By Don A. Wright
The Fresno Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting at its Fresno headquarters on Thursday, February 9, 2023. It was good to be there in person. I don’t know how many times I’ve stated in these reports farmers are like ducks, they love the rain. The shock of the flood and surprise of the amount of water has subsided a bit with just the warm glow of supplies remaining. The board was happy, staff was happy the visitors were happy. This is partly due to FID generally having good supplies and being able to keep growers a little healthier than most, good management and board that gets along for the most part – but there’s nothing like a good storm to put a smile on the face.
Chairman Ryan Jacobsen called the meeting at the scheduled 3:00pm start. He’s pretty consistent about that. You can’t count on more than one hand all the times a meeting has started even a little late since he took charge of that duty. The agenda was good, the review of future meetings was accepted, some smarty panties made a bad joke during public comment and there were no potential conflicts of interest found. And, a really good invention, the consent calendar, was passed.
DeAnn Hailey gave her report saying it would be short and it was. She wants to go to a conference and I wasn’t sure what it was about but there is a shortage of accounting students in the pipeline and many positions in that skill set are expected to go unfilled in the near future. It’s not perceived as cool. Also, the 2022 audit will be done mostly online.
Assistant GM Adam Claes reported a good deal of information has come in over the past week and that additional info will help bring about better forecasting. He said the Central Valley Project allocation is 35 percent on the Friant Division. More than 4,000 cfs is running, that’s full. Much of this is going to southern Class II contractors that had to wait until certain repairs were completed on the Friant Kern Canal. Millerton Lake is down to 360,000 a/f due to releases down the San Joaquin River for fish flows. Before that Millerton was at 150 percent, I think he said. There is no more 215 Water at this time. That could change. The US Bureau of Reclamation is expected to allocate 100 percent Class I and at least 20 percent Class II supplies. There could be uncontrolled seasons coming on and off throughout the summer.
On the Kings River where FID gets most of its supply there is 242 percent of its average in its watershed. The Kings and San Joaquin Rivers have almost five million acre feet between their two watersheds. The Kings River is 4,000 cfs at Pine Flat Dam. FID gets a fourth of that under current conditions.
Claes said the Kings River Water Association meeting revealed the Army Corps of Engineers – the entity managing Pine Flat Reservoir and Dam. ACE wants more flood space in Pine Flat. If there is no more precipitation for the rest of the season FID can start deliveries in March and run through August. It’s been a while since that happened. If an additional 25,000 a/f shows up the season can run through September. That’s one or two more storms.
The board decided to start deliveries on March 1st. You’ll be getting a press release Monday all about it from FID. Now this means the system will be charged and tasks dealing with construction and such will be transitioned to system management.
This year is so good staff was willing to broach the subject of providing annexed area water supplies. There is 2,900 acres of developed annexed land. Looking at the map I’m in undeveloped annexed land. Most of this water goes to eastside citrus and it doesn’t matter if the price is as low as $75 or as high as $1,200 per acre foot that water sells. By the way the difference between develop and undeveloped annexed land is whether or not there are crops grown or it’s grazing land. For the most part the turnouts come directly from the Friant Kern Canal, not FID facilities. If I heard correctly. Us undeveloped folks still pay $4 per acre assessments. The board approved sending up to 1,500a/f at $250 per to the developed annexed lands.
The mighty Lawrence Kimura reported he didn’t have much to report due to the rain and such. He said there have been some improvement to recharge basins. Highspeed rail made some unexpected progress and was able to get its collective nose and nuts out of FID’s way in time for the delivery season on part of the system. He said the groundwater levels at the basins are starting to rise. There is a lag time for this even in wet years.
Kimura showed some photos of a site on Gettysburg and Jameson Avenues for a new recharge basin. There is an abandoned house there on the property that has been used by nomads and the sheriff has been out there a couple of times. Director Chris Woolf said he has an old house on one of his properties and North Central Fire Control District has offered to burn it down for training. Hmm, perhaps there’s some synergy to be had in the case as well.
Kassy Chauhan gave her report saying staff is looking to the benefits of more solar at other sites. The FID headquarters has some solar. Chauhan said ACIP will evaluate the other possible sites and conduct a feasibility study. There is an April 13th deadline for some bonus that has mesmerized solar companies. ACIP Energy will do just about everything. There is a $135 application fee FID will have to pay. ACIP doesn’t install or do construction but it does everything else and it doesn’t cost FID anything because the contractor pays them. Chauhan even had a big green star on the big screen with the words, “No Cost to FID!” written on it. This will get all of the sites grandfathered in the NEM 2.0 program. Don’t know what that stands for. If you do please let me know.
Next Chauhan gave the board an update on Prop 218 happenings. FID has decided to hold a Prop 218 election. This kicks in a great deal of public education. Prop 218 allows landowners to vote on whether or not to raise assessments. The district can educate the voters on the needs and benefits of an increased assessment but not advocate. It’s a fine line but special districts in California have learned to walk it for the most part.
There will be an April 18th, 6:00pm meeting at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Center and other meetings in Easton and someplace else. There will be a public meeting for voting on June 8th, I believe. She said Director George Porter has been attending many of the outreach events and that has been helpful.
