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Exchange Contractors May 4, 2018



The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, May 4, 2018. Chairman Jim O’Banion was unable to attend and Vice Chair Chris Cardella was running late. So, Kim Brown Director Columbia Canal Company was approved to sit as acting Chair. I’m interested to hear about what happened in Sacramento this week. I’ve read recently the California Water Commission appears to have stepped on as many rakes as possible in awarding Prop One funds to surface storage projects. The CWC has dealt with a grant scheme that disappointed just about everyone but the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board. 

The minutes were approved, the bills paid and the finance committee reports were all approved. The Water Report was given by Adam Hoffman. Hoffman reported both the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project have had increased allocations. The reservoirs on the San Joaquin River watershed are doing well. Almost all of them are well above average for the year. The Delta inflow is more than 18,000 cfs while total pumping from state and federal plants is 1,692 cfs. There is more than two-million a/f in Shasta and San Luis Reservoir has 862,000 a/f. Hoffman showed a satellite photo of the SJR watershed. It’s divided in two places; north and south, both having about equal amounts. Executive Director Steve Chedester lead the board through consultant Dan Steiner’s report. The report is three pages of spreadsheets detailing the minutia involved in determining probable releases from the reservoirs.

Next Chedester gave his report saying the voluntary settlement agreement, an idea brought to you by the State Water Resources Control Board, for the Sacramento, American and Stanislaus Rivers. The concern is this agreement could force less exports from the Delta, which in turn could force the

US Bureau of Reclamation to take Friant water to meet Ex Con’s supplies. Chedester said Ex Con is very much against this. The Cooperative Operating Agreement between DWR and the Bureau on who gets how much water to pump from the Delta has yet to find resolution. There is a July deadline on these negotiations and if I understood correctly Chedester isn’t holding his breath. Metropolitan Water District has stepped up to fund the California Water Fix and although CVP contractors are still open to the possibility of joining; it is now a state only twin tunnel project. The CVP is looking for an enforceable agreement it won’t be harmed by this.

Chedester reported the Bureau claims to have new plans ready by the end of the month to continue the SJR restoration program. But the big news on the SJR was the California Water Commission’s Prop One scoring on Temperance Flat. Of the $2.7 billion available Temp Flat got hosed, or, Browned as it is now being called in reference to Governor Jerry Brown if you were wondering. Temp Flat might get $171 million which isn’t much. Chris White, GM Central California Irrigation District pointed out the off-stream storage projects like Sites and Pacheco Dam expansions scored well. The enviros don’t want new dams no matter what benefits they would provide. Chedester then talked about a recent tour of the Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD and the Kern Water Bank saying it was very interesting. He was impressed with how well managed both water banks are and how different their operations. The KWB doesn’t farm while Rosedale does. Key to the projects are good partners and good mitigation plans according to Kim Brown and I suspect she knows a great deal about this subject being from Kern County herself. Finally, the USBR Commissioner Brenda Burman will be at the Sacramento offices later this month. There is an opportunity to meet with her so folks will have to get together for a trip. 

White spoke about subsidence in the Red Top area. He said Triangle T Ranch has gone out and got some water. They’ve been able to get a net price of $300 per a/f. I didn’t catch the volume. The change in how the landowners in the area are tackling the problem is moving in the right director.

Somewhere during the meeting Cardella showed up and took over the chair. He had Chedester give the water transfer committee report. Chedester had data on landowner to landowner transfers, out of Ex Con transfers and transfers between Ex Con members. There were other issues like committee meeting minutes, but the board approved the whole batch.

The board was asked to adopt resolution No. 18-02 approving the 2017 update to the joint water management plan. This plan goes to the Bureau and is then entered into the Federal Register. The Bureau needs all the plans lumped together by the four Ex Con entities in a resolution. The board approved.

Provost & Pritchard’s Mike Day reported on the water resources plan. This is usually a report given by Rick Iger. I don’t know where he is today. Hope all is well. Also, hope all is well with O’Banion as well. Anyway, Day reported Orestemba Creek recharge program has had some materials – well – there’s been a mix up or two but nothing the crews can’t deal with. There is a 20-acre ponding basin that needs a little more earth work and Day said it is a small enough task it would probably safe a good of money to have one of the Ex Con entities do the work. White added the Orestemba Creek water quality is the best in the area with no selenium. A recent Water Deeply report has over estimated farming’s contribution to the creation of selenium rich water killing birds in Kesterson. So it’s good to know this water is clean.

