Digital Marketing Services

Exchange Contractors Sept 2, 2022



By Don A. Wright

The Exchange Contractors board of directors met on Friday, September 2, 2022 at its Los Banos headquarters. The board is back to meeting live but the public has been asked to attend by telephone. I love my Ex-Cons but I wish they’d get with it and hold Zoom meetings. Notice – Zoom, not MS Teams or Ring Central or Bob & Tom’s online meeting emporium. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thankful I don’t have to drive to Los Banos. Los Banos is a find community with its charms but gas is still pretty dog gone expensive. The Ex Con board and staff are intelligent, attractive people and seeing them is worth a drive but the temperatures around here lately can melt the steel out of your belted radials. But nonetheless it is good to see what visuals there are remotely and it’s not that difficult to do. For modest compensation I’ll send my guys over and set it up.

I was speaking with a friend yesterday who agrees; farmers and ranchers are like ducks; they love the rain. Only he had a witty phrase to describe this I should have written down. Right now is the opposite of rain. We have drought, heat, political and social stress, inflation and a malaise of uncertainty and confusion. It is very troubling that there are those in positions of authority operating under the post-modernist view that my truth is true for me and your truth is true for you. This belief holds that truth is relative and not absolute. Such a proposition is self-defeating – just ask – is it true that all truth is relative? This isn’t new or progressive. It’s been debunked since at least as far back as Socrates.

Why is this important? Because one of the ways to impose will on others without overt physical violence is to disregard and degrade truth. We see this happening by changing the meaning of words. Throughout all of history marriage has been defined as a union between one man and one woman. You have to redefine marriage to include any other arrangement, whether polygamy, same-sex or what ever it is they call unions between groups and inanimate objects. Many feel marriage has been redefined to fit with desires of a group that previously stood outside its definition.Technoflo

Here are some other words subject to redefinition. What is a right? What is a privilege? What do the words mean in conjunction with water? It is absolutely true there’s a move in Sacramento to redefine what a water right is. Our friend Mike Wade at the California Farm Water Coalition (see here) pointed out recently that giving over our water rights to the government won’t yield a single drop of water more to the state. It will however remove this most foundational input to our very lives from the hands of free men and women into the hands of amorphous governmental control.

The Meeting

At 9:00 am on the dot the meeting began with Jim Nickel chairing. There was a combination of board members and public on the phone. There was a quorum and no one wanted to speak up in the public comment portion.

Controller Joann White gave the finance report and the expenditures. The board liked it so much they approve it. I noticed there was only one outstanding accounts receivable for the month of August and it was paid.

Water Report

Water Master Adam Hoffman said demand is dropping off a little. There is a dry patch on the San Joaquin River between Gravelly Ford and I think he said Mendota Pool. The SJR restoration flows will begin again next month. Hoffman said water levels at Lake Shasta is higher than was estimated earlier in the year and actually higher than in the past during this time of year. San Luis Reservoir has benefited from three units pumping at the Delta. Storage is better than expected. There is a debris problem in the higher elevations of the SJR due to fires in the Sierra Nevada. This is interfering with releases for downstream.

Executive Directors Report

            Chris White said he’ll also cover Steve Chedester’s report since Chedester is on vacation. I didn’t know they gave him time off. Good for him. White said fish screen designs for the Sac Dam on the SJR are being worked out but there needs to be a fish ladder and operational details to wrap up. This is part of the SJR Restoration Project. An updated schedule has been prepared and distributed. There are some concerns on Reach Two designs staying on schedule. The Jones Plant has been running three out of its five pumps.

On SGMA the GSP was turned in on time and the subsidence at Red Top is improving and that shows some progress. Good for them. Subsidence at the Mendota Dam is taking place but it has been proven the Mendota Pool Pumpers are not contributing to this. Pumping below the clay layer is the culprit.

White said he’s working with Senator Diane Feinstein’s office to get funding for Ex Con’s water resource plan. Part of this plan involves other districts like Del Puerto for the Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir Project. There is the Orestimba Creek Project and some other recharge projects taking place. The DPC Reservoir has geotechnical drilling taking place to help determine conditions important to the design process.

On a fun project some design work for the proposed new museum/headquarters to be located in downtown Los Banos is moving forward. That’s exciting.