Construction & Maintenance
Claes stepped up to the podium again and reported on a crucial repair on the Big Dry Creek Canal that will allow FID to take storage from Metropolitan Flood Control and channel it to FID recharge areas. The crews have been installing riprap and removing trash. It’s a shame how much garbage folks are tossing in the canals. For the canals’ portions within urban areas there are big concentrations of crap floating on the surface. High water flows cause it to catch against the bridges. Once the water level drops the garbage crews were not able to remove will flow out of town and into a moveable trash rack downstream. FID is pouring concrete to prepare for installing Rubicon Gates.
Director Jerry Prieto asks how the big old FID truck stuck in a field down by Kings Canyon Avenue will be extracted. He advised not getting off the asphalt. On the west side of Fresno and a couple of other areas where FID canals run through town there are water front nomad encampments causing trouble for the district. The City of Fresno is supposed to be policing the canal per agreement. It is a big problem and it’s not just big urban areas like Fresno.
Chauhan is also the fearless leader of the North Kings GSA. She reported they are still waiting for DWR approval of the GSPs. Along with the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley there will be a workshop for someone from the State Board, DWR’s Paul Gosselin and DWR Director Karla Nemeth to meet with GSA leaders from the Valley. Porter commented DWR and the State Board should have been better prepared to meet the GSP review load. He was upset that if the GSAs were late with submitting the GSPs they would have caught hell from the State Board and DWR but they don’t have to abide by their own self imposed deadlines. Sounds like the IRS doesn’t it?
Jacobsen observed one must be careful what one asks for when dealing with the government. You don’t necessarily want an overstaffed bureaucracy looking for something to do once the GSP reviews are finished.
Chauhan reported there has been applications for federal funding from the USBR and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She expects to meet with Congressmen Kevin McCarthy and Jim Costa to discuss the farm bill.
On the state side the February 17th deadline to submit bills will give lobbyist hundreds of things to do. There is a concern of a repeat of the AB 2201 onerous well permitting will be submitted.
Under public affairs FID’s 2022 annual report is almost ready and there has been more meetings and outreach than usual. General Manager Bill Stretch has an interview with Western Ag Press next week. Local television news has done reports on FID’s ability to get flood flows to the farmland. There has been a good amount of social media response to FID’s outreach.
Stretch said while FID does use a consulting firm for its social media outreach the overwhelming majority of the work comes from Chauhan’s diligence. Director Greg Beberian asked if there would be any benefit for Stretch or Chauhan to participate in the upcoming ACWA Washington DC visit. Stretch said he will look into it. He added as a member of Friant FID representatives do get back there often.
Next Chauhan presented the board with a desire to name future recharge basins after family names of the landowners I guess. The Schneider, Schmall, Laub Ranch, Krum and Crossland Basins were named. The board approved a resolution to do so.
September Singh said AB 361 expires at the end of this month and AB 2449 will last until December 31st, 2025. Both of these laws allow remote teleconferencing under certain, identified circumstances such as communicable illness. This just cause clause can only be used twice a year by directors.
Next Singh asked the board to grant three employees to go on sleepovers to attend three ACWA JPIA seminars in Costa Mesa and Roseville. The board agreed. Singh next showed the board photos of four new hires in the construction crew. Also, I don’t know how the district will survive but Lynn Rowe is retiring. Fortunately, Laurie Kiser is stepping up. Felix Vaquilar used to work at FID as an engineer but defected to High Speed Rail and has now come back as a supervising engineer. Kimura, to my sorrow is retiring from his position as Senior Engineer, but not for a couple of years. Kimura was one of the first people to be friendly to me way back when.
I was reflecting on the personnel changes I missed something about the employee healthcare plan. But I did hear Singh get to tell the board the district’s workers comp situation is improving.
Donna Day has developed training program known as CORE I. CORE II training will start next year. This is something either required of public agencies or a team building effort. A brief history of FID video was shown. This one dealt with how honor behaves at work. It was pretty good.
Stretch reported when there was a leadership change a few years ago staff and employees were asked what the expected. Day and Singh interacted with the employees and using their unique skills developed this CORE program. It has resulted in amongst other things a reduction in personnel turnover.
Stretch said much of his time lately has been meeting with landowners and it has been good for him to increase this contact. He also said the district water supplies flowing through the tender mercies of the Kings River Water Association and Friant are top of the list of things to consider. Unfortunately High Speed Rail hasn’t completely gotten out of the system and has negatively impacted conveyance but should soon wrap up its belongings in a bandana attached to a stick and hop a freight train out of FID. There was 8,400 a/f of Unreleased Restoration Flows FID was able to buy for landowners.
The next Phase of the Friant Kern Canal capacity correction is going to be expensive. Stretch said the Friant Water Authority and its consultants have done a good job of planning out how to determine the cost benefits. He acknowledged FID being so far upstream on the FKC these difficult decisions will require some effort.
Directors Report & Closed Session
Porter reported on his way to Porterville recently he saw a lot of recharge basins. The same is taking place in many other areas. Some GSAs have purchased 215 Water from Friant but not as many you’d think. It only cost $40 something an a/f.
There was a big bag of real estate items dealing with purchases for recharge basins and a couple of claims against the district in closed session that started at 5:06pm. And that was just about it. FID had a delicious beef kabob dinner and the public vamoosed. Go be good to each other.
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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
David Burrow – Water Master
Michael Prestridge – Superintendent of Construction & Maintenance
DeAnn Hailey – Controller
Kassy Chauhan – Special Projects Manager/North Kings GSA Executive Officer