The Exchange Contractors board of directors met at its headquarters in Los Banos on Friday, September 7, 2018 at its Los Banos headquarters. Chairman Jim O’Banion called the meeting of the Ex Con Groundwater Sustainability Agency to order at 8:00 am. We all joined together in the flag salute lead by attorney Lauren Layne. The agenda and minutes were approved and Joanne White gave the financial report and the board approved it also.
Executive Director Steve Chedester introduced Central California Irrigation District’s Jarrett Martin gave the board an update on the progress being made in the ECGSA. He said the workshop scheduled for this month will be moved to October. There were four MOUs with the Cities of Dos Palos, Firebaugh, Newman and Merced County. These cities will pay half the cost of developing their own GSP chapter and Merced County will fully pay for its GSP chapter. Martin then spoke about the coordination agreement. There will be a coordinating committee and the three cities and white areas in the Merced County portion will have Ex Con serve as their representatives. Ex Con will therefore hold two seats out of eight. Columbia Canal Company General Manager Randy Houk asked about the cities’ funding this will come from grant money if I understood correctly. Houk was concerned Ex Con was going to have to pay for the cities’ data gathering. The cities will gather their own data and pay a pro-rata share of the costs for the coordinating based on their share of acreage.
Attorney Paul Minasian asked a good question of Martin, “What could go wrong?” Martin said any of the four entities would pay more than 10 times the cost of this agreement to go their own ways. The MOU requires them to finish their plan and it makes sense to make sure the plans are passed so there is no gruff from the State Board or DWR. That was that.
O’Banion closed the GSA meeting and opened the regular Ex Con meeting at 8:30 am. Under public comment Sarah Woolf handed out a very well produced flyer (I understand Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition put it together) about the subsidence in the Red Top area. Woolf had gathered the input from nine local agencies to tell the story about the impact of subsidence and what can be done about it. Chedester then asked everyone to introduce themselves and US Bureau of Reclamation’s Regional Director David Murillo was in attendance. Murillo is retiring soon and it will take an exceptional man to fill his shoes.
Water Master Adam Hoffman gave his report saying Lake Shasta is at 92 percent of average, San Luis Reservoir hit its low point last week and Millerton Lake is more than 100 percent above average. Hoffman said the total Delta exports have been great the past two months, pumping at near capacity. CCID GM Chris White told Murillo thanks for the parting gift. Deliveries on the Friant Kern and Madera Canal are slowing down as Millerton fills. Murillo said the Bureau is working with the fish agencies about Shasta releases and that will impact carryover next year. He said the Bureau will keep folks informed.
Chedester gave his report next and said the State Board may go ahead and adopt the unimpaired Delta flow standards in November and they don’t look like they’re backing down on this despite a great deal of pressure to use common sense. The Cooperative Operating Agreement negotiations started in August. The California Water Fix discussion was slated for closed session. The San Joaquin River Settlement had a boost from a recent meeting at Bureau headquarters in Denver. I was told before the meeting for eight years under Obama there was no work on the restoration project. Now things are happening. John Wiersma, GM San Luis Canal Company said the Denver meeting was meant to get the designs from the fisheries needed to move things along. He said it was a success and the criteria for fish ladders and such has finally been revealed. White was in Denver also and he said it was a very productive meeting. He said the staff from the National Marine Fishery Service was all over a physical model of the fish ladders and screens. He said it was fun to watch them squirting red dye and oohing and aahing over the results.
Mrs. White reported to the board the environmental documents for adjacent water agencies to Ex Con have been completed for the 25-year EIR. The EIR for the return of banked water from Rosedale Rio Bravo WSD have come through as well.
Chedester continued saying the Temperance Flat MOA group met in August and the main topics were: developing the draft JPA, keeping the opportunity to still get some lose change from the California Water Commission and getting the federal feasibility report together. Also the Prop 3 Water Bond is polling well.
