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Friant Water Authority August 24, 2017

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The Friant Water Authority’s board of directors met at the Wyndham Hotel in Visalia on Thursday, August 24, 2017. Things kicked off at 9:00am and as usual Director Cliff Loeffler, Lindsay Strathmore Irrigation District opened the meeting with a prayer. Chairman Kent Stephens welcomed everyone and thanked us all for working so hard on behave of growers in the Friant system. I say he welcomed us all, I’m not sure he was including me so I don’t want to leave any false impressions.

Under public comments Tara Brousaue, (sp?) Friant Water Users PAC announced the PAC will be having a fundraiser on September 8th at the Tulare Golf Course. It is the Mark Watte Memorial Tournament. Chowchilla Water District General Manager Doug Welsh introduced Director Mike Mandela as his district’s alternate. The minutes were approved and the Georgeanne White, City of Fresno gave the financial reports. The board voted to pay its bills and FWA will retain Joe Mastro, CPA for its audit. The finance committee determined the Friant members overpaid operations and maintenance costs on the Friant Kern Canal and the board certainly approved that move. FWA CEO Jason Phillips announced the ACWA Region Seven ballot was completed and the board backed the choices listed.

When’s the last time you felt like the government was looking out for you? Sheryl Carter from the US Bureau of Reclamation told the board when High Speed Rail or Cal Trans comes knocking on a district’s door beware. HSR and Cal Trans have been trying to bamboozle districts into paying for all or part of the costs associated with HSR. That is wrong, wrong, wrong. She said those entities must come to realize this is a federal matter and the districts are under no obligation to pay for anything such as relocating pipes or other infrastructure or staff time or just about anything else. Fresno ID GM Gary Serrato added that in his experience when HSR comes to visit Fish & Game isn’t far behind. He said they’ve tried to include man-made canals into their habitat territory and the accompanying restrictions. What a shock – a massively unpopular state project tries to suck more money from and increase the burdens upon the San Joaquin Valley. The Friant board and staff have been contemplating a directors’ retreat and have finally settled on a location, but I didn’t catch much info on this expect that it will not be held in Tahiti and will be held somewhere in the Valley.

FWA’s Jeff Payne announced FWA’s Alex Biering has given birth to a son earlier this month. Good for her.

Phillips said when he received today’s draft agenda he was concerned the board would – in an effort to give him some peace and quiet to finish his work – send him to the moon. And why not worry? The next time was titled NASA and although I’m not an expert in the Brown Act or California Water Code or federal regulations I haven’t seen or heard of any restrictions to sending senior staff into outer space. As it turns out two experts from NASA, Tom Painter and Judy Lai were here to talk about the snow surveys. Here’s some of what I was able to gather: NASA has an airplane outfitted with all manner of technical stuff including lasers that are called lidar for some reason to gather data while flying over the Sierra Nevada watersheds. The is called the NASA Airborne Snow Observatory. Painter said each flight gathers a tera bite of data that must be analyzed and that info related to interested parties within 24-hours. The first flight happed when there was virtually no snow so a very accurate base was established. The following flights are able to measure how much snow had landed. He said conditions were excellent and above what could normally be hoped for. The initial survey took place during one of the driest times with the lowest snow and the next year yielded one of five wettest years on record. He found snow drifts at the upper elevations more than 50 feet high. The data complied by ASO and  is complete enough to determine a very accurate water content within the snow pack. They call last year the Snowpocalypse. By comparing Hetch Hetchy inflows the estimated snow pack yields from ASO was verified. It turns out the accuracy was very high – 99 percent. Painter said he’d wait until God returns before he would be comfortable to call it 100 percent. He said ASO should never be used as a replacement for ground work. There will always be a need for guys with skis.* Painter said he has a good deal of confidence the ASO will find a permanent place in determining snow runoff in California. He also said Friant was the first to buy into ASO with more than words. He thanked Friant for stepping up to the plate early on.

Phillips next spoke on the subject of Temperance Flat. He gave a brief update of the committee discussions on the matter. FWA has been working with the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority JPA. The JPA is a group of counties and other entities that has applied for Prop One funds and Friant wants to be sure about the fate of any new water. With that in mind FWA sent the JPA a draft MOU. I gathered from what Phillips was saying the JPA is designed for more of the publicity portion and Friant wants an entity with an operational focus. Payne said Friant has been talking with engineer Bill Swanson who has been working on the Temp Flat project for well more than a decade. A timeline was created to show the next steps between now and January 2022. White was on the committee working on this and she said the deadline to opt in on being an investor in Temp Flat will come like a thief in the night. However, she doesn’t think the amount of detail to warrant such as massive investment is anywhere near ready. She wants FWA to establish a special activities fund for further studies such as engineering and analysis for a new dam. She wants this money to count as part of Friant’s investment in Temp Flat when the time comes. A motion was made and seconded to this. White said she needs to know the benefit of Temp Flat to the City of Fresno and she thinks the other FWA members would like to know that same thing. FWA is considering proposing a new JPA be formed for investors and that JPA will be the lead so to speak on Temp Flat. The first amount mentioned today was $1 million.

Serrato said he’s spoken with Swanson about an analysis of Temp Flat and see how that fits with Fresno ID. FID has two reservoirs, one on the San Joaquin River and Pine Flat on the Kings that it gets supplies for. Serrato said he was asked to join the committee to speak with the SJVWIA. He declined due to politics. He suggested Friant join and if that happens to could clear up several issues and help move the project forward. Serrato said he is in agreement with White. Steve Collup, Arvin Edison WSD said he sees the division of water being the same – I think this is his point – there will still be Class I & II, uncontrolled seasons and such. He said he agreed with White and it’s more like buying into more storage space that happens to be in Temp Flat than building a new water supply. There was a lengthy discussion. Phillips said he has instructed staff to move full speed ahead to develop the investors group/governance body. White’s motion carried.

The next report was government affairs update. Phillips said August is a good month for this as all the legislators are on vacation. He said there are three water bonds FWA is keeping its eye on. The NRDC parks and water bond has been submitted and that included $200 million to FWA for improvements to the FKC. That would be contingent on a San Joaquin River settlement and a 50 percent cost share. He said he’s glad to see the environmental community recognizes the need for capacity on the canals. The legislature has a parks bond that might have water projects added. This is SB 5 and not likely to be amended to include water infrastructure. The last bond was $8.9 billion submitted by Jerry Meral and it would include $750 million to fix up the FKC.

Doug DeFlitch, FWA COO reported on the subsidence taking place along the FKC that has dramatically impacted capacity. He said the immediate goal is to get funds to provide a temporary fix as the long-term fix will involve Cal Trans, the Bureau and Tulare County. DeFlitch said FWA Consultant Steve Ottomoeller has been spearing the pump back project and doing a great job. There are places along the canal that need routine sealing but the canal’s running pretty good.

Phillips gave his report and said the final draft of the General Member Budget and it was approved. I noticed there will soon be an electronic version of the Friant Water Line. The meeting then went into closed session.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2017 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.  *Almost rhymed that time. Ow, that time also.


854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305

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.