The Fresno Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting at its Fresno headquarters on Thursday, January 14, 2021 remotely by GoToMeeting. One almost felt sorry for those poor souls who had to actually get dressed and go into a physical office location to be a part of this. While waiting for the meeting to begin I realized I’m still in my pajamas and although I’ve stepped outside, so far today I haven’t made it as far as the mailbox.
Chairman Ryan Jacobsen called the meeting to order right at 3:00pm. It looked like he was calling from his Farm Bureau office. We saluted the flag, God bless America. Kassy Chauhan, Special Projects Manager called roll and everyone who was there owned up to it. This is another meeting I miss attending. I live in the FID boundary; I think Director Jerry Prieto is my director. I like FID meetings because since I’m a client they have to be nice to me.
There were no public presentations, conflicts of interest and Directors Prieto and Chris Woolf asked to pull item 6c from the consent calendar. All other items were approved. C item is the December 2020 Check Report. Woolf asked about a payment made to Cal West Rain. He is not an owner but his family does own the company. In house counsel Jeff Boswell advised Woolf to abstain. Prieto asked about one item; a check to John Randal McFarland. Chauhan said that was Randy McFarland. I’ve known Randy for decades and I didn’t know his first name is John. McFarland did some work for the district on the Centennial celebrations. The board was happy to pay him. Probably happier to pay him than most of the other bills.
Controller DeAnn Hailey gave her report and there was nothing out of the ordinary and the board approved. Just like all the other districts it’s that time of year for a district’s board to have to listen to auditor stuff. Hailey said this year the audit will be conducted remotely. FID will put the appropriate documentation on the cloud. How about that? Hailey also said FID earned almost $400,000 in 2020 from investments. Pretty good.
Assistant Manager Adam Claes gave the water report and said he’ll be as optimistic as he can. Pine Flat is at 50 percent of its average storage at this time of the year. That’s not a big mystery since we’ve had between a third to a half of the usual precipitation. The Kings River watershed is at a third of its average according to the snow survey. Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River is at 59 percent of average. The Friant Kern Canal is shut down for maintenance until the end of the month.
Going back in history Claes brought up data from as far back as 1913. So far, this is the second driest year on record. But years like this that start out dry sometimes make up for it later. There’s a storm coming towards the end of the month. Maybe, that was his dose of optimism. Claes said there was a meeting of Friant managers last week and things are looking similar to 2014-2015 when the Exchange Contractors contract caused the US Bureau of Reclamation to send San Joaquin River water downstream at the expense of Friant deliveries. Claes said there have been other districts approaching FID about some water, sales, transfers and exchanges.
Director Greg Beberian asked what happens if FID can’t meet its commitment to the City of Fresno’s surface water treatment plant. Claes said it is based on a percentage of available supplies and not a hard number. If FID’s supplies run low the city gets a smaller amount of supplies. Beberian said he believes the amount of water the city is eligible for should be measured at the canal gate and not at what is in storage at the dam. General Manager Bill Stretch said in every dry year FID meets with the Cities of Fresno and Clovis and they talk over what they want to do. The cities could run like heck for a shorter season or dribble out their supplies over a longer time. They might also choose to divert to recharge. But Stretch assured Beberian staff understands his concerns.
Engineer Lawrence Kimura gave his report saying crews are replacing pipes throughout the district as needed. There is also construction on recharging basins including pipe, earthwork and pouring concrete into forms for infrastructure. If it was a little warmer it’d probably be fun to get some lawn chairs and go watch them work. High Speed Rail is way behind its construction schedule and it is just now working on crossing the Central Canal. HRS had to demolish a traffic bridge along Highway 99 on Golden State Avenue in Fresno and after a year the bridge has been torn off. Ripped down.
Kimura said groundwater levels have been measured and he’s getting a lot of calls for pipeline locations. The district issued eight right of way permits. The US Bureau of Reclamation has approved FID’s five year water plan and the district doesn’t have to work on it for another three years. Not because it takes the district two years to draw up the plan but rather it takes the Bureau two years to review it. There was a quitclaim item and the board approved.
Claes took the next item saying a landowner near Ashland and Modoc Avenues wants to construct a new well and tie into the existing Slaven portion of the district’s system. There is an existing pipeline on the property with risers in it at every tree row. That’s how they used to make then and it’s not such a good thing for measuring water usage. Halfway down the line the pipe becomes private and serves a neighboring property. After looking at things staff thought it would be good for FID to give up its claim on the pipe and give it to the landowners. The two landowners are good with this. Beberian asked if this will cost the district and Claes said a very minimal amount to disconnect the pipe from the District’s system. The board approved.
Claes reported on the construction and maintenance. He was able to show photos of the new Gradall in action as some dewatered canals are being dredged. All the ponds are being disked. He showed some photos of clearing out what he called a Eucalyptus grove along a canal. He said what most other districts have been saying – a dry year is good for maintenance.