Next Chedester asked the board to approve spending $100,000 to join the Temp Flat MOU. It was said there’s at least 12 other partners. Right now CCID is holding place in the MOU, but the board agreed to make Ex Con the overarching member.

Consulting attorney Dave Cory reported the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Executive Director Pamela Creedon is retiring next month and attorney Patrick Deluca (sp?) will take over. Cory said Creedon has been one of the best XOs the Regional Board has every had. He’s hopeful Deluca will continue in the same directions of Creedon. This is good news but it is still the Regional Board. The Westside Coalition is expanding its outreach efforts to comply with management plans in the Irrigated Lands Program. Constituent exceedances for surface water is the main topic in this effort. This raises the possibility SGMA and the Irritated Lands Program can have some of the same data requirements and no one wants to spend money needlessly. Cory said the Central Valley Salts Program has been taken over by nitrates. There is still a salinity management program for the entire Valley on going. If a grower participates in this they will have a more lenient salt discharge level. If you don’t participate you’re capped at 700 electroconductivity discharge to either ground or surface water. He expects this to be adopted by the Regional Board, then the State Board and also portions go through the EPA before it is completely adopted. Chedester asked Cory if there is much push back on the salinity side. Cory said not really. The Basin Plan Amendment will likely be challenged in court by the special justice warriors.

Chedester reported on legislative matters. He went to Sacramento with a few guys and they walked the halls introducing themselves to the key legislators. He said they didn’t go asking for things. They just established relationships and invited folks to stop by. As for actual pending laws Chedester told the board after the legislative committee review SB 26 should be supported. ACWA doesn’t like it because it requires urban areas to do much more tax collection. Ex Con isn’t the only ag interest in supporting this. Western Growers have been leading the support charge. This bill would add $60 per $1,000 of fertilizer purchased. Cory said those funds will help protect against further regulation by being spent on mitigation – it includes some liability protection. If I understood correctly. It’s not just ag fertilizer, it’s all the stuff sold at Home Depot too. Cory said the liability protection was a huge win over the enviros and the urban areas are doing a full court press against it. He warned about cleanup and abatement actions without this bill. It sounds like the objection isn’t the .6 mil tax but the requirement to collect the tax. For ag, the tax is the stick and the indemnity from onerous enforcement is the carrot. Mike Stearns, Director Firebaugh Canal WD asked what the alternatives are. Cory said if this doesn’t pass ag will be in jeopardy. White said there won’t be a vote on this until after June 15th budgeting as this is a trailer bill. He said this gives time to have the home boards weigh in first. Cory said he’s willing to come argue in favor of support and would welcome someone from ACWA to attend as well. The board decided to send this to the home boards. In other bills Salas and Arambula’s water bills are supported and AB 2675 by Friedman is opposed. On the federal side Chedester said there hasn’t been much activity. It’s more of the minutia of working through process right now.

Attorney Paul Minasian reported on an appeal regarding the State Board’s taking action without procedure. If I understood correctly. He said there will be a closed session talk on drainage. White began the four entity managers’ report. He said demands are going up and much of the construction is pretty close to finished. FCWD GM Jeff Bryant said deliveries are picking up and so are aquatic weeds. He’s got an NPDS permit and has a grant for canal lining hanging out. Bryant said the managers used to meet quarterly and annually. He said himself and others would like to revive those meetings. He said it would be helpful for everyone to work better together. Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company said their annual meeting will be this month on the 22nd. Canals without much flow had a spike on weeds during the earlier warm spell. John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company said the pump station reworking is coming alone. He said Congressman Jim Costa is touring Sac Dam today.

Before going to closed session for eight items the board was reminded ACWA is next week. And that was that.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright   No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.


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

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


Steve Chedester-Executive Director, Adam Hoffman-Water Master, Joann White-Administrative Assistant, Patty Baldini-Office 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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