Gov’t Mischief

Consultant David Cory reported modeling is picking up steam for salt impacts on the Valley. The nitrates situation looks like management zones will be formed to help deal with the regulatory tsunami accompanying the goal of reducing nitrate from groundwater. Cory said the priority is nitrates before salinity. The Central Valley Salts program has been converted to nitrates but the salt is going somewhere regardless of the attention paid.

The proposed nitrate monitoring will be on the township scale. Cory said to watch out, the social/enviro/justice warriors are going to weigh in on this incredibly complicated issue.

More Mischief

White reported consultants in Washington and Sacramento have some end of the year reports. The feds are out of session and that means a big bump in local campaigning events.

Andy McClure gave the attorney report saying there has been a hearing on a challenge to the Del Puerto Canyon CEQA by some Friant members. The hope is the judge in Stanislaus County said this will be outside the actual Exchange Contract suit taking place in federal court. McClure also said there is no proof of a water supply impact which is outside of CEQA. The next hearing on this is a Sierra Club gripe coming up later this month.

There was a challenge to the original Ex Con Groundwater Sustainability Plan back in 2020. The GSP has been determined to need amendments and a different plan was submitted. McClure said, if I understood, the plaintiffs’ complaints are no longer valid because the original plan was determined to need a rewrite by DWR and is no longer valid itself. You can’t sue over a plan that no longer exists.

Delta issues have two new developments. The State Board adopted an environmental document in 2016 for an increase in uninhibited flows from the confluence of the Merced River and downstream on the SJR. McClure said this is troublesome because the State Board doesn’t believe any evidence is needed under the Bay Delta Plan to justify this action. Many believe this approach by the State Board is illegal.

The other Delta issue is the single tunnel EIR. McClure said this has morphed into a state project since the 6,000 cfs from only one tunnel isn’t enough to supply the federal Central Valley Project. However, what happens  to the federal side of Delta operations if there is the earthquake or some catastrophic failure of the Delta levy system? That’s not covered in the EIR.

McClure said there are some good things in the Governor’s Water Strategy but there are some bad things that include water rights. He said back in 1927 the state went around filing on surface water throughout the state. Now the gov wants to do the same with groundwater. This would place water rights under poorly defined racial equity and diversity factors that have no structure to them. He said it is a good idea to get started filing on groundwater rights – now – before the state sucks them up.

There have been letters from congress asking the Biden administration why the biological opinions on the Delta have been thrown out with the change in administration. There is also a letter from California state legislators to the federal Department of Justice claiming consultants are gaming water data fraudulently. He said it was vaguely worded.

Four Managers

            Randy Houk, General Manager of Columbia Canal Company said getting anything petroleum related has been stymied by the supply chain.

Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal Water District said he hopes to have a new office before winter sets in. I know they have a portable building but images of Byant and his staff huddled around a 55-gallon oil drum full of burning broken pallets while a cold wind blows comes to mind. The August water supply and demand was almost identical to last year if I understood.

John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company said the grower demands are being met. They are already working on a strategy for the coming year and getting things ready for his growers. The district is transitioning to a paperless meeting.

Jarred Martin, GM Central California Irrigation District said August was a heavy month on demands due to the heat. The well rehabilitation process has started and there is a long-crested weir planned. Bryant added the application of a copper based weed killer is helping his district’s system fight algae.


The Cast Event is coming back this month. This event is a well-loved day to take kids with disabilities fishing at San Luis Reservoir’s O’Neal Forebay. The next ACWA conference will be at Indian Wells. The California Ag Leadership Program is going to do something but the phone cut out so I got no idea what. With that the meeting went into closed session at 9:52am.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; strives to provide its 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 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.

Get Our Latest Water News Delivered To Your InBox

Subscribe today to be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

We respect your privacy and value your readership. We will never sell your information to 3rd parties.


Madera Irrigation District Board of Directors Special Meeting, September 20, 2023

By Joel Hastings On September 20 at 10:31 a.m., President...

Westlands Water District September 19, 2023

By Don A. Wright The Westlands Water District held its...

Chowchilla Water District Board, September 13, 2023

By Joel Hastings Vice President Roger Schuh called the meeting...

Tulare Irrigation District, September 12, 2023

By Don A. Wright The Tulare Irrigation District held its...

Sites Reservoir: Greenhouse Gas Threat or Hot Air? September 11, 2023

By Don A. Wright This article first appeared in...