The Fresno Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting at its Fresno headquarters on Thursday, January 13, 2022 online with GoToMeetings. It’s not easy to put together a successful meeting especially when no one shows up in person. Chairman Ryan Jacobsen called the meeting at 3:00pm. He is punctual. He asked Special Project Manager Kassy Chauhan to read through the Sino Cooties protocol. That always takes a minute or two.
The Public Hearing
Things got in gear at 3:03pm with roll call. Everyone said here when their name was called but Assistant General Manager September Singh, she said, “Present.” Iconoclast. Next we all saluted our great nation’s flag. And as I’ve stated many times a flag salute is a good way to start a government meeting.
Singh served as the moderator of today’s public hearing on redistricting directors’ districts. This is part of the census redistricting that takes place every 10-years. She said input from the public is sought. There is a consulting firm, Flo Analytics, that has drawn up four possible maps, Options One through Four. These are available on the FID website under Resources, Redistricting.
Ruth McColly and Sarah Sieloff of Flo introduced themselves. Sieloff said Flo is data based and does not work for any political party. She gave the board the eight commandments of redistricting. You can’t have islands, the populations has to be balanced – all five of the FID districts’ populations are added together and then divided by five. I think she said 118,000 people (not just voters) is the ideal amount of folks living in each district. No island or strange long shapes like the yard-wide enterprise zone running down the middle of McKinley Avenue. Communities of interest and geographical common areas are also considered.
Three or four maps have been drawn up. Sieloff said public comment on the proposed district boundaries ends on January 27th and then another hearing will be held February 10th to determine the final maps. The two extremes are District One with 15,000 people over and District Three with 6,000 under with the other districts all under the 118,000 population. All the major changes have to do with the population growth to the north and east due to urban development in those areas. There have also been changes southwest of downtown Fresno that is in a more rural part of the area. Then Sieloff started spouting off all manner of Polsby-Popper, Reock and Convex Hull statistical manipulation. I took sadistics in college. We used jargon like mean, medium and mode and I’ll bet you $5, less than 99 percent of four out of five folks on this call never heard of those above mentioned statistical analysis methods. So mentioning them without any explanation of what they mean just gave me between 52.1417 and 14% more time to write this up using journalist math. The most powerful math known to man because it can mean anything you want it to.
You’d be well served to take a look at the website. https://www.fresnoirrigation.com/redistricting But, most of the moves are in the north part of town and near the Fresno Airport. A few growers will be impacted in other areas, especially southwest of town. I’m pleased to note Jerry Prieto will continue to be the director where I live no matter which option is chosen. And it’s not just resistance to change I’m trying to avoid. Prieto is a good director.
I believe I heard Sieloff say Scenario Four (I don’t know what happened to the term Option) complies closest to the “Voting Rights Act robustness”. Then it was said Option Four has the best scenario. This presentation had all the charm of an in depth verbal audit report mixed with well hydrographs on a very busy Power Point presentation.
There was one question from the public – why is downtown Fresno excluded from the FID map? It’s just a white blank spot surrounded by different colored districts. Assistant GM Adam Claes explained when FID was formed the city didn’t want to be a part of the district. Fresno has since expanded beyond those old city limits and grown into FID territory.
Director George Porter asked why scenario four was picked and it was the only one where a Hispanic majority could be obtained, even though the ideal population amount had a 7.9 percent deviation, I copied that figure so it’s from the report and not journalist math. This was done by analyzing CVAP citizen voting average population. Sounds like Hispanic voter turnout is low in proportion to its share of the residents. The federal Voters Rights Act states if the possibility exists to create a minority majority you do so. I asked if there has ever been a lawsuit filed against FID by minorities over voter representation in districts. The answer is no but as FID Attorney Jeff Boswell said using scenario four is the most legally defensible option meeting both the constitutional and Voters Rights criteria. Legally defensible if a suit is ever filed is also an important consideration these days. It’s an exercise in CYA imposed on FID.
Director Greg Berberian asked some geographically specific questions about population changes moving Division Five boundaries. Each move placed some people in a new district while removing people from their old district. This is taking place on every level of government office. Director Porter asked if he was still in Division Four, the division he represents. The maps presented are not very granular and he wanted to know if his home was still in the district. It is. Singh thanked everyone for participating. The public hearing ended at 4:17pm with Jacobsen thanking Sieloff and McColly. They had a tough job but got through it.
The board meeting began at 4:18pm and Chauhan had to call the roll again. The agenda and review of future meetings were approved. There was no public presentation or potential conflicts of interest. The consent calendar passed. Because this meeting was completely remote a roll call for each vote was taken.
