By Don A. Wright
The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, January 6, 2023 at its Los Banos headquarters and by telephone. As I write this I’m in Louisiana so it’s two hours later here. There’s an abandoned house next door and a U-Haul showed up there sometime this morning. Now there are four sheriffs combing the scene as they say. Since Ex Con takes precedence over local crime reporting this may be a story I’ll never know the end of.
Chairman Chris Cardella called the meeting to order at 9:00am California time. We saluted the flag of our great nation and the minutes were approved, as were the financial reports.
Adam Hoffman, Water Master said demands have unsurprisingly dropped to nothing due to the massive rains. Friant Dam started flood releases yesterday at 4,000 cfs and may increase this depending on the storms. He said he was just in a coordination call this morning and will continue to meet daily for the foreseeable future. Also on the call were San Joaquin River restoration, downstream levees and other groups that are trying to move the right amount of water at the right time out of Millerton Lake. The Madera Chowchilla Canal is moving water and in turn dumping it in the Fresno River and other streams on the route.
The inflows at Shasta have been very high and there’s more rain on the way. That’s great news as they have to have a 4.5 million a/f in Shasta to meet Central Valley Project demands. Millerton has received 100,000 a/f or a fifth of its capacity in the past week if I heard correctly. San Luis Reservoir is doing well as well. The DWR forecast will come out next week. Folsom is in flood release at 25,000 cfs, Oroville is also releasing to make space for flood control and the Delta is getting a lot of water. The Jones Plant has been running four out of five units for days now. As soon as a downstream pump is back online, maybe today, all five pumps will be running. There is 9,000 cfs flowing at Vernalis and that is counteracting any backwards river flows with all the pumps running. When’s the last time we heard news like this?
Chris White, Executive Director said there is some good work being done on the legislative side and the water resource plan is coming along well. The rest of his report he saved for closed session. Steve Chedester, Director of Policy reported Orestimba Creek has one or two agreements that need to be finalized. He said Department of Water Resource has a bit of property that needs to have some infrastructure to pass over to link the project to the US Bureau of Reclamation facilities. DWR isn’t being super helpful but some progress is being made. He also said federal funding for part of the Orestimba Creek project has taken a step forward. There wasn’t much to report on the Los Banos Reservoir.
Consulting attorney David Cory reported he expects some approval on the nitrate in groundwater plans. The Regional Board is focused on this matter and the areas will be divided into township size. There is a drainage authority and it will put its two cents in when they meet next month. Cory said not to expect a notice to comply from the Regional Board until the end of the year but it would be very important to get as much of a plan together before then or there won’t be enough time to meet deadlines.
Next Cory said stormflows in Mud Slough shouldn’t exceed selenium discharges in the wildlife refuge areas. DWR is holding a Zoom meeting next week about waste discharge in the Grassland Bypass Project and its stakeholders. He expects there will be some who take uninformed jabs but he doesn’t expect this meeting to yield some new problem. It sounded like things went well with flood flows so far.
More Gov’t Stuff
White said there will be some visit the new legislators days coming up in Sacramento for Ex Con. There is still concern about the state’s direction in respecting water rights. On the federal side some $20 million came through for San Joaquin River Restoration Project funds.
Andy McClure reported the judge has excepted an amicus brief from other Friant members. A motion to dismiss a lawsuit against a complaint against a Groundwater Sustainability Plan that no longer exist. This is about a validation action that hampers a regulatory decision under the law. This is a bizarre suit, because if DWR approves the GSP then it would be up to the judge to determine if the DWR approval is legal under the law when the law clearly says it’s legal. This was a suit filed by the California Sports Fishing Alliance.
McClure also said the Hoopa Tribe wrote a press release about the USBR terminating an agreement on the Trinity River. The press predictably ran with it and when McClure looked into it was a different matter. Several years ago the Hoopa Tribe made an agreement with the Bureau and a panel was tasked with making certain river decisions. All’s been fine for years but recently the panel made a decision the Hoopas don’t like. The Bureau is upholding its part of the agreement and the press is getting the story backwards.
Four Managers Report
Jarrett Martin, General Manager Central California Irrigation District said Orestimba Creek and many other creeks started flowing on New Year’s Eve and are reaching their canals. They have to deal with flood waters.
John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company said he’s got his mud boots on too dealing with floods.
Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company reported they are conducting maintenance and keeping an eye open for flooding.
Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal Water District said there was a big pre-irrigation run last month and that took canal space but Silver Creek has started flooding.
Informational Items and Closed Session
As it turns out my wife got to speak with the sheriffs. They found an indigent man wandering around the next-door neighbor on the other side of the old house. The neighbors were gone and the guy was back on their dock on the Bayou Teche behind their house. The guy was living in the U-Haul which might be cheaper than a motel if he keeps the mileage down. The sheriffs searched the vehicle and informed the old boy you can’t live in a U-Haul and just park anywhere and sent him on his way. Order has been restored to the universe for as far as it extends along the south bank of the Bayou Teche between Cecilia and Breaux Bridge Louisiana. Go be good to each other.
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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.