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Exchange Contractors May 3, 2019



The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, May 3, 2019. I do spend a lot of time driving. I drove from my home near Clovis to Los Banos yesterday morning to attend the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority meeting only to find it was postponed to May 16th. I hope I was the only one who didn’t follow my own advice and check first. I had the date wrong on my calendar. But it was a nice day for a drive – I wish gas wasn’t so pricey but outside of that it wasn’t the worst thing to happen. Driving out this morning I got to thinking about things and I hit a bump. That made me wonder; what if for some inexplicable reason I was riding in the same vehicle as Governor Gavin Newsom and we hit a speed bump. Would I have the guts to turn to him and say, “Hey Gav, remember that time we were in your car and you hit that guy with the dog? Did you ever get him a new cane like you said?”? I’m not worried about offending the Governor, I suspect his sense of humor is well enough developed, but the other guys in the car, who knows? Thankfully that’s not likely to happen.

Ex Con GSA

So while I was musing on that mess Chairman Jim O’Banion called the Exchange Contractors Groundwater Sustainability Agency meeting to order at 8:30am. We saluted our nation’s flag and introduced ourselves, the board approved the minutes and expenditures and Executive Director Chris White asked the board to approve Resolution No. 2019-01 which is an investment policy required for the GSA as a public agency. This passed. The accountant hadn’t show up yet so the agenda was taken out of order with Jarrett Martin, Deputy General Manager of Central California Irrigation District filling in the board on the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. If I heard correctly the sustainable yield for the aquifer above the Corcoran Clay is about a half an acre foot. Below the clay layer is around three a/f but I believe subsidence considerations are still being figured in. While getting SGMA workshop attendance up is a challenge the next workshop is expected to be well received as it has some meat to it. Martin said pumping data is sent to Dr. Ken Schmidt and he works up recommendations. One problem area appears to be the Mendota Pool Group which could limit CCID from transferring groundwater from the area. CCID has a head gate in the area. While at the same time the Firebaugh Canal Water District which is right by the Mendota Pool needs to pump to keep the groundwater down.

Towards the very end of Martin’s report O’Banion left the room leaving Columbia Canal Company’s Kim Brown in charge as Vice Chair. In the meantime CPA Joe Maestro arrived to give the first Ex Con GSA audit report in history, ever. He was mercifully efficient by the way. Just as Brown lifted the gavel to have Maestro begin O’Banion walked back in and just like that her reign of terror was over. The board accepted the report and that ended the GSA meeting.

Exchange Contractors

The regular Ex Con meeting started at 8:55am. White asked the board to include a new agenda item regarding buying farmworkers trucks. That was added and the regular minutes were approved. Since he was sitting at the table and already spun up Maestro gave the regular Ex Con audit report and things sounded good. By the way, I work closely with farms and a Dodge Ram 1500, gas, four wheel drive, satellite radio and GSP, full double cab – not that cab and half joke – the deluxe bells and whistles cowboy interior the Laramie or Long Horn I forget which – running boards preferably retractable but I’m not going to get hoggish and almost any color but black or white would really fit my needs. Black, obviously, too hot in the Valley summers and white. . . Well once I was at the World Ag Expo and forgot where I parked. Don’t laugh it’s a massive parking lot. I saw an old boy who was also looking for his ride and I offered a deal where if we found my auto first I’ll drive him around and vise a versa. He said great and asked what I was driving. I said a green Saturn SUV and he said he was driving a white pickup. That narrowed it down to about three/fourths of the thousands of vehicles in the parking lot. The audit report was accepted.

Next the board agreed to paying its bills and Director of Finance & Administration Joann White gave the finance committee report. She covered: the general budget comparison, water transfer budget comparison, water resources plan budget comparison, the San Joaquin Valley Drainage Authority budget comparison and the cash activity report. The board was pleased and approved her reports as well as the minutes of the finance committee.

