The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, March 5, 2021 on GoToMeeting. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9am but the Ex Con GSA meeting ran a little long. So this gives me some time to share with you my preferences for remote/online meeting providers. Keep in mind this isn’t a critique of water entities or their staff. This is about a service providing crappy service and so far GoToMeeting has been easily the worst. The listed link is www.Global.gotomeeting.com/join/164279029 clicking on it takes you to a page sharing the message “This site can’t be reached”. There’s a little drawing of what I’m guessing is a piece of 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper with a frowny face, the upper right corner of the paper has been torn or folded probably causing pain resulting in the frown. What to do? Well, go to the GoToMeetings website and try and get on. The www.gotomeeting.com website opens up with a sales pitch and somehow or other a GTM logo/icon is now on my home page. I tried to join and a window popped up with a bar changing color presumably downloading something that states it will open the meeting. That bar scrolls left to right filling in the field and the whole thing disappears and I’m still on the sales page where pop ups offer me 65 percent faster service. I’m not particularly good with math but even I know 65 percent of zero is still zero. I’m sure there is a way to get on GoToMeetings but why should I have to spend 15-minutes fooling around with it. I’ve not had trouble with Zoom. You go to the link and get on the wait screen. The meeting starts and there you are. You can see who’s talking and slides presented and use the chat feature if you have something to contribute.
While I was writing this screed for big tech to actually provide customer service the GSA went into closed session. Running concurrent to the Ex Con meeting is the Northern California Water Association annual meeting. Since so much of the Valley’s water comes from north of the Delta I believe it would be good to learn more about the challenges and triumphs the good folks up there in the great north experience.
I want to go to both meetings at the same time but I can’t. Maybe Ex Con won’t go too long. One thing I can do however, I can offer you special classified ads. WaterWrights.net now has affordable classified advertising https://waterwrights.net/classified/ with the ag water community in mind. (I’ve tried this link and it works.) We’re getting more ads and more responses because the folks who read the ads are like you – they need people and goods with specialized skills. On our beta launch we were using PayPal but now you can pay by credit card. So, reach the desired audience with a laser like demographic target, easier on the budget than most any other advertising/marketing options and the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from helping me, Don Wright.
The meeting started I don’t know when because the phone line was disconnected for closed session. I’ve joked that I’ve been coming to Ex Con meeting for so long I could probably write a somewhat accurate report with just an agenda. I wouldn’t do that but I think I could. So, I’m guessing what I missed based on the agenda but I’m not representing it as an ear-witness account. Chairman Jim O’Banion opened the meeting and the agenda was approved as were the minutes. To its credit Ex Con starts its meetings with a flag salute. Public participation was next and I don’t know if anyone spoke or not. If I’d been on the line I would have probably expressed my GoToMeeting opinion. About this time Executive Director Chris White would introduce folks. I found out later the meeting began with a moment of silence for Chairman O’Banion’s brother Jerry. Jerry O’Banion was a fine man and will be missed.
When I tuned in CPA Joe Maestro was giving the audit report. Ex Con passed the test and accounts payable was next and it was approved as was the finance committee report. Director of Finance Joann White gave those reports. Chris White mentioned the budgets for moving Ex Con’s offices, merging space with San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority and establishing a museum as part of the deal. He also gave some budgeting considerations for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir project.
The water report was given by Water Master Adam Hoffman. He said last week’s allocations were south of Delta ag five percent. Friant got 20 percent Class I. Sacramento settlement and Ex Con get 75 percent. Currently the San Joaquin River Restoration program has 45 cfs at Sac Dam. I think he said 45 cfs. Storage at Shasta is at 2.2 million a/f. San Luis Reservoir combined is more than one million a/f with the federal share at 400,000 a/f. Delta flows have been dropping this past week due to dry conditions. Exports are at 400 cfs at Jones and 300 cfs at Banks. These are minimums and require the pumps to be cycled on and off. The X2 Line is the reason pumping is so low. The Delta outflow standard is currently at 7,100 cfs. If the coming storms help the outflow that’s great but if not further releases from the reservoirs will be needed to keep the San Francisco Bay at bay.
