Roscoe Moss Company

Exchange Contractors June 7, 2024

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By Don A. Wright

The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, June 7, 2024 at its Los Banos headquarters. The meeting was conducted live and in person but the public was asked to attend by conference call and at $4 to $5 a gallon for gasoline, a phone in seemed fiscally prudent. But I do miss the ritual and miniature cheese wheels and fruit. I may have been attending Ex Con longer than any other water entity in my career. More than 20-years now. I’ve told a couple of folks I’d bet them $5 if they give me an agenda I could almost write a passible report. Of course it would be short on detail and I’d have to skip a few things. But I wouldn’t do that to you.

The Meeting

The meeting began with someone breathing into the phone and then Vice Chairman Michael Stearns ran things as Chris Cardella was in Italy. Stearns led us in a flag salute to the greatest nation on earth, the way a public meeting should start. Executive Director Chris White started the self-introductions. The agenda and the minutes were approved.

There were no public comments and after hearing from Joann White the board approved paying the May bills. She then led the board through a brief review of four budgets: general, water transfer, water resources general and participation. She also did a separate review of the San Joaquin Valley Drainage Authority Budget comparison and the cash activity report. The last financial report was the finance committee minutes which were approved.

Water Report

Water Master Adam Hoffman gave the water report saying demands have taken off and that’s no surprise as things heated up earlier than usual. The San Joaquin River Restoration flows have dropped for the summer to 90 cfs at Sac Dam if I understood.

Hoffman said Lake Shasta is beginning to draw down now that inflow is decreasing. There is 8,500 cfs coming out of Keswick. Long-term storage at Shasta is looking good. The federal side of San Luis Reservoir is above 750,000 a/f and the Jones Pumping Plant is running on all five units. The federal side owed some payback to the state side at SLR. It looks like the 40 percent allocation is going to stay. Such an insult.

There was a spill at Friant Dam and Pine Flat also had some flood release that was all used within that system. Millerton went into an uncontrolled season that ends today. They expect Millerton levels to climb from the hot snowmelt and there could be a small spill next week. Hoffman said Shasta should have about the same amount of water as last year, two average years in a row. That doesn’t happen much in California.

There is 22,000 cfs coming into the Delta and that allowed for the increased pumping that should last until the end of the month – unless there is a prolonged hot spell or the X2 salinity line advance too far inland.

Exec Direct Report

White said the SJR restoration discussions are continuing about the Sac Dam design completion. The SJR Restoration funds are starting to get close to the bottom of the coin bag and they are going to have to advocate for a Congressionally approved increase. There have been some foundational talks in Washington DC on this matter. The SJR Restoration law was passed in 2010 and there aren’t many folks in Washington with any institutional memory about the program so educational outreach continues to be a priority. White said operations have been difficult all around. The US Bureau of Reclamation is having to try to explain why the reservoirs are full and the allocations are only 40 percent. He said Reclamation is looking at a deep dive with the contractors to help sort this out.

Ex Con got $16 million for the Los Banos Creek Retention Facility improvement while back in DC recently. That trip included the signing of the East/West Drought Agreement between South of Delta Central Valley Project members.

John Wiersma, General Manager San Luis Canal Company told the board the Exchange Contractors Groundwater Sustainability Plan has undergone a good deal of public outreach and that is continuing. He said there are two high level matters – if there is mitigation it is required under some very clear guidelines that the Groundwater Sustainability Agency where the mitigation is needed is on the hook for funding. Well mitigation up to $300,000 if prorated between the GSAs in the subbasin. There will be a coordination meeting as well as more public outreach coming up soon.

Jarrett Martin, GM Central California Irrigation District reported there have been additional “recommendations” beyond the Department of Water Resources by the State Water Resources Control Board that need to be met to receive the complete Sacramento pat on the bottom blessing on the GSP.

White reported water transfers have started a month late due to partners having scheduled water to deal with. So some income should start in coming from that program. He also said Wiersma has been looking into the environmental permits on the transfer program. The Bureau will allow Ex Con to take over the bulk of the NEPA and CEQA is getting close too. He said he can share draft documents with the members.

White said the Ex Con Community Infrastructure program has now finalized the application form and will soon be available to the right folks to get things started. He said there will be a public outreach starting soon. The awards committee still needs to be formed.

White said the Voluntary Agreements, the biological opinion consultations and the modeling are up and running. He said Ex Con will be commenting as this comes out. There needs to be much more education and awareness of what this entails.

Policy & Programs

Next Steve Chedester reported some flume changes from the Bureau has changed the fish bypass facility but the engineers were able to account for this and should have the 90 percent design completed by the end of the year for the Ex Con side.

Chedester said the Reach Three study document should soon be available. Reclamation believes the final bid for the Sac Dam project will be released by next March. Martin said there is a design/build plan that should come before the board next month.

Chedester said the Trinity River biop isn’t included in the current Delta biop. What’s that going to do to the scheduled Bay Delta Plan?

Chedester said the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley signed a MOU with Metropolitan Water District to find common ground for projects. It was nonbinding but does give direction. This was signed at the last ACWA conference. They’re trying to include the SGMA impact and Dr. Scott Hamilton is leading that effort.

