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Exchange Contractors May 13, 2022



The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, May 13, 2022 at their Los Banos hideout and online with GoToMeetings. I was recently at the new Clovis offices of the engineering firm Provost & Pritchard to celebrate an open house for their beautiful headquarters. As I stood there munching sliced vegetables, cubed cheese on a toothpick and some delicious BBQ beef the talk turned to online meetings. Some very distinguished engineers opined on the superiority of Zoom meetings. I was quite gratified to learn my ranking of online meeting platforms corresponded seamlessly with theirs. Zoom first, GoToMeeting a distant second and MS Teams as laughable, barely able to rise about the moldering corpse of something called Blue Jeans. Some of you are old enough to remember the Sony Betamax v. VHS tape. In true, un-skewed market competition one product or service will rise. The only reason I mention the video formats is no matter which one – the engineers who share my taste in the online meeting efficiency and ease of Zoom are also the same people who could have set the time display on a blinking VHS machine. If only momentarily I felt accepted into a rare club of exclusivity.

The Meeting

The Ex Con meeting started at 9:00am on the dot with Chairman Chris Cardella leading the flag salute. There were not additions or corrections to the agenda and the minutes were approved. General Manager Chris White greeted everyone. Under public participation I asked why the only folks on GoToMeeting were; White, executive assistant Darleen O’Brian and myself. As it happened they had a full board and staff present. So I just closed GoTo and listened on the phone. I guess I’ll get to start driving to Los Banos again. White also mentioned it was board photo day and everyone cleaned up well. Hate to miss that visual.Technoflo

Executive Director Report

White asked to skip the water report until Ex Con Water Master Adam Hoffman can finish a phone call. He said the Jones plant has one pump running 900 cfs at this time. He said the May 1st forecast looks much better for the Folsom and Oroville water supply. He’s hopeful the one pump can continue all summer and maybe even a little more.

On April 1st San Joaquin River flows to meet Ex Con demand began. It soon outpaced the capacity without seepage so the restoration flows were stopped. The US Bureau of Reclamation did expect Ex Con flows on the SJR through the summer but the situation at Folsom may change and shorten this timeline. White said that’s a good thing.

The Del Puerto Dam project is on state Senator Anna Caballero’s priority list if I understood. Good for her. White said the cost share agreement between the Henry Miller family, San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority and Ex Con has been finalized. On June 9th there will be a stakeholders meeting at the Los Banos Community Center. White said since the facility will be built on city property they want public input. This building will be a museum and the new headquarters for Ex Con and San Luis Delta Mendota. Both entities seriously need new boardrooms. They’re small and lack sufficient power outlets.

Central California Irrigation District General Manager Jarrett Martin reported staff has been meeting with DWR and things look promising for getting the GSP updated and he hopes to get it over the finish line by July. He said DWR has expressed a preference to get the GSP right rather than on time. DWR is not looking for a back and forth. I was listening by cell phone and the audio clarity is probably why it sounded like Columbia Canal Company GM Randy Houk was asking about Navy SEALS. In context I think he was asking about native yields. He also was a bit surprised at the amount of white area and disadvantaged communities in the Valley. I was surprised to hear Director Jim Nickel of San Luis Canal Company who has farms near Bakersfield say they’re spending $1 million studying naked teals.

Water Report

Water Master Hoffman apologizing for the weekly call with Friant took a little long. He said everything was OK. Shasta has 1.4 million a/c and the April storms helped a little. Folsom however had a substantial amount of precipitation. As White had said Jones has one pump running and that has allowed some water to be stored at San Luis Reservoir. A year like this every little bit helps. There seems to be more coordination overall and that is leading to better management and operations.


The always dapper Steve Chedester gave his report saying the Mendota Pool fish screen has met the  60 percent design. He hopes to soon reach 90 percent. He said Reclamation is preparing to get some of its Mendota Pool structures documentation out by next month. They expect to get to 60 percent design by late fall and everybody is hoping for a 100 percent sometime next year.