The snow survey news should be available soon. The DWR reads the results and the crew started just about when the last series of storms were hitting and couldn’t get to all the measuring stations. So the estimates could be more conservative than actual. Snowpack has been declared at 55 percent if I understood. Hoffman said the weather forecast shows some reason for hope. There should be precipitation this weekend and a cold storm is coming in next week.
White said Ex Con has forwarded its recommendations to the US Bureau of Reclamation for the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. The Bureau is working on a temperature plan for Shasta but won’t finalize it until the April 1st allocation announcement.
White said Ex Con had worked with SLDMWA on legislation. He said there have been meetings with Congressman David Valadao and Camile Touton, the action USBR Commissioner. White said the Del Puerto budget has been approved with buy in by the Department of Interior and permits are being pursued. There are some developments in the Voluntary Agreements but that discussion will have to wait for closed session.
Policy & Program Report
Steve Chedester gave his report saying the State Lands Commission has yet to provide them with info so nothing to report there. There is progress on the Mendota Fish Screen. The Bureau and Ex Con gave a presentation to the US Fish & Wildlife he thought went well. He said the Aurora Canal financing is being looked at and a 10 percent design should be ready soon. This has something to do with the Sac Dam design package. The City of Mendota is moving forward with the Mowry Bridge replacement but if the city’s construction interferes with Columbia Canal Company’s deliveries there will have to be some adjustments made. A coffer dam is being used to move San Joaquin River Water around the job site.
Chedester said there wasn’t anything to report on Temperance Flat or the SJV Water Blueprint. Evidently he didn’t know there will be an interview at 5pm today on KFCF 88.1fm’s On the Farm with Tom Willey covering the Blueprint.
Chedester has other things to say about the SJR Restoration program and related matters. His full report is in the packet.
Water Transfer Program
White said there is an agreement with Rosedale-Rio Bravo Water Storage District in Kern County. He walked the board through a draft of the project. Ex Con has stored water previously and can be rolled into this agreement. There was a call back deadline for this previous water and with this new agreement that deadline goes away.
A gentleman whose name I didn’t catch but I suspect he’s an attorney, said there has been some good clean up in this draft agreement. He stated there is really very little chance of water getting stranded and other provisions that help make this a better deal.
White reported on the water transfer committee meeting and there will be another meeting of that committee this month. Director Chris Cardoza asked if it has been included that fallow to fallow transfers have to not only be in Ex Con but must be made by the same owner. You can’t transfer that color of water outside of the same owner’s land.
Bay Delta & Such
Consultant David Cory said there are new members on the Regional Board and while it’s a little early to tell he felt like they could be good additions. He said Chairman Dr. Karl Longley’s seat is up for reappointment in September. Cory didn’t know if Longley will reapply. I hope he does. He’s a pretty good guy and always willing to patiently explain things to dense reporters.
Cory said all growers from the Westside Coalition have nitrate management reports due next month. The coalitions have to generate values for nitrates seeping past the root zone into drinking water territory on the township level and that report is due in July.
White said in the package a report from the Legislative Committee will show defending water rights is a priority. He said in the day of electronic media print is losing ground. He said there are some proposals out to develop a plan. Another priority is to highlight the history or Ex Con and its importance to the Central Valley Project. The board approved the priorities.
White gave the board reports from state and federal lobbyist and consultants. AB 315 is a bill being tracked and there will be more at the next board meeting. On the federal side the main topics have been mostly about the virus and Biden’s nominations for cabinet positions. Infrastructure legislation has some traction and project proposals are being gathered and evaluated. The new Senator Alex Padilla has received some appointments but I didn’t catch it.
Attorney Andy McClure said the CEQA litigation on the Del Puerto Dam has plaintiffs from NGOs and some Friant Contractors. McClure said the suits will be combined. That’s about all he had for open session.
General Manager John Wiersma said San Luis Canal Company is working on a virtual annual meeting for later this month. SLCC has declared a critical year for its shareholders.
CCC GM Randy Houk said Columbia just started this past Monday and that’s all he had.
Firebaugh Canal WD GM Jeff Bryant said February use was down due to pre-irrigation last fall. More than two miles of canal lining will be completed next week. The meeting then went into closed session again. And that was that.
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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.
James O’Banion-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.