The Friant Water Authority met at the World Ag Expo facility in Tulare on Thursday, April 26, 2018. Chairman Kent Stephens called the meeting at 9:00 am. Before things got serious, it got serious. Attorney Don Davis shared a story about his younger days as a Peace Corp volunteer in Yemen. Then Vice President George HW Bush and his wife Barbara visited the facility where Davis was working. Davis was chosen to give a presentation to the VP about the mission and its successes and challenges. After putting together, a brief, half hour presentation he was told by his boss he’d probably only get two minutes to give the presentation. He spent the night editing and got to meet the Bushes the next day. He said Mrs. Bush asked him how he was doing, if he was healthy and happy. A month later Davis received a letter from his parents telling him they received a phone call from Mrs. Bush who told them their son was in good shape and not to worry. Davis said that exchange has made a life-long impression on him. I very much appreciated Davis’ story.
Director Cliff Loeffler, Lindsay Strathmore Irrigation District said a prayer asking for wisdom and thanked the Father for Mrs. Bush’s example. There was no public comment and Loeffler asked the board to please support the finance committee’s efforts to pay the bills and the board approved. Ducks Unlimited gave all the directors golf caps for Friant’s willingness to work together. FWA CEO Jason Phillips announced Don Willard is the new CFO for Friant. Phillips said Willard is someone he has known and trusts.
Jeff Payne gave an update on Temperance Flat’s Prop One grant application. After rescoring only two projects scored above one on the Public Benefit Ratio. Temp Flat’s score was raised but not above one. Payne went to a meeting yesterday where the applicants got to speak with the folks who evaluated the scores. He found those folks to be professional but frustrated with the Water Supply Investment Process they and the applicants were saddled with. WSIP was a filter to view benefits as thought they were financial and that’s apples and oranges. Temp Flat could still get millions of dollars, like $170 million but there could be some very big strings attached. May 2nd the actual commissioners of the California Water Commission will have the floor to go against the staff recommendations.
The San Joaquin Water Infrastructure Authority JPA is the actual applicant. Friant has developed a MOU investment group. Phillips said FWA has provided some help and has been asked to donate more money to the SJWIA. Payne said there will be a investment workshop tomorrow at the Kaweah Delta WSD to further define Temp Flat’s benefits to actual people and not just bureaucratic desires.
Payne continued, the NASA Airborne Snow Observatory is doing very well. He’ll be giving a presentation in Sacramento about the success. the powers that be claim the snow melt on the Tuolumne River requires reservoirs to evacuate 40,000 a/f for flood control. The ASO shows if all the snow in that river’s watershed where to immediately melt it wouldn’t amount to 40,000 a/f. That’s good to know.
Alex Biering reported on legislation and recommended a watch position on AB 2649. this is a bill by Fresno Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula – D, that officially declares recharge as a beneficial use. To my surprise the legislative committee, general counsel and special counsel recommend a “watch” position. I didn’t catch the nuance of this beyond the change in water code and some ways to deal with the opposition from Southern California. It strikes me as FWA is trying to prevent one of the unintended consequences that so often accompany things in Sacramento. Our old friend, Glendale Assemblywoman Laura Friedman – D, introduced AB 2975. This bill will attempt to short circuit any federal attempt to place a dam on a river that hasn’t been listed a scenic river. The bill would allow the California Secretary of Natural Resources extraordinary power to list a river in the state system if the feds delist from the national system. I’m going to urge you to investigate this further. I just heard about it and haven’t had a chance to read it yet. In the balance the consultants recommend not getting too worked up over this and take a watch position. Director Kole Upton said he would like to see FWA oppose the bill to stand in solidarity with the water community. Consultant Mike Villines spoke by telephone from Sacramento saying it is difficult to take an opposition position if a bill doesn’t impact you directly. He said Friant has gotten some assurance from Friedman’s staff Temp Flat shouldn’t be impacted by this and FWA should take a watch position. Biering added the position could be changed in the future. Upton motioned to take a watch position and the board agreed. There is also SB 929 that would allow a special district to become exempt from having to maintain a website. Yesterday the California Secretary of State said the November Water Bond has enough valid signatures to qualify for the November ballot. There is also a summery of the federal Farm Bill prepared by the Family Farm Alliance that is a pretty good read according to Biering.
Refugio Gonzalez, US Bureau of Reclamation gave the Bureau report saying Class I allocations have been increased from 30 percent to 100 percent. Michael Jackson, Fresno Regional Manager USBR spoke saying David Murillo, Mid Pacific Region Manager is retiring at the end of this November. He said there is a meeting at the upcoming ACWA convention to talk about title transfer of the Friant Kern Canal from the Bureau to FWA. Upton told Jackson he’s concerned with the Bureau’s integrity in allocations. I don’t know the back story to this, but it involves some mistakes made by State Board staff.
FWA Chief Operating Officer Doug DeFlitch has a full plate. He’s working on the title transfer of the FKC, a pump back project and the subsidence on the FKC. Phillips said the fastest title transfer is six-years. He said the average time is 20-years to infinity. They hope to set a new record and that may require federal legislation. It may be important to note FWA is acting in its O&M capacity on this transfer and that doesn’t change anything for non-FWA Friant contractors. The pump back project would allow water to flow backwards in the FKC for great flexibility in conveyance. There are concerns about water quality. I didn’t catch the technical reason why but these concerns are being addressed and I certainly didn’t hear any heartburn about this being something that can’t be solved.