Chauhan is also the Executive Director of the North Kings GSA and reported there are two North Kings GSA projects that made it into the $4.8 million grant requests. She said there won’t be a check for a couple of months. The second annual SGMA report is due in April. She said getting the monitoring network up and running is getting closer. She is looking forward to receiving data from the flying magnet. The well permitting policy was pulled again at the latest advisory committee meeting. The domestic well information handout is almost ready. There is still one seat open on the NKGSA board. There are some very specific requirements to sit on that board.
As FID Special Manager Chauhan reported there is a document scanning service converting decades of paper documents. FID is converting to a paperless system whenever possible. That includes billing and receivables will eventually be all online.
The Kings Water Alliance has almost formed and will meet January 22nd which really puts the mandatory nitrate control plan up against the deadline wire. Landowners will hear about how to comply with nitrate control at a webinar coming up later this month.
Stretch introduced Austin Ewell to the board. Ewell is president with the Ewell Group and the Ewell Group helps the Stream Group which is the District and the County and others working to capture water from the eastern streams. He said he has been impressed with Ewell’s presence of mind and ability to get things done. He was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior and works closely with Friant and the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint.
Ewell said his father Ben Ewell was general council to the original Friant and the Kings River Water Association. Wow. I didn’t know that. Ewell said he learned how important collaboration is to elected officials. He said one pagers are good for educating elected officials and their staff. It helps prime them when big legislation gets rolling and there isn’t time for catch up. He said the US Senate is now 50/50 with Kamala Harris casting deciding votes. Ewell said to keep your eyes peeled for a push for large infrastructure spending packages from Washington DC that could benefit water districts in the west. He said Debra Holland is the candidate for the Secretary of the Interior. She’s a Native American from New Mexico but doesn’t have much water experience. So, it will be important to see who will be working under her. The Red Bank and the Big Dry Creek Reservoirs are part of the Stream Group’s concerns.
Jacobsen said there isn’t much info on Holland and thanked Ewell. Ewell said he met with Congressman Jim Costa who was talking with Holland about getting a solid team working with her that understands western water issues. The Secretary of Commerce will be important as the National Marines Fishery Service is under that department. Fish & Wildlife works under Interior. Unfortunately NMFS is in charge of salmon. The Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in President Donald Trump’s administration was good about understanding the situation and it’s hoped whoever replaces him will do the same.
Ewell works tirelessly on the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint. He explained how the Blueprint brings a much wider range of interests to the table for the Valley’s water needs. Stanford University brough together urban, ag, NGO and other interests together and folks are working on how to address increasing recharge in white areas while of course keeping water rights a priority. Ewell ended by saying the situation in Sacramento is its own mess.
Chauhan said the focus in California is the budget as the legislators haven’t had enough time yet to get things rolling. She said there will be a California Water Commission workshop at the end of the month that will center on conveyance in the Valley. She added There will be a episode on PBS’s American Grown/My Job Depends on Ag series that will feature FID. The FID website is incorporating new weather and water info. Daniel Hartwig, the new Fresno Farm Bureau President, a good guy seriously, he received the Water Drop Award on January 7th. Good for him.
Chauhan said the FID Centennial Celebration has about run its course. FID has a new logo and that means new logos and letterheads and such to be affixed to district vehicles and I know of a couple of guys who would like to get their hands on a roll of decals and affix them here and there. But I know no one would encourage vandalism.
Boswell cleared up a procedural matter. The Assistant Board Secretaries could be called that or secretary pro-temps, although he knows of no other district that does so. Either title works according to the California Water Code.
Stretch gave his report saying the Kings River Water Association has been focusing on what’s happening with the State Board and the attempts by Semitropic Water Storage District to open up appropriations on the Kings River flood flows. Stretch said Friant Water Authority is looking at a good bunch of funds for canal repairs.
As the new City of Fresno administration comes online with Mayor Jerry Dyer and City Manager Tommy Esqueda, Stretch said there will be a focus on the homeless issue. The Homeless like to campout near water, so that should help with FID canals, shopping carts and trash. There will also be a focus to cleaning up along Highway 99 and eradicating graffiti. Stretch said much more about what the new administration is focusing on. Esqueda said you can judge an improved downtown by the cranes in the air. Dyer used to be police chief of Fresno and there is now a new police commission.
Stretch said he spoke with former FID GM Gary Serrato and he continues to lend his knowledge and experience to not only FID but Consolidated and Alta ID. Jacobsen said he was surprised as to how much Dryer knew about FID’s issues. There were no directors’ reports so the meeting went into closed session to talk about Stretch’s job performance. After that they’ll reconvene in open sessions once again and renew his contract. I’m not a prophet or even play one on TV but I’ll bet you that’s what happens. And that was that at 4:47pm.
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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