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Exchange Contractors June 3, 2022

ConterraBy Don A. Wright

The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, June 3, 2022 at its Los Banos headquarters. The public was encouraged to attend by telephone conference. The board meeting follows an earlier GSA meeting and was scheduled to start at 9:00am. I often get caught with my pants down on start times so I called in early enough to be ready for things to start. There was hold music, a special type of ear pudding hell. I’m not blaming Ex Con. The problem is dang near universal. I’ve never actually been stuck in an elevator but I can imagine the discomfort of the experience being enhanced by a Muzak version of Blue Oyster Cult. And it can get worse than that when someone takes a smooth jazz riff and makes it into an endless loop.

The Meeting

Chairman Chris Cardella of Columbia Canal Company called the meeting to order at exactly 9:00am and we all, present and present in telephonic spirit saluted the flag in an imminently appropriate way to begin a government meeting. Executive Director Chris White welcomed everyone. His lovely wife Joann White gave such an outstanding financial report the board even agreed to pay its bills.

Exec Director Report

White gave his report saying staff’s been working with legislators on funding for the Del Puerto Dam project. The near term goal is to get all the designs at the 30-percent complete stage. This will yield a much clearer and refined cost estimate.

There is a 1,200 cfs flow from the San Joaquin River into the Mendota Pool. This is about the peak flow the channel can tolerate. White said some good news out of Folsom Reservoir regarding greater inflows than expected should allow more pumping from the Delta and SJR diversions can end.

There will be a June 9th community meeting in Los Banos to gather public input on the proposed museum and office building for Ex Con and the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority to share.

Policy Report

            Steve Chedester gave his report saying the US Bureau of Reclamation has recently stated the 30 percent design for Mendota Pool infrastructure is on schedule. This is part of the SJR restoration program. If I understood correctly San Luis Canal Company General Manager John Wiersma diplomatically said some of the plan specifications the Bureau is offering are not as workable as SLCC would like. I think it might have been a fish screen right in front of their turnout. Have you seen that click bait on the internet where someone put a toilet in a stairwell?

Water Report

Ex Con Water Master Adam Hoffman said demands have climbed to 1,750 cfs with the warmer weather. Hoffman said SJR deliveries to Mendota Pool have been very consistent and at the targeted levels. Shasta is at 1.8 million a/f and Keswick releases are lower than predicted but demand in the Sacramento Valley are lower than expected.

The federal side of San Luis Reservoir has been drawing down some this past week. Millerton is at 90 percent of average but there isn’t much snow left to melt. Upstream storage on the SJR is good at 97 percent.

The Delta has 9,500 cfs inflow and Folsom and Oroville Reservoirs are making releases. Combined exports from Jones and Banks plants are limited to 1,200 cfs. The current plan is two units pumping at Jones in July and three in August. So that is much better than hoped for and the reason why the Bureau will end its call on Friant water. Makes me think of the need to be thankful even for small things.

Cardella and SLCC Director Jim Nickel were appointed to the Strategic Planning Ad Hoc Committee. That didn’t require board approval and was informational only. Those two gentlemen will meet a couple of times per month and report back to the board.

Water Resources Plan

Chedester gave the water resources plan and I’m sorry to tell you his voice sounded like he was talking from the hallway and someone was rustling papers near the microphone. However, following along the agenda best I could, I believe he said the biological and cultural investigations have begun for the Del Puerto Dam Project. I’m not sure if this is CEQA or NEPA compliance or maybe both. Funding is always a major concern and staff is engaged getting as much as possible.

Chedester said the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint has come up with both a vision and mission statement. More stategery is underway.

Bay Delta = Gov’t Mischief

Consulting attorney/farmer Dave Cory gave his report and it sounded a lot like he was standing next to Chedester out in the hallway. Cory reports on what’s happening with the Regional and State Boards. There is a nitrate in groundwater as well as salt build up problem. One of them is a real threat but both of them are on the regulatory radar.

Attorney’s Report

Attorney Andy McClure said they are still waiting on a ruling in the Friant case and the Del Puerta Canyon Dam case. All else in closed session. I hope Paul Minasian is doing well. Nothing against Mr. McClure at all, but I just miss Paul. He’s a kind man.

Manager’s Report

    • Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company said his district is getting out deliveries.
    • Firebaugh Canal Water District GM Jeff Bryant said they’re working on canal linings.
    • Central California Irrigation District GM Jarrett Martin said they’re working on a solar array.
    • Wiersma said they increased allocations at SLCC from 2.1 to 2.5 a/f this past month and are just working on automating the system.

Closed Session

That was it for the board meeting and it went into closed session at 9:35am. A 35-minute meeting. In the 20-years I’ve been attending Ex Con this is by far the shortest meeting I can recall. There have been meetings where it seemed like the reports stretched out at a glacial pace. And there have been meetings an hour and half long, which is short for Ex Con. But 35-minutes? We’re solidly in John Vidovich/Buena Vista Water Storage District or Bill Phillimore/Kern Water Bank territory. I didn’t think it could be done. Well, have a good weekend.

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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.


Chris Cardella Columbia Canal Company -Chair, Mike Stearns Firebaugh Canal Water District -Vice Chair, 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, 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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