The Friant Water Authority held its Monday, April 12, 2021 Executive Committee meeting at its Lindsay headquarters and on Cisco’s WebEx. Chairman Cliff Loeffler called the meeting to order at 10:00am. Attorney Don Davis announced Executive Director Jason Phillips would not be available until 11:00am and suggested the order of the agenda be adjusted. The board went along and also approved the minutes.
FWA COO Doug DeFlitch told the board about progress being made in Friant Kern Canal repair plans. He said the ability to pay study is just about ready. This is part of the negotiations with the US Bureau of Reclamation and is required. There is also progress being made with Tulare County. DeFlitch said getting the cost share agreement signed will get the contracting process ready to go.
Janet Atkinson of Stantec Engineering said to expect a 30 percent design by June for the new pump plant/turnouts the new canal will need. The impacted districts are all on board if I understood correctly.
Davis said the appraisals for the needed right of way properties have been completed but could change as things go on. He said the ESAs have to be 180 days current and some properties may need an updated evaluation. But he didn’t expect any substantial change.
DeFlitch spoke about the bidding process for the repair contracts. The Bureau will be the contracting party as its status as a federal agency provides certain benefits for the cash flow portion of the process. There will be a great deal of coordination between the Bureau and Friant so the government won’t just be running off like a wild man cutting deals. Not that the Bureau is known for such behavior.
Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod said this year is in the top 10 driest years. Pumping at the Jones Plant is low. Under the Central Valley Project rules and state water law the Exchange Contractors are the top of the food chain for supplies. In 2014-2015 the Bureau wasn’t able to deliver enough water to Ex Con to meet its obligation and took water from the San Joaquin River. That was water that would have gone to Friant and it left everyone gun shy. Buck-Macleod said that shouldn’t happen this year but there is a razor thin 40,000 a/f buffer at San Luis Reservoir. He also said the possible storm system that was headed to Northern California has dissipated.
Both the State Water Project and the federal CVP share storage at San Luis Reservoir. There is a Cooperative Operations Agreement between them for Delta pumping and storage. The state is getting behind and the feds will “share” some of its water.
Other issues impacting Delta pumping include: temperature management at Lake Shasta. Regulations require water released to the Sacramento River maintain a maximum temperature for the benefit of the migrating salmon. To keep the water that cool the lake has to maintain a level high enough to insulate the water at the bottom of the lake. That can prevent releases which in turn of course reduces Delta inflow which reduces pumping. The Spring X2 line also impacts pumping. The X2 line is the furthest inland intrusion of brackish water in the Delta. It’s measured from the Golden Gate. Outflow is needed to prevent the salt water from moving inland and that reduces pumping.
Friant supplies from the San Joaquin River have a new wrinkle. Last year’s Camp Fire consumed a third of the SJR watershed. The burn scar will impact the amount of runoff and even with ASO flights the predicting the yield will be a little tricky.
Alex Biering gave her report saying support for SB 559 is growing and a letter campaign is underway. The recall of Governor Gavin Newsom is not a done deal yet. The Secretary of State hasn’t qualified the petition signatures yet and a PPIC poll shows a majority of Californians are not in favor of recalling Newsom. The recall threat is resulting in a more responsive government it appears as Newsom signed a drought emergency declaration.
The State Board staff’s report about changing water rights in response to climate change has garnered a great deal of opposition. A comment letter has been sent and could be used as a template for the Friant districts to work from.
Biering said the latest Friant News Line is about to go out. Loeffler asked about the drought’s impact on SB 559. Biering said the LA Times did a piece on Senate leader Toni Atkins’ priorities for one time spending and found most of the wealthy folks in California didn’t suffer much from the Virus with an origin from a country with a name synonymous with fine porcelain lock down. Anyway it looks like SB 559 could do well this year.