Murillo was invited to speak and he said this will be his last meeting with Ex Con before retiring. He said his actual retirement date will be in November because the Bureau doesn’t want an interim RD and hasn’t found a replacement yet. He said they’re interviewing a few guys but the amount of work in relation to the pay might be a sticking point. If I get a chance I’m going to ask him what the hours are. Murillo continued saying there have been some fights over the past few years and the Bureau is now in a position to get some cooperation from the fisheries. He said this administration is more favorably inclined to work with the stakeholders in regards to water. He said one of the work related “bucket list” items he’s achieved was a letter from himself to Karla Nemeth Director California DWR regarding the COA. He said it had to be done. COA negotiations had no timeline or deadline and could wander on down the trail for decades. If I understood; this was a good, solid yank on the state’s chain and got things moving again. Another matter he wants speed up will be the San Joaquin River Restoration, a project near and dear to Ex Con’s heart and really to all the water users in the San Joaquin Valley. He said he’s also taking over the biological opinion task for as long as it takes or until he leaves in November. He’s also pleased with the progress made on completing feasibility studies and staff came through. He also thanked Ex Con for making his job easier most of the time, not always. Chedester and White told him he also made their lives easier at least half the time. They thanked him for his leadership during the drought and all the regulatory mazes. He also said he will not be accepting any water related consulting anytime soon. The board passed a resolution commending Murillo for his work and all around good guy-ness.
White reported about 1,000 a/f for the Rio Bravo water is moving to where it can do some good in the Red Top area. He said Madera ID is looking to work with Triangle T WD to move some water. The first slug ended up going to Westland WD but there is more MID water for the subsidence area. Martin said the annual subsidence rate has dropped significantly. Rick Iger, Provost & Pritchard said there has been a study to show the subsidence impacts on the Eastside Bypass. It originally was built to carry 16,000 cfs about has dropped to the point you got to run above the freeboard level.
Iger reported recharge rates on the recharge ponds are doing very well. Like a foot a day of recharge. Monitoring wells are showing increased water levels. He said this area is gravel, water table response to recharge is pretty quick. Triangle T and Clayton WD have applied for appropriate flood flows on the bypass. The state’s Central Valley Flood Control Board in its wisdom declared you can’t take flood water out of the severely impacted capacity of the bypass without a permit.
The State & the Law
Consulting attorney and farmer David Cory reported on the icy tentacles emanating from Sacramento. Cory said he could make it a short report and just say no good news. But he plunged ahead saying groundwater monitoring and sampling starts this fall. A huge, long-term study on how to reduce nitrates from farming begins. This is the lever the state welds on growers. It could determine who grows what where. At least that’s what it seems like to me.
Chedester said Glendale Assemblywoman Laura Friedman’s latest bill to tweak farmers passed. The state can now declare rivers sacred to earth worshipers off limits for dams. Temp Flat anyone.
Minasian said the bill recently passed that supposedly took away the ability of the State Board to act as judge, jury and executioner is concerning. Just when you thought something good could happen in Sac-o-tomatoes. The fear is a social warrior attorney gets his or her check from the State Board, answers to the State Board directors and gets the information on water from State Board staff. I was disappointed to hear this. It would take an attorney of uncommon morals to withstand that coercion.
White reported the on-farm water conservation applications have closed and they got 80 applications.
Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal WD said his board is considering a 2016 Bureau grant coming back around. He hopes to get the money to line some canals but will have to sit down with the Bureau to ramp up the grant again.
Wiersma said deliveries have dropped except for wildlife refuges. SLCC has a year round conservation program. He said he attended the CCID tour for the Ag Leadership and it was above and beyond. Very good tour.
Whoops I guess I missed what Houk had to say. Sorry.
Chedester said Saturday the 22nd is the CAST event. This is the annual get together for handicapped children. They go fishing with volunteers. Ex Con has been doing this for 16-years. The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER EXCHANGE CONTRACTORS WATER AUTHORITY
The Exchange Contractors cover almost a quarter of a million acres in Fresno, Madera, Merced and Stanislaus Counties.
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.