington DC. The Bureau’s Mid Pacific Pow Wow in Reno is coming up soon.
Chedester reported on the Water Transfer Committee report saying Chowchilla Water District wants to move some water out of SLR to CCID and SLCC. He said if the home boards approve Ex Con will approve. I can’t imagine a scenario where all the home boards agree and Ex Con wouldn’t. CCID will wheel the recaptured SJR restoration flows and they would go to the subsidence area near Red Top. CWD’s water could spill out of SLR if it isn’t moved. Joann White reported the WTC also made a deal with Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD and Ex Con making transfers for the same reason. I’ve asked how an off stream storage reservoir could spill. It’s spills on paper.
White updated the board on the subsidence problem saying there is a monitoring plan almost completed. The Triangle T WD has been formed and is working now. This all bodes well for addressing a serious subsidence problem in the Red Top area.
The great Rick Iger, engineer with Provost & Pritchard gave his report saying he’s been able to cut back the amount of paper this year because the Los Banos Reservoir to the Delta Mendota Canal portion of this project has been completed. He said the rest of the schedule still awaits the Bureau’s gathering steam to write the CEQA/NEPA. He said the Orestemba Creek Banking project has been receiving water. White said there are some technical analysis wrapping up. Iger said the design and grant applications are on line. He said getting the cost/benefit analysis per FEMA has got its nose and nuts in the middle of things. FEMA is concerned about what happens to urban wells and somehow they are now involved in groundwater recharge. That’s the first I’ve heard of this.
One of the other greats, Dave Cory, consultant on the nexus of water and government dysfunction. He said he has a report for later today which will be in closed session. Ok.
Chedester updated the board on legislative matters. On the federal side the buzz in DC is a democrat wave with voters turning the congress over to that party. But with the passage of tax reform that could be hog wash.
Attorney Paul Minasian gave his report saying the litigation by SWP contractors about obligating them to pay for the Delta Tunnels will have great consequences particularly for Kern County growers. On the east side of the Valley several of the SJR tributaries offered to give up some water but not as much as Bruce Babbitt wants. It isn’t clear where the Tunnel project may go. Much depends on what Met WD decides.
Jeff Bryant, GM FCWD gave his report saying 97 percent of his growers approved a drainage discharge fee that will be collected in two payments. White reported CCID will be back on line January 16th and the district is doing construction on maintenance. Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company reported canal lining has been the major task during this time of year; both membrane and concrete. He said Madera County now has a SGMA advisory group and Julia Berry left Madera County for Root Creek WD. This leaves the county without anyone to provide direction. It’s scrambling to replace her. Wiersma reported SLCC has completed some construction projects and is still completing winter maintenance. SLCC is taking 200 cfs from the SJR and moving water to the refuges. The Bureau will be setting fish traps below Sac Dam.
Joann White announced Ex Con is all set for the Mid Pacific Conference. Bryant has been involved with this so it should be good. I wish someone would pay me to go.
The meeting then went into closed session.
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*Go to www.waterwrights.net and there is a long report about the CWC application hearings.
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