Johnny Amaral reported on the federal side of the coin saying getting federal funding for infrastructure is getting a little shaky as things in Washington DC are a little shaky. The Friant Watering Hole podcast is ready to go and after editing out a million “uhhs” it sounds pretty good. Good for them. I know it’s not as easy as you think to put out a recording of folks talking that is easy to listen to and informative. Written and spoken are definitely two different languages.
Wilson Orvis is Friant’s new CFO and he reported on the happenings at the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority meeting. Friant pays a hefty chunk to that authority’s expenses and likes to keep an eye on things. The City of Los Banos granted some lands for a new office to house both the SLDMWA and Ex Con offices.
There is subsidence on the Delta Mendota Canal and SLDM is working with the Bureau and Geo Tech on a study of the problem and find solutions. Orvis also said Cal Strategies was chosen for help in securing SB 559 passage.
Davis said it is time for the state mandated training as expressed through AB 1234. It will take about two hours and cover the Brown Act, ethics and other do as I say and not as I do matters from the state legislature. This training is needed for elected officials like the directors and staff also has to take it. It could be completed at the home boards or taken as a whole. Loeffler suggested announcing the possibility of holding the training before or after the upcoming board meeting.Cost Share Agreements
Next Davis gave the board an update on the cost share and contributed funds agreement with the Bureau for FKC repairs. He said if you give a federal agency enough time they can always come back with changes. In this case the Bureau’s changes were very minor and palatable. A new MOU could come into play. One of the strange things the Bureau brought back was a needed resolution that Friant and any subcontractors do not maintain segregated facilities for the races. Ok, sounds as doable as prohibiting steam shovels without spark arresters. There are no segregated facilities in the San Joaquin Valley or anywhere else in California but the Bureau wanted the language, although it is insulting to imply racism.
There were concerns from some of the Friant members about this funding mechanism setting precedence and/or causing other unintended consequences to their allocations. The proposed MOU should straighten out those matters.
The other big concern was the Zone participation plan. Davis said it will now require approval from not only Friant but the Bureau as well. The Bureau doesn’t care either way but there are districts very concerned. The Zone plan was envisioned to provide funding if the $50 million amount for the cost share isn’t enough. Fergus Morrissey, GM Orange Cove Irrigation District said his board is concerned that even if the Zone plan is taken out it could come back later. OCID wants it banned if I understood. He wants any additional spending beyond the cost share to come from the beneficiaries. He said he sees OCID voting no on the cost share agreement at the April board meeting without removing the Zone and prohibit it from ever being used. He explained if there is a funding emergency in the future his board wants to avoid there ever being a sell out to private investors.
It sounded to me like Phillips was able to join the meeting. He said starting construction is important. He said it will be the Bureau’s canal and water until it’s delivered. He recommended the committee put the Zone off to the side for the directors to discuss. There is a policy in place if FWA’s share goes above $50 million and the allocation of costs will go to beneficiaries. Morrissey said he just doesn’t want to blindside the Authority. Davis said if OCID wants language to ban Canal Zone Management plans in perpetuity that can’t be accommodated. One board’s decision can’t bind another board. Morrissey said what he meant was a private investor can’t own title to conveyance capacity. He was OK with an investor getting the return on the investment but it will have to time out eventually.
Loeffler said there are many new problems that have not been dealt with before. He asked the committee members to please state their ideas. Without trying to cover every statement I’d say the majority wants to move forward and could do so without Zone Three. There are some districts above stream and downstream of the repair point and the point of views vary. One director said to remove bullets from the gun before the battle is a big mistake and to do so to get this passed will hold the downstream districts hostage but they’ll have to go along with OCID. The committee decided to remove Article Five of the agreement for the upcoming board meeting, or maybe another special meeting. Yes it is a special meeting.
The meeting kept trying to go to closed session but there were still questions. When will the special meeting be held? Not known yet. Will Phillips give his report? No, evidently most all of it was covered. So the meeting went back into closed session and there was no reportable action expected.
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FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
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.