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Friant Water Authority February 24, 2022

ConterraThe Friant Water Authority held its Thursday, February 24, 2022 board of directors meeting in person at the Visalia Convention Center and by phone. Chairman Cliff Loeffler opened the open session portion of the meeting at 10:30am with a prayer for peace and wisdom. Especially important with the situation in Russia and the Sierra Nevada snowpack. There were some folks who haven’t shown up in a while for various reasons having Alex Biering, Kole Upton and Sean Geivet at the meeting was a good thing.

The Meeting

There was no reportable action from the earlier closed session and something fun happened. Toni Marie, the power behind the throne, was last year’s Water Warrior Award winner. It is her duty to name the following winner and Lower Tule River and Pixley ID General Manager Eric Limas won. Good for him. He’s a good guy. The consent calendar was approved.

Action Items

Attorney Don Davis spoke about the faction items, excuse me, action items, including an annual water quality agreement with the restoration flows partners. He hopes for a more permanent agreement and staff will be working on this with some upcoming meetings. Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod reported on the Airborne Snow Observatory agreement for 2022 and the board approved.

CFO Wilson Orvis presented the audit report and it was likewise approved. That was the easy part of his report. The next part was the Friant Kern Canal repair project Phase One spending plan. Specifically the cost share with the US Bureau of Reclamation. Orvis said any changes to this plan will require board approval. The first $6.7 million payment from Friant to the Bureau will be made before the end of next month. The board agreed.

Reports

Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral gave an update on the construction progress. Change orders are of particular interest to those paying for them. Amaral said Friant, the contractors and Stantec Engineering have agreed to a formal process to work through issues. Unless something out of the ordinary comes up these meetings will be quarterly. The first one was considered successful.

Water Operations

Macleod reported it was so dry the combined January/February 2022 was the driest on record. There isn’t a miracle March in the forecast at this time. There is less than one unit pumping at the federal Jones Plant. All the South of Delta ag on the westside got a zero allocation from the Bureau. Exchange Contractors will be cut back to 75 percent allocation. The Friant Division will got a 15 percent allocation but FWA believes it should be higher. FWA also understands the Bureau’s desire to start with a conservative allocation. He said there is a 10 percent chance of a call on Friant for the Exchange Contractors and the recent ASO flight indicated a much smaller water content that had been expected. That’s a bummer but it also shows the value of having these flights take place. It can play a difference for reservoir management.

Bureau Report

Friant CEO Jason Phillips said the Bureau was going to meet with Friant but scheduled the meeting on top of today’s Friant meeting so that’s been moved to next month. USBR’s Rufino Gonzalez reported this water year has been all over the place. He said there is hope for a good March and if so the allocations will improve. He said one benefit to moving the meeting to March 1st will allow for the results of the storm that passed through earlier this week to be included. If I understood correctly the channel loss along the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam is higher than expected.

USBR’s Regional Manager Michael Jackson showed up. Phillips thanked him for the early allocation, that helps. Jackson said there is spot on the Sacramento River that has to have a 5,000 cfs flow. During dry years this can be dropped even lower but there isn’t much water being released from Shasta Dam. That’s the big storage place for the feds in California and things aren’t so good there. That prompted the Bureau to make a conservative allocation even though he said the latest storm did help. He said there probably won’t be a final allocation until April and he mentioned a 15 percent increase could be in play depending on the situation. Jackson took a moment to explain how the holding contracts along the SJR below Friant could be impacting flows. It sounded like the diversions by riparian users are a moving target. I’m sorry I can’t  provide greater detail. This is a complicated situation. The State Water Resources Out of Control Board could get its nuts and noses in this but beyond the Exchange Contractors and the flows on the SJR at Gravely Ford there isn’t much that can be done by the Bureau.

Madera Irrigation District Director Jim Erickson pointed out very late allocation increases can serve better as carryover as it can be difficult for districts to recharge their systems once they shut down. Good point. Eric Quinley, GM of Delano Earlimart ID asked about scheduling on time and if it can help in determining allocation increases, if I understood. The answer was yes and Loeffler thanked Jackson for showing up with Gonzalez.

Government Matters

Before giving a report on state matters Biering asked, “Where does the know it all gets his water? From a – well actually. . .” Also, “What did the raindrop say to the other raindrop? ‘Two’s company, three’s a cloud.’” On to legislative matters. SB 890 is a type of continuation of using SB 559 to secure more funding for canal repairs. SB 559 is from State Senator Melissa Hurtado. Hurtado has a bill pending to help remove as much of the politics from Delta decisions as possible. She also has a bill to do away with the State Board and replace it with a commission. There is also legislative language being supported by the San Luis Delta Mendota that will change the requirements to open up a fully appropriated stream if a GSA is making an application.

Phillips said there will have to be some review of this bill before FWA will support it. Amaral added Friant has informed any and all potential legislative sponsors Friant’s position on this as, whoa. Amaral gave the federal report saying the Ukraine situation has replaced the Supreme Court appointments as the big deal in DC and what that means is still in the future. The federal government is only funded up to March 11th and Amaral pointed out Shelly Abajian from Senator Diane Feinstein’s office was in attendance and has been helping work through some of the federal water based matters.

Biering spoke about the Planning & Conservation League’s 11 point plan to alter water rights dramatically. She said the most likely outcome would be chaos, yet maybe half the 11 recommendations have found authors from the legislator. These are being placed in separate bills, possibly to make it more difficult to fight. And there is still the 30×30 Plan move to place 30 percent of California’s land in wildlife conservation by 2030. Beware, there is a 50×50 Plan out there also.

SJV Water Blueprint

Phillips gave the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint report for Austin Ewell. Don’t know why Ewell wasn’t able to attend, hope he’s OK. Phillips said Ian LeMay from California Fresh Fruit is the new chair and Dr. Eddie Ocampo of Self Help Enterprises is vice chair. Two very good choices in my opinion. Phillips said there have been a couple of points with the Blueprint that have touched a nerve around the Friant table but the effort will be made to provide a clear path to unite around.

O&M

Superintendent Chris Hickernell commented on why the cover photo of the O&M report in the packet had a photo of the sign on the FKC where it crosses Highway 99 in Kern County. He said there was an intense fog situation where a semitruck pulled off of the freeway and somehow made its way down the canal bank and without harming the sign proceeded to tear out the fence and the bollards without running into the canal. So this was a photo of the repairs.

Hickernell told the board many other wonderful things including Friant is getting its SCADA software updated. Most meetings the O&M is kind of brushed over but this was a good addition to the information given the board and Hickernell is a good speaker. Loeffler thanked Hickernell and pointed out he and his team have been excellent in meeting the needs presented with a big canal.

Orvis reported on what is happening at SLDMWA, one of the bigger expenses Friant deals with.

XO Report

Phillips said Amaral has been acting as the interim COO and doing a very good job. He’s also been keeping up with his duties as Director of External Affairs. Phillips said Amaral has been made the permanent COO with great confidence. Congratulations Johnny.

Phillips said although Friant doesn’t support the review of the biological opinions of the Delta being pushed by the Biden Administration it will be a proactive participant. He also said Friant is poised to wrap up the water quality question that has been kicking around for the past two decades. He also added his son has graduated from bootcamp and is ready to go to submarine school. The word is while the troops are not looking to get in a shooting war they aren’t afraid to do so if that’s what happens. Good to know. The meeting adjourned at 12:03pm and we ate a lunch of chicken and pasta.

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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 Johnny Amaral and Attorney Don Davis.

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