The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, May 7, 2021 on GoToMeetings from Los Banos, Ex Con’s hometown. While waiting for the meeting to start let me tell you there is more to Los Banos than a home for the one hundred and one stop lights strategically placed between Highways 99 and I-5. There are some very good restaurants in Los Banos. I haven’t been eating there in the past year due to not having any in person meetings so unfortunately I can’t vouch these are all still open.
There is a very good Italian place on the main drag Highway 152 which is called Pacheco Boulevard when you get into town. The restaurant is called M&M’s. You’d think, but no candy coated chocolate is on the menu. The locals congregate there and management ensures not only good food but friendly services come with each meal.
I’ve always considered Mexican food to be nature’s perfect food. There are two excellent taco stands on Pacheco: Cojita’s and El Grullense, Jalisco. My favorite Mexican restaurant is Cecilia’s on H Street near 5th Street. The tortillas are homemade, both flower and corn. Some places make their chile verde sour. I don’t know why, but Cecilia’s CV is as close to perfection as I’ve had. Of course the mother of all Los Banos eateries is the Wool Grower’s Basque Hotel. It too is on H Street where 6th Street intersects across from the park with the statue of Henry Miller on a horse with some cattle. The Wool Grower’s is right around the corner from both Ex Con and San Luis Delta Mendota offices.
I forgot, for some reason Ex Con doesn’t broadcast the audio on GoToMeetings. One must call in and listen on the phone. So while I was reminiscing about good places to eat in Los Banos the meeting started. I was watching on GoTo but I didn’t realize things started without me. I’ve been going to Ex Con for about 20-years now and have joked I could probably write a fairly accurate if somewhat vague report by just looking at the agenda. So here goes:
- Executive Director Chris White welcomed everyone.
- Chairman James O’Banion called the meeting to order at 9:00am.
- Everyone saluted our nation’s flag and included the phrase Under God because that is how it is said.
- The board agreed to the agenda.
- The minutes were approved.
- There may or may not have been public participation.
- The board paid its bills.
- Joanne White gave the financial reports so flawlessly the board unanimously approved.
At this point I was able to hear Water Master Adam Hoffman report Ex Con demands are at 1,000 cfs. We’ve heard similar, reservoirs are very low from Shasta to Millerton to San Luis. Hoffman said most of the runoff on the San Joaquin River watershed not soaking into the ground is being captured in the upstream power generating reservoirs. There’s about 360,000 a/f being stored on the SJR upstream from Friant Dam. Considering Millerton Lake holds half a million a/f that’s a bit shaky. The Delta outflow is only 4,000 a/f indicating very low snow melt runoff statewide.
Hoffman said the B120 estimates from the Bureau have declined by more than half a million a/f since April 1st. The May projection should come out this Monday.
Steve Chedester said the 30 percent design on the Mendota Pool fish screen is making progress but it is at a slow pace. Something new was proposed and that bogs down the bureaucrats. A similar design in use in Northern California with proven results has been introduced. This is delaying things by about a month.
Reach Three of the SJR Restoration’s also has a fish screen design goal. The US Bureau of Reclamation was going to provide a review this week but it hasn’t come through yet. There is nothing new with the Temperance Flat Dam project.
Chedester’s been talking with the congressional representatives about funding for the Los Banos Creek Detention Facilities, I mean Dam not facility, for millions of dollars. Congressmen David Valadao, Jim Costa and Josh Harder have all been in the loop. The project is in Costa’s district so he’ll have to carry the legislation. This is a “shovel ready” project and could well qualify for the proposed community infrastructure funding. Senator Diane Feinstein’s office contacted Ex Con for input on projects she might want to sponsor. Funny, she didn’t call me and ask advice on financing any of my stuff. The state is looking at another $3 billion in funding for drought relief and Chedester is keeping an eye on that situation.
White gave the board a rundown of the proposed transfers. He said well pumping has to take place to make this happen. The transfers are all growers moving water between their properties. In other words the water isn’t being sold to outsiders or other neighbors, it’s going from Farmer Fred’s Ex Con lands to Farmer Fred’s Del Puerto Water District lands. The board approved. The total amount proposed was about 15,000 a/f.