FID Controller DeAnn Hailey said it’s been business as usual. While I was double checking that I spelled her name correctly I think I heard her say the cost of printer ink has gone up, something about parity with gasoline. The board approved Hailey’s report.
Last month the board asked Hailey to work up a report on the policy for overnight stays and reimbursements for conference attendance. Jacobsen is also CEO of the Fresno Farm Bureau so he gets roped into a lot of conferences and such. He said there’s a weed eradication conference so maybe this legalized recreational marijuana isn’t working out. The board said it would be a good policy to allow General Manager Bill Stretch to exercise his wisdom in deciding these matters without bringing it to the board each time but for certain rare circumstances. There’s already policy in place to cap the total amount of expenses to match the budget. This passed. The last item under finances was a report by Hailey on installation agreement drawdowns.
The water report revealed there is 284,000 a/f or 77 percent of normal storage at Pine Flat Reservoir on the Kings River. Claes said the district is only using Central Valley Project supplies and not its Kings River entitlement. The snow sensors show 123 percent of average. Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River has 307 a/f in storage. The Friant Division of the CVP has a 40 percent allocation since last December. Statewide snow and reservoir averages are falling and Claes said every day without rain lowers the average. Snowpack is going to start melting without more cold storms. I haven’t heard any more about a late month atmospheric river.
The long-term maps shows an equal chance of above or below normal and that’s another statistic that doesn’t tell much. There could be 215 releases in March down the Friant Kern Canal. Claes said it could be an uncontrolled season if more rain hits between now and then. Millerton Lake only holds 500,000 a/f and the San Joaquin River watershed yields an average two million a/f. So the US Bureau of Reclamation has to fill and drain the lake four times.
Prieto asked how much FID water bank supplies has migrated west out of the district. Claes said groundwater is a black box science and there is probably some usage surrounding the banks. Stretch said based on a Provost & Pritchard study no banked water has left the district.
Beberian asked who is using Kings River water and I didn’t hear who it was said. There was some high inflow in December shooting up FID entitlement. It was pointed out the City of Fresno has been only using its CVP supply for the surface water treatment plant. Mills and Hughs Creeks are part of the eastside creek system but Claes said the only runoff from the storms was a trickle. The snow level was low and dry ground combined caused runoff to be much lower than expected.
Claes said the late CVP allocation has put some stress on Friant Districts concerned with losing carryover at Millerton Lake. There have been some requests by others to bank CVP at FID facilities and he’ll keep the board up to speed on this.
FID Engineer Lawrence Kimura said private developer and public agency action was slow over the holidays. Kimura reported on capital improves in the district, high speed rail hijinks and the urban trails projects with the Cities of Fresno and Clovis.
Kimura showed slides of construction projects throughout the district. Box culverts and bridges and other canal improvements are taking place. Beberian said it looked like the Wagner facility was being ripped. Kimura said prep work to get weeds down has been ongoing. There will be earth moving from the basin later this year.
Director Chris Woolf asked about a situation involving Westlands Water District’s current headquarters and offices. FID and the City of Fresno wanted to store some construction equipment at the WWD property in town, next to a FID canal while working on the urban trails. Initially WWD was hesitant and Woolf told Kimura WWD is selling that property and moving. He suggested the new owner might be more helpful. Wonder where they’re moving to. They didn’t tell me and it brings up childhood memories. Kimura said Westlands did provide the needed help after all.
Claes showed a slideshow of moving heavy equipment and other tasks. Tree trimming and canal grading and all manner of maintenance is taking place. The district has an old piece of equipment used in canal bank slope shaping. He said they’re no longer made. Someone said there are shops near and in Fresno very capable in fabricating replicas. Districts in the Valley are known for creating innovating equipment and there are others who would like this sloper equipment. Berberian suggested having two made.
The was another photo of a double box culvert with a traveling trash screen that was built by FID crews. This will greatly help in delivering water to the Wagner Basin. More photos show long crested weirs and Claes’ vacation adventures.
Chauhan gave the board some updates saying the Kings Subbasin is coming together with a spending plan up to $10 million to be submitted to DWR. There are four projects for the $7.6 million expected to actually make its way to new recharge basins. P&P is working data gathering for the annual SGMA report due in April.
Like everyone else, the DWR review of Groundwater Sustainability Plans is getting folks excited. Excited might be one way to say it. People are scrambling to prepare for potential revisions that might be needed. FID is in the North Kings GSA and Claes is slated to get the response team to turn around responses to DWR within the 180-day time frame.