The biggest and most immediate problem on DeFlitch’s plate is the reduced conveyance capacity of the FKC due to the subsidence. The canal has lost half it’s design capacity. It runs through white area, places where there are no surface deliveries. This portion of the canal’s path has been pumped to the point of overdraft and the land has sunk. You can imagine if you where to dig out soil under a canal and part of it drops, it can’t run as much water through it. Part of the problem is county bridges have dropped along with the canal and could be inundated with flows. The liner in the canal leaks in places. The liner needs to be raised if only temporary. Phillips said the highest priority is sound engineering. If the FKC fails, well that’s not an option. The economic impact alone would be devastating, but not making deliveries of every ounce of water possible will hit the pocket very hard as well. By the way, this is only temporary fixes.
Consulting engineer Alan Stroppini spoke about the long-term fix. The canal has been divided into three sections. The Upper Section starts at 28 miles from Friant Dam to 88 miles it will cost an estimated $150 million to restore the 4,500 – 5,000 cfs conveyance capacity. The Subsidence section starts at 88 miles and runs to 122 miles and will cost $180 million to restore to the design capacity of 3,500 – 4,500 cfs. The Lower Section starts at 122 miles and ends at the Kern River Gate 152 miles from Friant Dam. It will cost and estimated $80 million to restore the design capacity of 2,500 -3,500 cfs and put in the pump back project. Stroppini lead the board through a process flow chart of the subsidence portion. This was a timeline schedule of 34 steps beginning last month to the middle of June 2019. By then the project plan and construction bids should be ready. Phillips said there can be more than one design alternative. The risk is having to adjust the environmental documents but that’s not as big a deal because having more than one alternative can speed up the process. He wants to work very closely with the USBR as it has to sign off on many of the documents as well. Stephens questioned DeFlitch and Stroppini about the $180 million. He wanted to know if the money will cover both the reverse pumping and the liner improvements. DeFlitch said yes. Saucelito, Porterville and Terra Bella ID General Manager Sean Geivet asked who will determine the alternatives. Phillips said this will be determined based on engineering and environmental impact documentation. DeFlitch told Geivet alternatives are welcome now. Stephens asked since the FKC has disturbed about as much of the environment as it’s going to isn’t there a way to use the existing EIRs. Phillips said there will be some design considerations that will allow some overlap but an environmental review of some degree could happen. Stephens asked if the project could be renamed the Sacramento sports Arena. DeFlitch invited everyone to share with him and Stroppini any ideas that could improve on the time line and alternatives.
The always helpful Bill Swanson, Stantec Engineering brought a couple of fellow engineers involved in the planning of the fixing the canal. I’m sorry I didn’t catch their names. We many be hearing more from them in the future. The first Stantec-arator spoke about the minutia of what’s happening to the impacted bridges. There is a surprisingly great deal of considerations regarding the bridges. It was a public presentation, so I suspect if detailed, technical memos are your thing you can get a copy that will explain the situation much better than even my fastest typing. Loeffler asked if there are any structural concerns to the original concrete on the canal due to the subsidence. DeFlitch said there was an examination of the structure during the recent de-watering. He said the canal liners, according to the Bureau have a 50-year life. The FKC is 60-years old. But most of it is in good shape.
Next Davis gave his general counsel report saying there is a resolution establishing a non-qualified 457-R retirement plan for key management. This will allow Phillips to send some money to an investment account instead of having to count it as taxable income. This is part of an agreement based on Phillips meeting contractual obligations. The board passed the resolution.
Phillips reported he and some of the directors and staff went to Washington DC recently. He said Director Loeffler was the most photogenic member of the delegation and he was reminded his compensation plan includes health care with optical benefits. Anyway, Phillips and company spoke with governing folks about the extreme danger the San Joaquin Valley is in due to the Delta. He spoke with the new Director of the National Marine Fisheries Service about the need to prioritize the Bay Delta biological re-consultation and how that will run right through his agency. The same thing with federal Fish & Wildlife and some high-ranking Department of Interior satraps – the reconsultation needs to meet it’s 2020 deadline. Phillips the Friant team prepared materials for the delegation that were very helpful. He felt the people they spoke with understood the issues and respected Friant’s positions. he was hopeful. They also spoke with congressional folks about the need of the legislation supporting the title transfer. They had dinner with Ducks Unlimited (therefore the ball caps) that was attended by more than 100 elected officials.
Loeffler said there was much time for sleep but that was OK. He was happy to help represent the concerns of the growers of the Valley’s east side. He spoke about the direct economic impact to not just the people who live here but the government as well. He found that people back there will listen and he liked that part.
DeFlitch said the O&M report has a great section about the application of copper sulfate that should help managers. The meeting then went into closed session. But they had lunch first. Thank you, Chairman Stephens. Stephens also thanked everyone for attending.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.
FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 11 districts to operate and maintain the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project. Water from the San Joaquin River is diverted at Friant Dam at Millerton Lake to the Madera/Chowchilla Canal to the north and the Friant/Kern Canal to the south. More than one million acres of mostly family farms and numerous communities get their surface supplies from the Friant Division. Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, COO Doug DeFlitch, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.