Next White reminded the board Ex Con has an agreement with Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD in Kern County. San Luis Canal Company GM John Wiersma said his home board has agreed to the plan. Central California ID GM Jared Martin said his board hasn’t made up the collective mind yet. Firebaugh Canal WD GM Jeff Bryant said the decision is pending to be decided at the next board meeting. Randy Houk, GM Columbia Canal Company said the same thing as Bryant.
Water Resource Plan
Chedester reported on the Orestimba Creek Project saying there should be 20,000 a/f of recharge annually with 10,000 a/f of recovery available. That 10,000 a/f would be divided between Ex Con and Del Puerto WD. The recharge rate tested at a very good 2.6 a/f per 24-hour period. The problem appeared to be getting enough water to the recharge location. Of course storm flows from Orestimba Creek can be taken and that adds enough water to the underground to offset subsidence. Right now the project upon buildout will be 80-acres and will have two pipelines from the Delta Mendota Canal to provide surface water. There will also be a pipeline from the creek for extra flows. Operations will add an additional 20,000 a/f to the aquifer.
After grants the cost to Ex Con and Del Puerto will be about $4.3 million resulting in an average per acre foot cost of less than $150 per a/f. When you consider Kaweah Delta WCD is being offered $1,700 per a/f this year, that sounds like a good deal. But when you consider that’s at least three times the average costs or more, depending upon the year, than Ex Con growers pay there is some sticker shock. But, if this water could be sold out of the area the costs could be recouped fairly quick. And as Rick Iger, Provost & Pritchard pointed out the more the project is used the faster the costs drop.
White said the Del Puerto Canyon Dam is ready for two RFQs, requests for qualifications, for firms willing to relocate power lines.
David Cory gave his report saying nitrates in groundwater is still the focus. He asked if he could be heard because there was a beeping sound. He said he has those in his head occasionally, but everyone could hear him. Basins with high nitrates in groundwater will have to provide water testing and provide clean water kiosks. The governing structure of these efforts will be management zone. The Regional Board and the so called “environmental justice” community* are keeping a close eye on this. Cory said he expects the Ex Con area will have to start dealing with this within a year or so. This isn’t limited to just ag water. Urban areas are also on the hook for this and organizing all the moving parts could be a challenge.
Cory said the Irritated Lands Program also is focusing on nitrates. There is a process for determining how much nitrates leaches below the root zone by township area. If a township shows more nitrates reaching the aquifer than can meet objectives the application of nitrates will have to be changed.
White gave a brief update on what proposed state and federal bills are of interest to Ex Con. Ex Con has consultants for both state and federal information. They are against AB 377 that would move decisions from more localized control of the Regional Board to the statewide State Board control. And they are in support of State Senator Melissa Hurtado’s SB 559.
Andrew McClure from Paul Minasian’s office reported there is an effort by some to force a change in the SJR Restoration flow reporting that are redundant. The State Board agreed with Ex Con the changes are not necessary. If I understood correctly this is helpful. What a pleasure to report to you the State Board did something helpful. I’m not kidding. I poke at the State Board a lot so it really is nice to hear they’ve been helpful. McClure also said a statewide drought declaration hasn’t been issued but he cautioned having a statewide declaration could have cons as well as pros.
Four Manager’s Reports
Martin said just one of the challenges is removing hyacinth from the Mendota Pool. He said they’ve found a cost effective method and now they’re trying to improve the efficiency. He also said algae and moss clean up is above average.
Wiersma reported there are two new staff members he’s excited about. He said aquatic weeds are aggressive this year and he may have to go to copper sulfate to take care of it.
Houk said weeds are the biggest chore. He said staff is working full time on clean up in the system.
White reported there will be a semiannual meeting with the Bureau next week. He might have said something else but I was having a difficult time hearing him the entire meeting. Which is a shame because much like EF Hutton I want to hear what White has to say.
The meeting then went into closed session at 10:11am for 11 items and that was that.
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SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
DWR SGMA Identifier #5-022.07
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.