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Friant Water Authority Executive Committee June 13, 2022

By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Monday, June 13, 2022 Executive Committee meeting at its Lindsay headquarters and online with Microsoft Teams. The open session portion of the meeting was scheduled to begin at 10:00am or 10:30am depending on what part of the agenda you read. Thanks to MS Teams’ crapulence the phone-in option was the only one that worked. Don’t know what time Chairman Cliff Loeffler called the meeting but I missed the announcements from closed session, approval of the minutes and public comment.

Probably a good thing I missed public comment because I had plenty to say about the two stroke leaf blower at 6am/do not backup severe tire damage/California Form 450 individual tax form/Obama era used car buyback/New Coke/Castor Oil/late 70s Chevy Cameros/experienced sales clerks at Home Depot/DMV lines/the adhesive strip that holds new CD cases shut/group text/on hold music/gas prices/elected officials’ response to direct closed ended questions/gophers/intermittent auto electric problems/the State Water Board*of online meeting platforms that is Multiple Sclerotic Teams.

The Meeting

When I tuned in Wilson Orvis and Chris Hickernell were going over the draft 2022-23 budget with the committee. The truth is, and it is almost universal, farmers know how to keep a close eye on finances. Because we’re humans there have been a few isolated incidents of irrigation water related entity fiscal malfeasance, it is far rarer than a pearl in an oyster. I did catch and appreciate Hickernell’s comments that keeping the big equipment busy – the graders and such – is important so FWA doesn’t invest in expensive “lawn art” sitting around for six months at a time. I believe FWA does on occasion when conditions warrant rent some of this equipment to member agencies at a fair, hourly rate. Hickernell said due to air quality tier concerns the recommended purchases should take care of things until 2028.

Ian Buck Macleod and Johnny Amaral gave their take on the budget. The gentlemen gave cogent descriptions of the projected costs of the spheres of responsibility they oversee. This includes more subsidence monitoring along the Friant Kern Canal. The water quality program has grown to include the CEQA/NEPA compliance costs are going up. There is a RFQ being developed so by first quarter 2023 water quality monitoring and accounting can be included as standard operating procedures for any introduction of non-San Joaquin River water into the FKC.

Hickernell told the board the US Bureau of Reclamation has asked Friant to replace some of the bridges impacted by the FKC repairs. He said he’s talking with the Bureau about abandoning four of the old, wooden bridges that are becoming a liability. He said the only obligation is if a landowner’s property would be split without any easement for access to their property should the bridge be removed. There are other bridges that are inoperable and blocked off upstream in Fresno County that could be removed without any problems.

Orvis went down a list of employee positions and the impact on the budget through cost of living and such other expenses. There is an organizational chart that show the positions budgeted and not just all the employee categories.

Buck Macleod said the ASO flight funding is looking good as state and federal funding is being recognized as a beneficial expenditures of taxpayer ducats. I also appreciated Director Edwin Camp’s comment about Airborne Drought Observatory. The committee recommended forwarding the draft budget to the board at next week’s meeting. The budget was the only action item on the agenda.

Reports & Updates

Next Buck Macleod gave the water operations report and evidently he was able to get online and had a photo of a full lake behind him. Many of us had forgotten such an event does take place in nature. He said there was a storm this month that help Shasta a little and the unseasonable heatwave has subsided. Folsom Reservoir is still the star of the federal Central Valley Project. Delta exports have been holding at one unit at the federal Jones Plant near Tracy. This will ramp up to three pumps or units in July and that will reduce San Joaquin River diversions to the Exchange Contractors.

The State Board’s curtailments on the San Joaquin River are not a direct threat to Friant supplies. However, curtailments to Folsom and other Northern California sources is of concern to the Bureau. The reason this is a concern is the federal side of storage at San Luis Reservoir depend on pumping. Buck Macleod said more than 100,000 a/f of SJR water has moved from Millerton Lake to the Mendota Pool and that doesn’t include channel loss. There is a category of water in the San Joaquin River known as URFs, Unreleased Restoration Flow. If water for salmon isn’t released these flows can come into play. So far the Bureau allocation for Class I Friant supplies is holding at 15 percent and Buck Macleod doesn’t see that changing unless the SJR releases to Ex Con changes.

Orvis updated the committee on the San Luis Delta Mendota saying the San Luis Transmission Project agreement hasn’t been finalized completely. Costs are increasing and Friant is keeping a close eye on this. The creation of the Central Valley Project included Friant paying for a share of SLDM costs in exchange for SJR water. That is why Friant keeps it on the radar.

Austin Ewell reported on the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint saying the newly established Blueprint board is making headway with a three year strategic plan that is now being implemented. A full time employee is being sought to help implement the work. There will be a large group meeting on June 22nd at Fresno State. The Blueprint board will meet on the 15th. This allows improved functioning of the organization. Ewell threw out a price tag in the billions of dollars to fulfill the Blueprint goals and that was part of an ask letter that went to the top satraps in Sacramento in partnership with Southern California and Bay Area water agencies.

Ewell said John Watts from Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff is working with districts and NGOs on disadvantaged community water supply. He specifically thanked General Managers Jeevan Mahar – Arvin Edison WSD, Eric Limas – Lower Tule River ID and Aaron Fukuda – Tulare ID for their help.

CEO Report

Friant CEO Jason Phillips reported the ask letter the Blueprint signed has a large somewhat generic cash request to prevent folks arguing over the projects merits until they can be fully defined. That made sense and I though was rather clever.

Phillips said there is a 120-year Bureau of Reclamation anniversary at San Luis Reservoir at 10am on Friday June 17th and it is also the 60-year anniversary of President John Kennedy’s dedication of SLR. He said having a good turnout of Friant folks would be a significant message, he wants 25 or more to show. Camp suggested all directors from Tulare north attend. He lives in Kern County. Alex Biering said this is a good opportunity to meet with water folks from Washington DC. There will be a water meeting with Congressman Jim Costa later that day.

Amaral said there will be a Friant Employee Appreciation picnic this Saturday in Visalia if I understood correctly. With that Loeffler adjourned the meeting at 11:46 am and the MS Teams program was still trying to load. Come to find out MS Teams is preferred by federal agencies and that’s why the good folks at Friant were coerced into using this vile waster of time and resources.

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*Perhaps I went too far with that one. For all of its fault’s even the State Board isn’t as bad as MS Teams. There are some good folks at the State Board who don’t deserve to be lumped in with MS Teams.

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FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY

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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