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Exchange Contractors September 1, 2023



By Don A. Wright

The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, September 1, 2023 at its Los Banos headquarters and by telephone. The agenda says “The members of the public are asked to attend the meeting by conference call.” I prefer Zoom for my remote attendance but I’ll take a phone call over MS Teams. I think cousin Billy G* has been reading my reviews and has instructed his minions to throw sand in my gears when trying to sign on a Teams meeting. I could easily whip out four or five pages on my feelings towards user unfriendly tech but I fear it would sound whiny and somewhat crazed in an unhinged sort of way.

The Meeting

Chairman Chris Cardella called the meeting to order 9:00am on the dot. Executive Director Chris White presented the minutes to the board with a slight adjustment. He then got everyone on the phone to identify themselves and that led into talking about money.Technoflo

Joann White gave her finance report and the board approved. There was a lot more to it than I’m sharing here. There were four separate budget related reports, a cash activity report and reports from the financial committee.

Water Report

            Adam Hoffman gave his Watermaster’s report saying Ex Con demand dropped last week, held level this week and he expects demand to drop even more next week before the wildlife refuge demands pick up. The target on the San Joaquin River is 105 cfs at Sac Dam. He expects this to hold for several months. Shasta Reservoir is still looking very good and the San Luis Reservoir demands have leveled off. He said 790,000 a/f of federal storage could be low point. The drawdown last week was 7,000 a/f but now it’s filling again. This is typical for this time of the year, however not the high storage. It’s 87 percent full. Millerton is at 340,000 a/f out of a possible 500,000 a/f. Upstream storage is starting to flow downhill from the power reservoirs on the upper SJR.

The state has increased Oroville releases. The federal Jones Plant has finished the rewind on one of the units and is now running five units. The Fall X2 Line of 11,400 cfs will ramp up and that could reduce pumping. Provost & Pritchard’s Rick Iger asked about releases from the Los Banos Reservoir for flood control. Hoffman said he hasn’t heard anything.Lidco Inc.

Ex Direct Report

White said he has a short report with Steve Chedester having more to say. Ex Con has retained a federal lobbyist and they are teamed up with the state lobbyist. They will give a detailed report of their activities next month. At the end of September there will be a trip to Washington DC for the board and other interested folks.

Director of Policy

Chedester gave his report saying he’ll be short as well. The Mendota Fish Screen is waiting for a response from the US Bureau of Reclamation. He said there may have been a shakeup at the Bureau and a new team to work on facilities will be put in place soon. He hopes they will be more zippy about moving forward than the last bunch when it comes to Reach Three on the SJR restoration program. This has been an ongoing topic for decades.Brandt Water Treatment

It got a bit difficult to follow the conversation at this point. The Bureau or Ex Con wants a levee downstream from the Sac Dam to the Poso Canal to help maintain diversions. I think that’s what I heard. There is a water accounting agreement in the works as new facilities will necessitate adjustments to account for the flows. The Poso Canal bridge is west of the SJR and there is easement and land acquisitions needed to finish this work.

Water Resources Plan

Chedester reported all the permits for Orestimba Creek have been turned in to the Bureau and he doesn’t see any unforeseen problems. My words not Chedester’s because how could he see any problems if they are unforeseen? He’s expecting smooth sailing with the Bureau on this one.

There is a recharge project funding request from the feds. Congressman John Duarte is shepherding this process so it’s in good hands.

White said the geotechnical work for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project has progressed to the Phase II portion.

Gov’t Mischief

Consultant Dave Cory said Ex Con isn’t in first place to have the nitrate management zone plan – that includes all discharges, not just agriculture – reviewed. So there will be an opportunity to see how the areas currently under review fare. If your property isn’t in a management zone you won’t have the luxury of sitting around. The Regional Water Quality Control Board will come after you.

Legislative Matters

White said the state legislature is back in action with the appropriations committee shifting through the mess delivered. The more onerous water rights bills have been neutralized for the time being. There are no water bond discussions ongoing at this time. But there will be.

On the federal side dog bites man news, they can’t seem to pass a budget they can live with. The Western Water Caucus met last month and that is a good group to have working for ag in congress.

Attorney’s Report

Next Andy McClure reported the Sierra Club hasn’t been willing to work cooperatively on a settlement on the Del Puerto Dam. He said Sierra Club has thrown everything against the wall. Road alignment and cultural resources rulings are going to be appealed.

There is also a Del Puerto Canyon cost sharing agreement being drafted. McClure said this would be much like the special project activity agreement used at the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority. Only those willing to pay participate. He said this will be written so as to find approval by the Ex Con board. The final agreement is expected to be flexible enough to provide off ramps for those entities who decide further down the road it’s no longer in their interest to remain – and provisions to allow new entities to buy in. He said he’s looking forward to working on this. Someone asked him if this could allow more projects to enter into the agreement. McClure said this is more a template specific to this project but it could be used as a model for other projects such as Los Banos Creek expansion.

McClure gave an update on charitable contributions by public entities. Evidently Met WD in Southern California gave almost half a million bucks to the Asian Businessmen’s Association and it was ruled as funky. Donations have to be to some kind of water related matter. If I understand. Ex Con could contribute to clean water or flood control if there was a connection of some kind. McClure said Ex Con probably couldn’t get away with giving money to improve waste treatment in San Diego but could work with the same issue closer to home.

Ex Con wants to support its community. Good for them. But this isn’t a call for donation proposals from hither and yon. I’ve got suggestions for them about how to spend their money on stuff I want.

Four Entities Report

There are four members in Ex Con: two public – Central California Irrigation District, Firebaugh Canal Water District, and two private – Columbia Canal Company and San Luis Canal Company. This item is an opportunity for short reports from management.

Jarrett Martin, GM CCID said spraying nasty weeds at the Mendota Pool is about to run out of money for Fresno County to spend.

John Wiersma, GM SLC said there are reports on pumping being developed

Jeff Bryant, GM FCWD said they’re working on some solar projects and some boundary issues. They are wrestling with FEMA with some damage funding from flooding this past winter.

Cardello gave the CCC report as they have yet to find a replacement GM after the passing of Randy Houk.

Informational & Closed Session

The last two items merged – White said SLDMWA and Ex Con sent a letter to the Bureau chock full of projects that could qualify for a share of the legislation provided funds. I think this is part of a larger letter from Ex Con, SLDMWA and Friant that was discussed at the recent Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley meeting.

White mentioned the ACWA Region Six and Seven meeting coming up this month and the ACWA conference at Indian Wells this fall.

The open session was adjourned at 9:59am to go through six lawsuits and a property negotiation. So, that was that. Go be good to each other.

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*Not the Good Reverend Billy G of ZZ Top, the other guy from Seattle.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2023 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 -Chair Columbia Canal Company, Mike Stearns-Vice Chair Director Firebaugh Canal Water District, 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, Andy McClure-Attorney Minasian Law Firm.


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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