The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Wednesday, July 12, 2023 at its Los Banos headquarters and by telephone. Ex Con usually meets the first Friday of the month but I guess with the Independence Day holiday last week they moved their meeting to a better time.
I tuned in a little late from my room in Bakersfield. Chairman Chris Cardella had called the meeting to order at 9:00am and Executive Director Chris White welcomed everyone. Joann White gave the financial reports and they were approved. The minutes were approved as well.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying demands have gone up in July with the warmer weather. There is a small 60cfs spill at Friant Dam from Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River. He said the US Bureau of Reclamation had a small spill earlier this week while testing a new gate system designed to help cool the water in the river. As demands drop on the weekends sometimes there is a need to spill from but with some very hot weather on the way that should stop. Hoffman said the Bureau indicates about 500 cfs at Sac Dam near Mendota.
Hoffman said there is about 3,300 cfs of Kings River water hitting the Mendota pool. Inflow to Pine Flat Reservoir is expected to hit 14,000 cfs over the hottest part of the upcoming weekend. Shasta is still full but inflow is dropping. San Luis Reservoir is full but just now starting to draw down a bit. It appears all of the west side districts were able to keep their carry over long enough to use it. It’s been a good water year for storage such as it exists.
The Delta is no longer in excess condition and is being operated for salinity intrusion. The federal Jones Plant should stay at five units and the state Banks Plant will be more intermittent. There is a chance of rain forecast but it’s hard to see what that could amount to.
Ex D Report
White reported there is progress on the SJR restoration but Steve Chedester is on vacation and wasn’t able to give his report. John Wiersma said a financial assistance for fish gates has come through.
White said there has been a lot of SGMA activity and Wiersma said in June the State Board gave its plan for the six basins deemed inadequate. The first probationary hearing is in December for the Tulare Lake GSP. Wiersma said Ex Con’s GSP probationary hearing isn’t until September so there’s time to fix things before then.
Jarrett Martin reported the Orestimba Creek groundbreaking went very well with Congressman John Duarte and many other dignitaries attending. Martin said dirt’s moving and the first pond will be ready for the next flood event.
White reported the Del Puerto Canyon Project is at 30 percent design.
Resolution – Some Very Bad News
The board adopted Resolution No. 2023-02 recognizing the contributions to Randy Houk. I asked what was going on, was Houk retiring? It was a shock to me to find out Houk passed away last week. As I wrote, I tuned in late to the meeting and missed the moment of silence. I’ve known Randy for more than 20-years and I’ve never heard anyone speak a bad word about him. More sometime later.
Dave Cory called in his report saying the Regional Board approved the groundwater protection plan submitted last spring. This is for the groundwater protection targets for 2028 and are based on the township level. The State Board talked about CV Salts and nitrate control. The enviros pitched their usual bitch about the speed and outreach but Cory said overall it went well.
Legislative Report – Some Good News
White said some of the most watched bills are AB 460 and AB 1337. AB 460 is dead for this year. AB 1337 has been amended to the point of be acceptable AB 337 is on the edge of being gutted. AB 1205 is another really bad bill that has been turned into a study bill and that’s good news. Ag, urban, ACWA have put forth a positive effort to work with the authors and that is good news.
The board asked Lighthouse Public Affairs to prepare a report for the board.
Andy McClure reported almost all of the GSAs joined in urging the judge to dismiss a lawsuit that was filed by a group of NGOs protesting a GSP that was completely rewritten before the suit was heard the first time. A motion to dismiss will be heard in October. McClure said this is frustrating as it’s just a long winded nothing burger. The Friant appeal is coming up soon, I think that’s the suit over SJR water and not the Del Puerta Dam suit.
Martin said CCID is continuing aquatic weed treatment.
Wiersma said June deliveries were average but the big run is starting now in July. They are also having aquatic weed control issues.
The Firebaugh Canal WD report was delayed as GM Jeff Bryant is on vacation.
The meeting then went into closed session.
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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.