The Orestimba Creek project is waiting for more electrical work but that should be wrapped up by the end of the year so there may be some flood flows captured within the year. Chedester said that project has garnered $8 million in grants. He said the permitting process will soon be started.

The Los Banos Creek project is looking at a temporary water rights change by the Bureau to allow project water to be involved. Chedester said the Bureau has indicated this shouldn’t be a major deal and relatively easy to negotiate.

The Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir has narrowed the road relocation options from nine down to one, if I understood White. He said Merced County seems honky dory with it and that should speed the CEQA process along.

Water Transfers

White said there was a transfer approved earlier for the San Luis Canal Company sending water to three contractors: Triangle T, Del Puerto and Westlands Water Districts. This is on the way now and the report is more informational than anything.

Wiersma elaborated saying Del Puerto WD reached out to SLCC and asked if they could move the water further to another destination. Del Puerto is committed to the current contract and Wiersma said Ex Con will have to approve changes but SLCC is on board with this. It sounded like Del Puerto wanted to move more water to Triangle T. Since this is a multi-year agreement a similar request may be made next year. This requires no contractual amendment and Wiersma said it looks solid. The board agreed.

Gov’t Mischief

The Bay Delta and State Boards report was next. Consultant Dave Cory said he’ll give his good news. He said the groundwater and surface water salinity goals have undergone some research by the CV Salts team. There will be a large, stake holder meeting soon. There will also be smaller group meetings and they are looking to speak with all interested parties.

Cory said there are still talks about aerating the Stockton Deep Ship Channel. It will cost about $100,000 per year and solve some big problems. The channel is dredged and this causes flows to stagnate, vegetation to rot and the oxygen levels drop – creating a dead zone for migrating salmon and other species.

There are efforts to develop an agronomic report in conjunction with the University of California about what is achievable throughout the Valley crops and set a basic nitrate regulation.

Legislative News

White said look in the packet and you’ll see lobbyist Dominic Demaro did a fine job articulating the budget mess in Sacramento as well as a report on what’s going on with the $10 billion climate bond and what that means to water. AB 2079 is DWR working with Steve Bennett and the proposed bill as written is unworkable. There needs to be more changes and they are waiting to hear more. AB 460 by Rebecca Bauer Kahn has risen again and amendments have improved it considerable but for the major increase in fines. AB 1337 by Buffy Wicks is still out there and there are proposed amendments but he hasn’t seen where that’s at. The goal is of course to get more water money in the bond and less nonsense in the proposed legislation.

A few years back some folks along the Shasta River had a choice, violate the State Board’s curtailment of their riparian water rights and take the hit from the fines or let their water supply drop to the point they wouldn’t be able to keep their herds and crops alive or the homes and property from burning. They opted to survive and this defiance actually caused zero harm to the environment. The natural environment. The regulatory environment on the other hand suffered an atomic wedgie.

Added by the nonproductive NGO communities legislation to increase the State Board’s power flew off the shelves last year. Most of it was dropped, defeated or left to try again this year. With the exception of Wicks, the remaining bills’ authors are not known for the willingness to see another point of view. They don’t play well and get personally offended when their wisdom is questioned. So, I’ve been told.

There was a Washington DC trip recently and White said it was a good visit. There will be another trip by the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority he’ll be joining next week. They’ll show the federal legislators what is happening in the area.

Attorney’s Report

I believe it was Andy McClure who said there are groundwater cases scheduled to be heard in October that could be impacted by further State Board action. The Friant lawsuit has been completed and only waiting for the court to rule. The Del Puerto Canyon suit by the Sierra Club has been appealed on the portions where the enviros prevailed on the grounds the road realignment is solid.

The McMullin Area GSA water banking project has been commented on. The source of water would include CVP excess supplies. More on that in closed session.

Lastly, he spoke about the Kings County suit against the State Board over SGMA and he called it interesting. He said it targets “underground” rules – where the State Board staff makes public decisions in private. The millions of dollars the State Board is trying to extract from the Tulare Lake Subbasin should be treated as a tax and if the court upholds that it could be a very good model for other subbasins.

Four Manager’s Report

Martin said CCID is looking to talk with the Bureau about increasing flood protection. They are working with the City of Dos Palos on some conservation and flood control.

Wiersma said deliveries are up and the budget has been adopted and engineering projects can now start. He said that should begin in November. He said the Sac Dam gates were installed for a very specific flow regime. The operational controls are switching to irrigation and it has been a big effort to get the new Rubicon Gates and the software where it needs to be. He expects to have the protocol set soon.

Mike Gardner, GM Columbia Canal Company said he’s just trying to get back into the swing since his accident.

Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal Water District wasn’t able to join by phone.


White said they’d like to meet next month on Wednesday the 3rd since the holiday would be in the way. He also said there will be a public meeting on the draft GSP on June 20th. The Ag Leadership class will tour the area soon.

Closed Session

The meeting then went into closed session for seven items ranging from existing and anticipated litigation, administrative law and real property negotiations. That was it for this month’s Ex Con board meeting. Go be good to each other and yourselves.

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

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 -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: 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.