The Friant Water Authority held its Thursday, April 28, 2022 board of directors meeting in Visalia at the Convention Center. It was a pretty full house as the turnout was above average. All the consultants, attorneys, managers and directors were present. Chairman Cliff Loeffler called the meeting to order at 10:36am because it took a while to corral all the folks who hadn’t seen each other from visiting and sitting down.
Loeffler began with a prayer for wisdom and there was nothing to report from the closed session that began earlier. There were no public comments and the consent calendar was passed.
The first action item was presented by Ian Buck Macleod – Water Resource Manager and Jason Phillips – Chief Executive Officer. Macleod laid out the need to modify the professional services agreement with Stantec on the Friant Kern Canal reverse flow pump-back project. There are a plethora of issues with this program ranging from cost to water quality concerns. Phillips acknowledged there are challenges and said without the board approving this action item the program will be set aside. That makes sense because there is already a little construction fatigue from the FKC subsidence repair project and that’s not just the members’ pocketbook that needs a rest. Staff has done some incredible heavy lifting to get the repairs underway. I’m thinking Phillips doesn’t want to put energy in a controversy. And he won’t have to as the board approved the deal with Stantec.
FKC & Water Operations
Speaking of Stantec and the Friant Kern Canal repairs, Janet Atkinson of Stantec gave the board an update on progress. Things are moving along. I didn’t hear any surprises reported.
Macleod reported on the current and projected water supplies. He said system wide there has been a slight bump in storage from the recent storms. There doesn’t appear to be any other storms waiting in the wings. On the Friant side the 15 percent allocation is still holding but it’s a fragile hold.
Macleod reported water is going downstream in the San Joaquin River to the Exchange Contractors. He said restoration flows stopped on April 10th. That water may be available for sales or transfers.
Rufino Gonzalez of the US Bureau of Reclamation said the 90 percent exceedance is current but there isn’t any storms of significance heading to the state. There will be an ASO flight, I believe this weekend. He also said the results of the storms in Northern California will be figured in by early May and that may yield some better news or it may not. You may recall President Harry Truman’s statement, “I want a one armed economist so he can’t say, ‘On the other hand.’” That’s kind of how water predictions go. Both weathermen and economist have the 50/50 response.
Gonzalez reported on conditions throughout the Central Valley Project including the way the Bureau forecasts water allocations. If I understand correctly exceedance is the big prize to keep an eye upon. When it’s dry like now you hear the term, “90 percent exceedance” a lot. The exceedance figure is inversely proportional to the amount of water allocated. It means that this year’s precipitation is 90 percent drier than average. I’ve always thought it would make more sense if the figure used to predict allocations coincided with the amount of the allocation. This year’s Friant allocation is 15 percent as stated above because the exceedance is 90 percent. Why not base the exceedance on dry years so this year’s wet is 10 percent of average? I’m confused. I write for a living in part due to poor math skills.
State legislative analyst/lobbyist Mike Villines was able to report in person. He asked if his chair was plugged in since he often has bad news out of Sacramento. He said the May revise may yield yet another big slug of change from the taxpayers for the legislature to of course spend responsibly. He reported if the California legislature hadn’t decided to be full time they could get all of the stuff done in a third of the time. He said the gas tax holiday isn’t going to happen and Governor Gavin Newsom is blaming the legislature and the legislature is blaming him. A Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiely put forth a bill to repeal the gas tax for a few months. A democrat from the Bay Area, Alex Lee hijacked the bill in committee and amended it to be a tax hike on fuel supplies. Kiely said OK, you want to screw this up then come on as a coauthor. Lee didn’t have the, as the Spanish say, the huevos to put his name on the bill and it died.
Milk Producers Council legislative director Geoff Vanden Heuvel asked if the increased tax yield will end up with more money for infrastructure. Villines said State Senator Melissa Hurtado has been working very hard and having to drag her co-party members to bring funds for the FKC repairs. She’s also been working to change up the State Water Resources Out of Control Board and deserves recognition and support for stepping up.
FWA Superintendent Chris Hickernell said the majority of milfoil weed has been eradicated but it’s a never ending task.
Austin Ewell, voluntary Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint reported the Blueprint has signed on to a $6.5 billion request in a letter from major water players throughout the state. See here. The letter when to Governor Newsom and the Blueprint will follow up with a separate letter of its own, if I heard correctly. There will be a second strategy meeting for the Blueprint board tomorrow and that should yield some additional guidance.
Phillips said the Collaborative Action Plan has made some progress and the environmental caucus has been working in good faith. Phillips will be speaking at Almond Alliance then ACWA next week. Almonds are in San Diego and ACWA in Sacramento, so lots of driving. And with that the meeting moved into a seminar on the San Joaquin River Restoration Project at about 12 noon.
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FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.friantwater.org
The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 17 districts to operate and maintain the Friant Division of the Central Valley Water 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, CFO Wilson Orvis, Government Affairs & Communication Alexandra Biering, Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell, Chief of External Affairs/COO Johnny Amaral and Attorney Don Davis.