Water Report

Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying Ex Con demands picked up to 1,800 cfs as of yesterday. About 560 cfs is being released down the San Joaquin River at Friant Dam and the flows are reaching the Gravely Ford goals but are just under the Mendota Pool goal. Shasta should fill this month as increased temperatures are melting the massive snow pack. San Luis Reservoir is drawing down currently. Millerton Lake is getting 5,000 a/f per day and there is a chance for more flood water at that rate. Pine Flat is also filling up quickly but the operators believe they can make it without any significant flood release barring an unexpected storm. Delta inflow should be about 40,000 cfs if I heard correctly. How much SJR water flows past Vernalis determines how much pumping takes place. They can pump one fourth. White added consultant Daniel Steiner’s modeling was sent to the US Bureau of Reclamation showing there is plenty of room for a 75 percent allocation for the San Luis Division of the Central Valley Project – west side of the Valley. With Ex Con and Friant pushing this memo ended up in Washington DC and created a stir but alas the Bureau wants to stick with the 65 percent allocation. Twenty-five percent flows through Vernalis and the fall X-2 salinity line are possibly skew things. Brown said the State Water Project has a 70 percent allocation and if the true up comes to San Luis Reservoir too late there could be a lot of carry over.

Admin Report

Steve Chedester, Director of Policy & Programs tag teamed with White on the Administrative report saying there are serious efforts to get the Bureau policy guys to meet up to discuss how to improve the Mendota Pool situation. I apologize in that I wasn’t clear exactly what that situation is but it is a heavily regulated area so take your pick. He also said there needs to be some serious work done on the Eastside By Pass due to lose of capacity. Flows down the structure need to be limited or there will be all kinds of problems. He also reported the Temperance Flat MOU now includes the City of Fresno. Unfortunately one of the MOU meetings is scheduled the first Friday of the month, same as Ex Con. And Chedester said the ROC on LTD is moving forward.

John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company reported the Bureau made a statement in a letter that any additional costs to the SJR restoration program due to subsidence won’t be charged to the Bureau. The Bureau was advised to retract that portion of the letter. If the Bureau and the SJR restoration folks don’t get together next week at ACWA there will be a sit down soon after. There are many things that need to be talked over with the Bureau such as seepage. There was a press release from the Bureau yesterday about how it responded to flooding due to seepage from its SJR restoration program. The release didn’t mention it was Bureau land that was flooded and it took six months to respond. There’s other flooding in CCC and GM Randy Houk said if the Bureau wants to respond to it they’d better get some WWII landing craft from the South Pacific.

Wiersma said some of the subsidence taking place at the Red Top area on the Triangle T Ranch has been addressed \through transfers.

White reported he recommends a pilot project to transfer 5,000 a/f to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. This is being met with hope.

Possible New Reservoir?

Next was the very intriguing Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir project. This idea has been around for more than a decade but is just now starting to grow some legs. Anthea Hansen, GM of Del Puerto Water District was in attendance. He said some modeling has been planned with 25,000 a/f of Ex Con transfer water being stored there for dry times. Timing is important as eligibility for WIIN Act money is tight. Millions of dollars could be lost if the project doesn’t begin soon. The project description states the DPCR will hold 85,000 a/f off stream. Andy Neal from Woodard & Curran engineering firm spoke saying the environmental work begins next week and most of the landowners are on board. Hansen said there are only about six landowners on the project area and is well received. She said the opportunities for funding are driving things. She said word from Washington DC is there is momentum and the project is known. Hansen said Del Puerto has budgeted $1.1 million and Ex Con needs to match that. I think the deadline is May 15th for Ex Con to pitch in. White said if you’re a Westlands WD grower with $1,500 a/f carryover at risk in San Luis they’d like to park it somewhere. And of course with SGMA having extra storage is a no-brainer as there is a good possibility to do some banking below the dam. There is a JPA, only this A stands for Agreement not Authority. Right at this time there will be buy in if anyone else wants to be a partner. The directors will take this to their home boards. Pretty exciting.

Item 10a is about Fresno CBS affiliate KGPE Channel 47 stepping up its ag coverage and is putting together a plan to get a work truck to a farm worker – as I referred to earlier in this report. Should Ex Con participate it will help pay for the truck and receive a butt load of advertisement that can highlight what’s happening in the area and apply to its SGMA outreach budget. The board told White to go for it.

