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Friant Water Authority Executive Committee August 15, 2022

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By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Executive Committee on Monday, August 15, 2022 at its Lindsay headquarters and on Microsnot Teams – a meeting platform designed to bring innovation to further increased frustration. When I was in high school I was a member of Future Farmers of America for about a week or so. Lot of reasons I didn’t stick with it but mostly because I didn’t want to be a part of a group I didn’t define, in other words too cool for school. Unfortunately not embracing the opportunity to acquire knowledge and discipline in the structured and nurturing environment of FFA was one of the less egregious follies of my youth. However, one shining example of shunning FFA was not entering adulthood with a better understanding of parliamentary procedure. FFA has an entire curriculum focused on Robert’s Rules of Order.

US Army General Henry Robert first published the Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies in February of 1876, which has greatly standardized how a public meeting should be conducted. Without going into the subject with any more research than a cursory DuckDuckGo search, an executive committee is delegated by the entire board of directors and usually includes the officers of the board and is chaired by the board chair. But what does it do? I don’t know about everywhere but the Friant executive committee reviews the big picture topics and items before the entire board meets. It helps to keep the board’s business focused on the most important issues and helps prevent micro and macro managing. If someone from Friant has a better definition please share.

In a large organization like the Friant Water Authority – formed as a JPA, joint powers authority just in case someone doesn’t know – trying to cover every detail in a board meeting would soon devolve into wading through a gelatinous barrier of minutia. Better to divide areas of expertise and need into committees which can then report back to the board on matters after a session of informed deliberation. That’s why there are often finance, technical, O&M committees and such in many organizations. Then there are subcommittees, standing committees, ad hoc committees and who knows what else? In any event there has to be some guide to follow to conduct business and Robert’s Rules help to keep things on track and avoid procedural anarchy.

The Meeting

The meeting began in closed session at 8:30am with the open session starting at 10:24am with Chair Cliff Loeffler asking for public comment and I didn’t hear any. Next thing I know CFO Wilson Orvis rocked the fiscal year 2023 general membership budget review. He said the 2023 is mostly the same as this year. The water rights cost mentioned is a permit fee agreement with the State Board, said CEO Jason Phillips. There is a .5% decrease in office space expenditures due to moving the branch office out of downtown Sacramento to somewhere in the suburbs. There was some money for consulting costs in regulatory and advocacy engagement. Staff Director Water Matters Ian Buck Macleod said there is a shift in paying directly to consultants and spending on scientific programs instead. Wilson said the general members budget is slightly different than the Operations & Maintenance budget in the way costs are allocated, I think he said.

The spread sheet showed a comparison between 2022 and 2023 figures. The last column was labeled Delta and showed a .48% decrease overall. Phillips said this column shows the differences costs and is one of the few times you want a decrease in the Delta. Another decrease is staff costs. Phillips mentioned FWA is now contributing to the Public Policy Institute of California because of the high quality of work that think tank is doing in regard to the San Joaquin Valley. Orvis said travel costs will likely increase due to the virus fear lessening. So far a call for funds doesn’t appear to be necessary at next week’s full board meeting. The board approved forwarding this budget to the board and so there you have it. Side note: I swear I heard Loeffler call the question by saying, “Everyone not OK with this say aye.” See what I mean about Microsnot Teams? It alters reality.

Water Report

Buck Macleod gave the water report saying there are three pumps running at the Delta since late July so Friant got a bump to 30 percent allocation on the Central Valley Project supplies from the San Joaquin River. The late April storm hit Folsom Reservoir and helped bring about this bump. As you may have recall from the most recent Fresno ID report the monsoon rains hit the Sierra. The Kings River and the San Joaquin River have a very similar watershed and somewhat mirror each other. Both watersheds received a decent amount of monsoonal rain. Friant got another 40,000 a/f from the event. However, Southern California Edison is having some problems with its facilities upstream on the SJR but that should be resolved soon.

Phillips said this is a year of high risk of losing water deliveries due to the construction on the Friant Kern Canal. He proposed working up some talking points to present the US Bureau of Reclamation about carryover to minimize loss of the incremental five percent increase. Delano Earlimart ID General Manager Eric Quinley said he appreciates the efforts Friant is putting to this and the implications for Class I contractors. He also pointed out there is a good deal of Friant water in San Luis Reservoir from Exchange Contractor delivery overrun. I think 30,000 a/f or so. Macleod said SJR restoration flows will be 100,000 a/f this coming year. That will possibly begin in early fall and run through early spring.

Director Edwin Camp asked what discussions about Friant Kern Canal repairs have taken place with the Bureau to manage for that event. I think Director Jim Erickson said to move it all to the Madera Chowchilla Canal. Not sure if this is as viable as it is desirable for Madera ID. Phillips said one goal is to get as much water out of Millerton Lake before the repairs begin. Lowering the reservoir will allow for more storage for when the canal gets up and running again. Quinley said there is the option to spread supplies for recharge early but that can only happen if the water is allocated.

Phillips said the board will hear about the canal capacity reduction during construction and there are some options to build the bank back up. These options are not free but will be presented at next week’s meeting

San Luis Delta Mendota

The next report on the agenda was about the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority. Orvis said there isn’t much to update. He’s been watching the San Luis Transmission project with the Bureau over contractors and funding. Working with Golden State Clean Energy is a possible public/private option that could come about.

CEO Report

Phillips said he was a little surprised on Newsom’s latest water strategy announcement. He said the governor did not coordinate with the San Joaquin Valley before putting out his state water strategy recently. That’s a big, red flag. The Valley is at a disadvantage politically but must stay united. There are very clear paths for the governor to work with the Valley. The gov wanted ag groups to either sign on to his vision or stay quiet.

Phillips said the report is concerning. Eroding water rights by the legislature shifting them to the state is worrisome. The gov is planning for future problems on projected climate change instead of current conditions. The plan is going to rely on SGMA and land retirement to cure what ills the Valley. Camp said it read to him that the Valley is the taking the brunt of the state’s future plans.

Geoff Vanden Heuvel said there is still more than one million a/f of discharge taking place annually in Southern California, mostly Los Angeles. He said working with Southern California needs to take place, they are the most likely ally.

Phillips said he’ll be in Southern California in a couple of weeks to sit on a panel to discuss coordinating water between North, Central and Southern California. That needs to be done. But in the meantime the Governor’s office deliberatively cutout any comments on how his strategy plan might harm the Valley – that’s why he didn’t interact with all parts of the state.

There are Water Blueprint partners who spoke out in favor of this plan and one wonders why. Don’t kid yourself, they are governing by fiat from Sacramento. The coastal elites are writing laws tantamount to slow motions suicide by starvation. Not their starvation, but others. And the sickest part of it is they are claiming high ground of compassion.

Loeffler asked for a happy ending and Phillips said when recently driving his daughter to college back east he observed there is a lot of the United States that has plenty of water.

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854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: information@friantwater.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.

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