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Friant Water Authority Executive Committee October 17, 2022

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JOBS/HELP WANTED

By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Executive Committee meeting at its Lindsay headquarters on Monday, October 17, 2022. Unfortunately they held the meeting on MS Teams and it takes awhile to tune in on Teams. By the time I was up and rolling the 9:30am open session start had come and gone. Since the meeting had started without me I can only surmise Chairman Cliff Loeffler had called it to order and the minutes were approved.

The Meeting

The water report was given by Ian Buck Macleod, and he said you’ll need more than four million acre feet of inflow to Shasta to avoid another critical year. Folsom is at 80 percent for this time of year. Both Shasta and Folsom are at minimal releases until more precipitation occurs. That means the Jones Pumps have dropped to one unit due to reduced releases and water quality in the interior Delta. And there is a Rio Vista flow on the Sacramento River that has to be met. There won’t be any increases until it rains.

Friant has 90,000 a/f in storage at San Luis Reservoir or at least that much Central Valley Project water is in storage. There is no longer a concern for any Exchange Contractor calls on the San Joaquin River for the rest of the year. Millerton Lake storage is following the US Bureau of Reclamation projections pretty close from what the graphs showed.

San Joaquin River restoration flows started on October 1st and at last glance the SJR hasn’t linked up with the Mendota Pool as the channel loss is causing a slow flow.

External Matters

Next Wilson Orvis reported on San Luis Delta Mendota matters saying they are in the midst of the OM&R budgeting for next year. Friant Superintendent Chris Hickernell is representing FWA at these meetings. SLDM needs $800 million or so to fix up the Delta Mendota Canal and such. Orvis reported the San Luis Transmission project is down for the count and the expenses are being closed out. He said FWA continues discussions about how to treat SJR releases accounting wise. The SLDM also had its 30-year celebration last week.

Director Edwin Camp asked what happened to the transmission project. Orvis said the cost of financing just got huge and there were some questions about who would participate. But the biggy was the return of investment when how Cal ISO treats the Gianelli Pumping Plant, that would have increased the costs beyond the point of do-ability. If I heard correctly there could be another opportunity to partner with WAPA.

CEO Report

            Jason Phillips asked for feedback on some matters. He said the bill by Congressman David Valadao has been released and FWA was able to provide some input and comments. Phillips wasn’t sure if the bill will pass this year because the radical left has taken offense over certain provisions. But if the House and Senate changes majorities this bill will become more viable. It deals with the Delta biological opinions re-consultations. Getting changes to the problems in the Endangered Species Act is going to be a heavy lift. But the way the ESA is being used isn’t in the way it was meant. The agencies are whip sawed back and forth administration by administration. The 2019 biops haven’t even been implemented and already it is being reevaluated. The new law would set some parameters on costs, timelines and other needed stability to operate for the benefit of species and water users. There is a benefit for Sacramento Valley contractors to protect them if I understood. Shasta Dam enlargement was included as there is such a mess with the State government of California in this matter.Technoflo

Another feature of this bill is to true up the Central Valley Projects Improvement Act and sign off on the completed projects and quit billing everyone. Phillips said Friant pays more than anyone else in the CVPIA agreement. Friant pays for its share of the projects and if those projects are complete the bills need to stop showing up in the mailbox. That sounds reasonable to anyone who is paying for construction that has been finished in some cases for decades. The Valadao bill also makes mention to the difference between how much water is available and how much is needed in the Valley.

Next Phillips talked about the topic of farmland repurposing. There are a variety of opinions about this. He said a draft of a bill by Senator Alex Padilla will provide federal grants to states, agencies and governments like GSAs. The bill has $250 million in it for all the western states. The land has to be fallowed for 10-years and linked to some habitat or recharge. It prioritizes benefits to DACs and must have a multi-stakeholder planning process.

Loeffler asked if there is a provision that requires the land not return to farming – ever. I’m not sure about that. Camp said $250 million is such a small amount it’s ridiculous. Just repurposing farmland in California alone would cost $20-40 billion. The bill isn’t clear on who pays what. Proposals would have to be submitted to the government. Camp said removing land from ag production just to put water back on the land for recharge or habitat, where would that water come from? The land could be converted to grazing land or solar farms or dry farming. Camp said this sounds more like a reduce farming bill than a water savings bill. The rest of the committee used more colorful language to express their opinions of the bill. As Camp said this bill doesn’t take into account the devastating economic and therefore social injustice harm that would be inflicted on the communities where the growers and farm related employees reside.

Phillips said FWA is a member of the Family Farm Alliance and that would be a good venue for this. Dan Keppen from the FAA will be speaking at the next Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley and it would be a good opportunity for the Blueprint to speak up.

Lower Tule River and Pixley Irrigation Districts’ General Manager Eric Limas said while Lower Tule has CVP water Pixley doesn’t and he does want to keep some options open for the white lands. Aaron Fukuda, GM Tulare ID and Mid Kaweah GSA said he’s finding the amount of water to get to habitat is substantial. He believes the farmers deserve groundwater credits for this. Phillips said he’s not sure when this bill will be introduced. Fukuda said the money being thrown at the Colorado River is in the billions of dollars.

Phillips said he’s working with “Water Czar” Antonio Villaraigosa on developing some projects and the Blueprint is helping speak up for them. Sites Reservoir, raising BF Sisk Dam and canal repairs are part of the discussion. It is easy to get irked when politicians take credit for operational issues and the enviros end up taking the water.

Phillips said the Blueprint is looking for an Executive Director. There was a large Blueprint meeting at the Madera Farm Bureau and it had its pluses and minuses. Congressman Jim Costa was  there and it turned into a bit of townhall with some growers peppering Costa with questions, comments and complaints instead of focusing on the Blueprint. Drs. David Sunding and Scott Hamilton both spoke – the economic impact and the Fish Friendly Diversions. Milk Producers Council’s Geoff Vanden Heuvel said Hamilton laid out a great presentation and tied in how the Blueprint can help Southern California and Costa needed to hear that.

In conclusion there has been good turnout in registering for the upcoming Friant retreat and there is some hard work going on to developing the right agenda. Phillips said the goal is to do more than complete the retreat and staff gets to keep their jobs. He wants to develop direction and priorities. If I heard correctly Johnny Amaral said the agendas will be back from the stone carvers before the end of the month. On the end note Camp said he has seen one campaign advertisement he liked. “I’m a lifelong Republican and I’m voting for Melisa Hurtado,” said Camp and the meeting adjourned at 10:58am.

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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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