Report from Pyongyang

Consultant David Cory was told to not speak unless he had good news. That made for a silent report and he was told to go ahead and speak. As usual the folks in Sacatomatoes have their collective panties in a bunch over nitrates in groundwater. Salt accumulation is a far greater danger for everyone. Yet the State has two orders; one for the coast and the dairy industry that is trying to make fit statewide. Pretty short report for Cory.

White gave a legislative update saying in California SB 1 is continuing to make progress on the senate side. The Farm Bureau and ACWA are working to make sure this bill; a bill that locks in place the federal regulations on the last day of Obama’s term as state standards. This could totally blow up all the voluntary agreements for the through Delta flows and throw a wrench in the biops-reconsultation. On the federal side he said there is some positive legislation and one can read it all in the packet.

Attorney’s Report

Attorney Paul Minasian phoned his report in literally saying DWR withdrew its ap for a double tunnel and that can clearly be perceived as a lack of interest on the Newsom administration’s part. He said Ex Con should be happy it didn’t put much money on that horse. The enviro community doesn’t see any need for compromise on the Sacramento River and is pushing the State Board for unimpaired flows through the Delta. Minasian said the State Board will now move forward on Sacramento River flows and Ex Con should position itself to become a party to litigation. As for the San Joaquin River unimpaired flows lawsuit it is moving slowly. The Bureau has filed against the State Board and more about that in closed session. He said there doesn’t appear to be anyway to get state legislatures to recognize California is still an agriculture producing state. They don’t want to get involved with water infrastructure that doesn’t involve disadvantaged communities. Cory said one way might be to remind them ag water is a jobs bill for disadvantaged communities. Minasian said the PG&E bankruptcy is curiously quiet. It appears the Gov is working some backroom options. One thing the Gov might be looking at is dipping into the general fund to help or immunize PG&E and other utilities by developing a state insurance fund to buttress property owners claims and protect PG&E from fire loses. Minasian said the urban areas make the utilities money; the rural areas are money losers because of the transmission costs. PG&E might not mind getting rid of some rural distribution. And the enviros are sticking their nuts and noses in it with unattainable renewable plans on an undoable timeline. Minasian said it might be wise to put a little thought into this matter.

Four Manager’s Report

The four managers’ report was next and Wiersma said SLCC has held its elections without any changes in board members. Staff is working on budget from a calendar to fiscal year and working on that. He also said he’s finalizing SCADA and the new reservoir (at $2.5 million) is up and running. It took four or five years to complete and provides 250 acre feet of operational flexibility. He also said he’s saving some serious change on solar power so far. Martin said water deliveries are tracking the same as last year. He’s working on the summer work program and getting some more SCADA on line. He said CCID is helping Fresno County get through an Army Corps of Engineers permit for repairs on the Russel Avenue bridge. Somehow or other ACE is claiming jurisdiction under WOTUS. Jeff Bryant, GM FCWD said he’s working with LAFCo about drainage and flooding from the Coastal Range. This resulted in resource conservation districts and such and he was able to consolidate some of the bureaucracy. LAFCo, and you can read this on their web sites, has been tasked with reviewing government entities and it was time to spruce up the stuff. Houk said April was normal deliveries. The Triangle T inlet has been installed to the Columbia Main Canal. The board voted to line the CCC Central Canal with Wonderful’s help. This will save water. He received a letter from DWR telling CCC to report on water usage by April 1st and it was dated May 1st. Minasian said he’d look into it. Houk also said the Bureau wants to mix it up with recharge to it can have more control. There’s a comment period for this. On May 28th at 11am there will be a SGMA meeting and all are welcome.

Under informational White said there will be a full slate of meetings at ACWA next week. This meeting then went into closed session. And it is important to recognize that Ex Con staff provides some of the tastiest, healthiest and prepared with love snacks at any meeting you’d care to attend.


DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide his clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.’s clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright 


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.


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, Patty Baldini-Office Assistant, Darlene O’Brien- Administrative Assistant, Paul Minasian-Attorney


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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