The Fresno Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting at its Fresno headquarters on a warm and sunny Thursday, August 11, 2022 afternoon. I recall when FID held its board meetings and stuffy, brick building that used to house cotton bales. You’d come out of the meeting all covered with lint looking like the old crazy woman who lived with a dozen white cats. If I remember correctly the FID campus was a former Anderson Clayton facility and I may have exaggerated a little about the lint. The new boardroom is only 10-years old and still beautiful.
Before we continue with FID. An update regarding the Wednesday August 10th report on Consolidated ID’s Central Kings GSA Board meeting where the Directors took issue with Tulare County’s response to implementing the Governor’s Executive Order N-7-22 on well permitting. Tulare County staff reached out to me and stated they have approved forms for every GSA that has submitted a form for review. They willingly offer examples and openly share what other GSAs have developed and have ultimately been approved for use. Out of the 12 GSAs covering ground in Tulare County, 10 of them have an approved form and are not having difficulty getting their landowner’s well permits approved.
I’ve spoken with some of the GSAs in Tulare County and they report no undo problems getting wells permitted. I’m not going to step in between Central Kings GSA and Tulare County, sincerely and I mean this – my job isn’t to settle any dispute nor fan the flames of any dispute. (See how I italicized and underlined that part? That’s because I’m serious.) My job is to report as accurately and fairly as I can. If anyone asks my opinion, knowing the men and women of CKGSA and the staff at Tulare County are people of good will and striving for a prosperous agricultural economy it wouldn’t hurt to communicate a little and see if a form can’t be developed that will settle everything to mutual satisfaction.
Also, as if one needed proof as to intention, the good folks at Tulare County told me, “Tulare County opposes AB 2201 and joins the Association of California Water Agencies, California State Association of Counties, and Rural County Representatives of California in opposition.”
Chairman Ryan Jacobsen started the meeting at 3:00pm, he is one punctual man. We saluted the flag and the agenda was approved. I spoke up during public comment about state employees profiling elected officials representing water special districts by sex and race for the DWR racial equity action plan. Chilling, no? There were no conflicts of interest and the consent calendar was passed.
Controller DeAnn Hailey gave the financial report. She said things are in order and going well, so the district is ready for its audit. The board agreed and approved her report.
Assistant General Manager Adam Claes reported there was a monsoonal storm system that came through recently – remember how humid it was a for a few days? It dropped a marked amount of rain on the Kings River watershed. Storage at Pine Flat Reservoir is 184,000 a/f . The monsoon has yielded 824 cfs inflow to Pine Flat and FID is getting almost 600 cfs of those flows. The Kings River yield allocation was divided between more than a dozen entities by a team of physicists and ancient oriental astronomers using a complicated mathematical equation relying on string theory that somehow gives FID a larger share of smaller flows. This looks like an additional 20,000 a/f from the Kings River. Good for them.
Claes said the Central Valley Project, Friant Division San Joaquin River allocation has been increased to 30 percent. This came late in the season but is nonetheless welcomed. Director Greg Beberian said he’s been getting calls from growers expressing a desire to hold the water until October for post-harvest use.
General Manager Bill Stretch said as cropping patterns have changed from grapes and raisin drying to nut crops the district hasn’t ran two separate deliveries in more than 25-years. This year’s irrigation season ends at the end of August.
Director George Porter commented the recharge ponds have a bad case of weeds, the worst he’s ever seen. Staff said the district goes in and discs the ponds when any water dries. Claes said this year’s dry conditions has limited the amount of water going into the ponds which was great for terrestrial weeds as it didn’t drown them. Superintendent Mike Prestridge said chemically treated weeds in a basin that has both aquatic and terrestrial weeds is expensive and causes long hold times. There are also limits in the system as FID could potentially link up to the San Joaquin River if there was a flood. Farmers don’t like to dump chemicals in streams. Besides the potential for ecological harm it’s a waste of money. When you’re paying for chemicals and water at the level of agricultural businesses it’s very expensive. Not to mention the fines.
Next Claes spoke about the district’s efforts to develop additional water supplies beyond the traditional Kings River and Friant Kern Canal sources. This can be done with sales, transfers, exchanges and combinations thereof. FID is often in a position to trade water here and there. Years like this make it particularly difficult to look into the future. Late allocation increases, unexpected monsoons and there are also unreleased restoration flows on the Friant Division. Water Master Jim Irwin said to make a complete delivery required a 20 cfs worth of spill before the recharge basins allowed for more flexibility. However it still takes a good deal of water to recharge the FID system after stopping deliveries.
Engineer Lawrence Kimura said there isn’t much to report, just 28 developer projects and 18 district projects is all. Kimura said actuators have been installed and there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony with DWR for one of the recharge basins. The Savory Basin I believe, next Friday. I noticed Kassy Chauhan wasn’t at the meeting today and there wasn’t as much information as usual. There is also a rumor about pending regulatory easement from the state’s agency that handles dams for recharge basins. Regulatory easement from the state? Man bites dog.
Kimura said the district is still leg wrestling with High on Speed Rail and the urban trails project is moving forward. There was a pipeline request last month.