Chedester reported the Orestimba Creek project had a holdup at a culvert under the Delta Mendota Canal. He said the OK came through and construction crews have set world records in getting the work finished. He also expects a $5.6 million grant payment for this project to be in hand next month.

Chedester said at the recent ACWA they worked out a meeting schedule to get some traction back into the construction schedule and get the NEPA/CEQA issues resolved.

Chedester said there were two San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint strategy meetings and he asked the board to review the mission and visions statements that came out of those gatherings. Also, Temperance Flat met recently. I thought it had long ago given up the ghost but there  was some talk about morphing it into something else.

Water Transfers

Ex Con has an agreement to approve water transfers with its four members. CCID wants to send 62 a/f to Del Puerto Water District. The board thought that fair. SLCC wants to send along 5,000 a/f to Panoche WD through the eastside conveyance. SLCC GM John Wiersma said this is an annual deal between Merced ID and Panoche if I understood. He said the timeline could start as early as next week and last through the summer. The board was fine with this conveyance agreement.

The last item in this category was the long term agreement with Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD. There has been a good deal of work in writing out this document. If approved Ex Con will bank at Rosedale.

Gov’t Mischief

Consultant Dave Cory gave his report on what the state and regional boards are up to. He said the San Luis Delta Mendota folks had a talk about establishing management zones to deal with nitrates. He said the State Board offered a bad deal that either you take what they are offering and they will let you farm for another 35-years or else shut down. That is what it sounded like Cory had reported. They now have six months to develop management zones and an action plan. Kind of SGMA schedule on steroids. Three phases, 10-years each. This includes managing salts which is what the CV Salts Program was about originally before it morphed and became a reservoir of fear of blue baby syndrome. Something that has never been recorded in California. Cory said the first goal is an intermit target and an estimated final target for ag that won’t exceed the limit on nitrogen leaching past the root zone. There is nitrogen and salts that come from farming but also by urban and natural causes. The monitoring and goals are based by township.

Legislative and Other Reports

White said there was a recess in Washington for Easter during April so there was a limited report on what other fresh hell elected officials are dreaming up.

Attorney Andy McClure reported the State Board denied a petition against the State Board about regulating Pre-1914 water rights. Who made that decision? The State Board.

According to the State Board there is no hearing or evidence needed for it to evaluate what is a beneficial use of water. The Board announced it has the authority to grant itself authority to be its own authority. The question is who will challenge this for a judicial review. So the State Board is issuing more curtailment orders and enforcing older curtailment orders. You can check online who has been received curtailment orders if I understand.

McClure next spoke about the gov’s executive order and well permits. Regular readers know what a mess this has caused. McClure said the Minasian Law Firm has developed a form that could be used by GSAs to deal with the well permit reviews and the counties. McClure said with the stroke of a pen the gov has upturned SGMA. White said Merced County has an ordinance in development.

McClure said the lawsuit by some Friant members against the Del Puerto Dam and it went well for the defendant at a recent hearing. Del Puerto maintains this is a federal contract decision.

Four Entities Management

Houk said the lack of water in the DMC has inspired his growers to adjust their irrigation schedules to take advantage of alternate pumping sets. The coffee shop talk indicates things are OK. He said there will be an annual meeting later this month and no one new wants to run for office.

Firebaugh Canal Water District GM Jeff Bryant said there are new solar projects and there are more than two miles of canal lining coming up. He said like everyone else farmers are being cautious with the low water supply.

Wiersma said the April use was lower than average as the growers understand the situation. He said SLCC is working through the budgeting process. He has had to start dealing with aquatic weeds but it seems to be under control.

Martin said CCID growers are also conserving water and there is a hyacinth problem at Mendota Pool and Fresno County has been told about it. He said the district is also working with DACs under SGMA.

Closed Session

Closed session started at 10:17am. That was that.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2022 by


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 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: 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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