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Exchange Contractors January 7, 2022

Bermad irrigationThe Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, January 7, 2022 at its Los Banos headquarters and on GoToMeeting which evidently doesn’t provide audio to that part of the world. I’m telling you Zoom. Anyway, there was a call in number so one could hear what is being said. Today’s meeting, the first Ex Con board meeting of 2022, has an agenda item to appoint officers to the board. Long time Chairman Jim O’Banion passed away late last year and there is a need to reorganize. I’ve been wondering who will replace him. This seat is pivotal for irrigated agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Ex Con holds some of the oldest water rights in the state, passed down from the Miller & Lux ranching empire. The chair of Ex Con will be facing new threats.Conterra

There is a law school professor named Bork in Davis who’s been trying to undermine the concept of rights by suggesting California’s water rights are outdated, antiquated and old fashioned for modern times. As if rights were not rights but merely privileges granted by government.

One of the challenges facing people in the United State right now is the division into tribes. One of the tribes is comprised of folks who buy into the idea that some of the current knowledge and beliefs are superior to anything that has come before us. This is partly true. There have been improvements – I’d rather go to the dentist in 2022 than 1776. But the concept that freedom and individual dignity are subject manipulation by current fashionable thought is as old as dust, recycled often and always hubris. It didn’t work for Marx; it didn’t work for the French during their revolution and it didn’t work for Rome when it abandoned the Republic for an Empire. In fact one of the ancients had a saying – “There’s nothing new under the sun,” Solomon. Meaning human nature doesn’t change. Even if your side can get Merriam Webster to make last minute changes to the meaning of words, truth will always be true.

The Meeting

The meeting was called to order by Vice Chair and Columbia Canal Company Director Chris Cardella at 9:00am. Executive Director Chris White introduced everyone and we all said the pledge of allegiance together. The agenda and minutes were approved and the board opted to pay its bills.

The item to reappoint officers was next but it was tabled. Ex Con is a Joint Powers Authority and legally bound by bylaws. Mr. O’Banion passed before all the necessary approvals and paperwork could be completed at the home boards. Since in addition to chair of Ex Con Mr. O’Banion was the President of Central California Irrigation District and the CCID director representing its interests on the Ex Con board. So, what happened is the home board will now have a change to get the proper JPA paperwork taken care of. In the meantime, CCID appointed Director Eric Fontana to the Ex Con board.

The annual ritual of renewing the investment policy was observed with the board voting to approve. The board also approved the annual list of contributions Ex Con is participating in.

Water Report

Water Master Adam Hoffman reported there is 300 cfs worth of San Joaquin River water flowing past Sack Dam. Shasta Lake’s inflows are ticking up but it is still at half its average levels for this time of year. San Luis Reservoir is also at half of its average but Pine Flat on the Kings is at 80 percent and Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River is at 125 percent. Upstream from Millerton storage is at 80 percent. This means the chance of flood releases at Friant are increasing. Millerton Lake can only hold between a fourth or less in a wet year of the SJR inflows, so the lake has to be managed in a way that equals it being emptied and filled several times a year.

Exec O Report

White said Ex Con is continuing to track the conditions at the Delta and the various variables that entails. He said with San Luis levels down pumping is more than critical this year. On the good news Senator Diane Feinstein sent a letter of support for the Del Puerto Canyon Project.

Central California Irrigation District General Manager Jarrett Martin* reported on SGMA matters saying so far DWR has not returned a comment on the Exchange Contractor GSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan. He said originally the State gave it a shot but has been overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into GSP evaluations. There have been some reviewed and that provides a guide to what may be expected. In any event once the review comes back if there are problems they have to corrected within 180-days. I heard him say it does look like a manageable situation at this point.

San Luis Canal Company GM John Wiersma said Ex Con is still working with Triangle T Water District/GSA on the subsidence problem in that area and it sounded like there is reason to hope for better times in that part of the world.

Water Policy

Director of Water Policy Steve Chedester reported there hasn’t been much new to report on Sack Dam improvements. The 30 percent design milestone is on schedule for completion in February.

The board then considered joining the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint’s efforts. The Blueprint is now a 501(C) (3) non-profit organization. Ex Con has been working with the technical committee and the next step is to put a man on the moon, I mean put a Ex Con director on the newly expanded Blueprint board of directors. Also the financial contribution will be capped at $2,500 annually. Director Fontana asked to table this until his home board can review matters a bit more. So, the item was tabled.

Chedester reported on the Orestimba Creek project saying it has reached the 60 percent design status. The Los Banos Creek Reservoir’s operational program was submitted and talks with the US Bureau of Reclamation are ongoing. Both of these projects have some federal grant funds pending but due to some kinks in the budget in Washington DC no checks have appeared in the mailbox yet.

White reported requests for proposals on the Del Puerto Canyon Dam have gone out and proposals are being reviewed. There is also some momentum on moving PG&E power line plans and the California Water Commission approved the latest leg of studies leading up to a Prop One payoff.

Gov’t Mischief

Consultant Dave Cory reported the CV-Salts control program is now back to working on salt instead of just nitrates. There is a Priority and Optimization plan being drawn up. As for nitrates the Valley has been divided into a Priority One and Two basin. He expects the Regional Board to issue compliance notices this year. He said the Westside Coalition is in a Priority Two basin if I understood. The coalition is working feverishly to organize how the compliance can be met. There are hard deadlines and a management zone proposal is being looked at. Cory said, “It will be a significant effort and could increase assessments by $2-3 per acre annually.” He did say there are some lessons to be learned from the Priority One basin efforts that might provide a path for marginal financial reductions.

More Gov’t Mischief

White reported the state lobbyist reported the redistricting process and State Senators Anna Caballero and Melisa Hurtado will be pitted against each other. Not good was his assessment of that development. On the federal side the infrastructure money is still being sorted out.

Attorney’s Report

Attorney Andy McClure reported the Temporary Urgency Permits have been commented on and more in closed session about that. There are now two operational plans for the Delta involved in a lawsuit. More on that in closed session. He also said the GSP review is in a limbo-ish state awaiting DWR clarification. There is a suit going on with Friant over the Bureau’s call on San Joaquin River water during times when the Bureau can provide enough water from the Delta Mendota. He said, no surprise here, the Friant claims are not based on the way he reads the contract.

Other Reports

Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal Water District has been performing normal winter maintenance. They irrigated up to the end of December and there are still a couple of places pre-irrigating they are working around.

Wiersma said it delivered less than 600 a/f in December and shut down the office between Christmas and New Years to give staff a chance to rejuvenate.

Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company said maintenance should be through by the end of this month.

Bryant announced the FCWD is soliciting donations for a Cal Poly scholarship fund. And White reminded everyone the Mid Pacific Conference will be coming up soon in Reno. Of all the conferences I’ve attended over the years the Mid Pacific is the most fun. If you’ve ever seen that big geodesic dome in downtown Reno you’ve seen the roof of the National Bowling Stadium. Fittingly there is a bowling tournament for conference participants held each year that really provides clarity on who is in the Wednesday night league and who isn’t.

With that the open session closed at 9:55am and the meeting went into closed session after a five minute break. That was that.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights.net strives to provide its clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights.net 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.  Waterwrights.net’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.

*I keep telling myself, “Two Rs, two Ts, two Rs, two Ts.”

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

DWR SGMA Identifier #5-022.07

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.


?-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, Darlene O’Brien- Administrative Assistant, Paul Minasian-Attorney


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.




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