As a curtesy to the folks involved the agenda went back to public comment so a young lady could speak about the constant dumping of trash by homeless nomads in the canal right by their home. She and her family have had a fire breakout in the homeless camps near Belmont and Highway 99 that threatened their house. This is an ongoing problem throughout the Valley and as it happens this topic is agendized in this meeting’s closed session. Stretch assured the family who were all present, the district is aware and working on the problem. Poor folks. I’ve seen bonfires along canal banks in the middle of town where there was a gathering of shopping carts full of recycling material and old blankets. Homelessness is a major problem in this state.
Construction & Maintenance
Claes had a good deal of praise for Prestridge and his crew for the extra work they have done during this delivery season. He showed some photos of repair and installation work. Claes said the equipment committee met. They want to buy five half-ton pickups. The district currently has 11 trucks with more than 150,000 miles. FID found a bid at $37,843 per truck from Fahrney Ford for $186,217 total. FID’s fleet has beige colored trucks and since they are purchasing five they can get that color instead of just white. Director Chris Woolf had told Claes Ford has already raised the cost of its electric F150 by $7,000. Have they even sold any yet? They only go less than 200 miles on a charge. Goobinator Gavin Newsom has yet another Executive Order that all passenger vehicles sold in California in 2034 will be electric. Someone needs to find out what junior high school his executive order ghost writer attends and tell them to knock it off. Anyway, the board approved the purchase of the V8 trucks.
SGMA & Other Reports
Claes stood in for Chauhan and reported the GSP was successfully rewritten, adopted by the North King GSA and turned into DWR by the deadline. There is a public comment period and in the meantime the GSA will just move forward.
Stretch announced the governor came out with a 19-page statement about how to manage water in light of the giant, outer space, magnifying glass floating over California causing drought, wildfires and climate change. This statement reportedly includes above ground storage.
Next Stretch was excited to tell the board Big Dry creek Restoration Project got a $2.47 million grant to improve water conditions. Currently the creek channel has a 60 cfs capacity but there could be up to 150 cfs flows going to recharge the area’s groundwater. Good for them. Stretch also thanked Austin Ewell for his outreach help. Good for him too. Attorney Jeff Boswell said there has been an application on additional water rights and I didn’t really follow that very far. I think he said something about it hanging out there for the past 20-years or more.
Next Assistant General Manager for Administration September Singh presented the board a resolution to honor shop foreman Don Miller for his many years of service. The board passed the resolution. She also showed photos of new hires. They are four fine young men with excellent backgrounds as far as I can tell. Elijah Stine will work in construction management and was already nominated for having the best smile of the bunch. Last month Danny Guinan retired after 40-years. Stretch said Human Resource Specialist with just one name* – Donaday – helped prepare a breakfast where all the folks got together and thanked Guinan for his work. Senior Engineer IV Sri Varadaraj left the same day after the breakfast with three years of service.
Singh said the CAlPERs open enrollment is coming up quick. The PPO options cost have gone up more than 15 percent so there could be a change to HMOs by many employees. Kaiser, Blue Cross and Blue Shield have some changes in what they offer. They, whoever they are, have brought reproductive health equity to all regardless of gender identity. If you’re reading this and find that strange – have you heard 2+2=5? If you haven’t perhaps you need to read more Orwell.
General Manager Report
Stretch said there will be some discussion in closed session for Kings River Water Association and Friant matters. He said the repairs of the Friant Kern Canal were the big deal at the last Friant Water Authority meeting. Fresno ID is upstream of most of the work on the FKC so it might be in a good place to bank or get a good deal on supplies that would have gone down stream when the canal is shut off for certain repairs.
Stretch also reported he’s spoken with Fresno City Council members and Fresno County Supervisors. There may be a half day tour of the water facilities in the area with Metropolitan Flood Control. Fresno State’s Sarge Green is slated to be the new representative for the City of Clovis on that board. As Stretch said that’s a good thing for everyone.
FID is now having quarterly meetings with employees and management now that the virus isn’t rampaging. Stretch said it gives him an opportunity to discuss 218 Elections, projects and other things impacting the district. He feels that went very well this last time they all talked and looks like something that will yield good results now and in the future. The meeting broke at 4:51pm for dinner and a closed session. So, there you have it.
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*Kind of like Cher and Lucy.
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Fresno Irrigation District – The Fresno Irrigation District is located at 2907 So. Maple Avenue, Fresno CA 93725 phone 559/233-7161 and meets at 4:00pm on the third Tuesday of the month at district headquarters. FID is part of the North Kings GSA DWR # 5-022.08
Ryan Jacobsen – President, Jerry Prieto – Vice President, Greg Beberian, Christopher Woolf & George Porter
Bill Stretch: General Manager
Adam Claes – Assistant General Manager – Operations
September Singh – Assistant General Manager – Administration
Laurence Kimura – Chief Engineer (you had him nailed down good)
Jeff Boswell – In-house Legal Counsel
Jim Irwin – Water Master
David Burrows – Water Master In Training
Michael Prestridge – Superintendent of Construction & Maintenance
DeAnn Hailey – Controller
Kassy Chauhan – Special Projects Manager/North Kings GSA Executive Officer