The Biola Recharge Project has asked for a time extension from DWR for additional funding to arrive. The immediate task is to build a turnout. Boundary flow studies updates are continuing to monitor where the underground flows are going. Member agency mitigation responsibility plans are being updated. Each member agency has an overdraft responsibility. Some of the GSAs making up the Kings Subbasin contribute more overdraft than others. Porter asked how the City of Fresno fits in the NKGSA. Chauhan said Fresno is a full member of the NKGSA and signatory to the underlying Joint Powers Authority.
Chauhan reported FID will get 10-recharing stations for electric vehicles under a grant and install them in the yard. The SCADA upgrade is going very well and an inventory of existing equipment is almost finished. Unfortunately must of it is old and obsolete. But soon the district will know what needs to be done to bring its system up to the current state of the art. She said staff is keeping well aware of the need to avoid any work on the SCADA during water deliveries. Also, the FID Rules & Regulations handbook hasn’t been updated since 1985. Staff is working on this and will soon have a draft to present the board. The district is also in the midst of updating an very outdated filing system. Good for her.
Chauhan reported she has been selected to serve on the new State Board’s SAFER Advisory Committee; Safe and Affordable Funding for Equity and Resilience. There’s that word equity and it doesn’t mean equal. This is part of coordinating SGMA with the drinking water rights efforts. This will include districts and GSAs in these talks which is better than being left out. Chauhan knows how the snake dances in Sacramento so at least we have some adult supervision involved.
The State Board also issued emergency water conservation regs that are essentially a duplicate of the 2014-2015 guides. The State Board said it won’t be the water police and urged neighbors to report on neighbors violating the rules. Dirty rats breaking omerta.
The Kings River Water Quality Coalition is gearing up for the new year and the reporting requirements that come with it. The Kings River Water Association legislative committee is meeting tomorrow and the Valley Ag Water Coalition had a short meeting last week but has started tracking what legislation is on the horizon.
Funding from the federal infrastructure act is in limbo and water interests are beating the drum for more recharge. Chauhan said it takes about eight times to repeat the project message before it becomes familiar. The San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint has also developed a project list. The state’s land repurposing guideline comments are due by January 31st.
Chauhan reported there are three FID Waterways newsletters scheduled for this year to inform growers. The Packer interviewed Claes about the epic storms and there was another article from a different publication about what a poor job GSAs in the area are doing by providing recharge to offset groundwater levels. Enough about that except to say they are doing a good job.
Chauhan said she and Jacobsen are working with FID’s public relations advisors on social media and that has been productive. She said ACWA has been reposting some of FID’s content. Twitter followers are increasing and Chauhan said there is good messaging on both social media and the district’s website. In general the improvement in district websites has been a pleasant development. Stretch added Channel 30’s Dale Yurong did a piece on Fresno County remaining the top ag county and FID’s contribution to this.
Singh said there is a unique situation where two staff members need approval to attend the JPIA Leadership Essentials course in Roseville in February, July and November. The board approved. I didn’t catch the nuance that separated this trip from the earlier policy adjustment.
Jacobsen invited a motion to pass a resolution to authorize meeting remotely. It passed unanimously.
The California Special District Association is offering some training that would be good for board members. Some of the training sessions are virtual and Singh asked for volunteers.
Stretch said the Kings River Phase I hearing ruling hasn’t come yet. The hearing was in June and the State Board’s Office of Administrative Hearing is also working on a similar hearing on the Kern River. He said the Fish & Wildlife committee at the Kings River Water Association is chaired by Jacobsen and the California F&W is being consulted to see what they think may happened after the Phase I ruling.
On Friant matters, there is a groundbreaking ceremony on the Friant Kern Canal repairs scheduled for January 25th. There is a Mid Pacific Water Users Conference in Reno at the end of the month. But due to health concerns the FID contingent of Stretch, Chauhan and Claes won’t be attending. Stretch will give a virtual presentation on the good work FID has done.
Stretch said his performance evaluation is next month and he urged the board to please fill out the critique and submit it to Singh. It’s amazing how many stories I’ve heard about directors not providing feedback which is kind of unfair to managers.
Gary Serrato is the former GM of FID before Stretch and he has been working as a consultant since. Stretch said he’d like to extend that relationship for another year. Also, former FID attorney Gary Sawyers and others formed a consulting firm called New Currents. FID was a client. New Currents has reduced its client load to focus on other projects and FID is now one of those former clients. There were no directors’ reports and Jacobsen called the open session over at 5:58pm and the meeting went into closed session.
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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
Donaday Chapman – Mystery Lady