Roscoe Moss Company

Friant Water Authority February 29, 2024

Share and Subscribe to WaterWrights.Net Today

Digital Marketing Services


Editors note: Once again, not directly related to this report. Notice the very next ad after this announcement – the WAKC Water Summit. This report is scheduled to drop at 7am on March 7th. Use it as a reminder to show up at the Summit. It’s unique and well worth your time. Thanks, DAW

By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority board of directors met at the Visalia Convention Center in Visalia on Thursday, February 29, 2024. They have been meeting at the Bella Vida Event Center also in Visalia but this month they returned to the convention center. The agenda said the meeting would begin at 8:30pm in closed session.

The Meeting

Things kicked off at 10:30am with Chairman Jim Erickson calling things to order and Director Cliff Loeffler asked God’s grace and mercy and wisdom on the proceedings. There was no public comment and payment of the bills was pulled from the consent calendar.

The question was about the Airborne Snow Observatory and if that will impact the allocation issued by the US Bureau of Reclamation. CEO Jason Phillips said Central Valley Project contractors have been very vocal with the Bureau about the need to prevent spills with an updated allocation. He said the Bureau has been listening.

There was no reportable action out of closed session but it was conveyed there was no discussion regarding the lawsuit filed by Friant and the Arvin Edison Water Storage District against the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency.

Action Items

            Wilson Orvis, CFO reported on the audit saying since he started three-years ago the process has become more efficient. He said the audit was clean and there will be a refund to disburse. Good for them.

Attorney Don Davis said although there is a California primary coming up there is also an election matter within Friant. He said long suffering Director Chris Tantau would like to step down after many years on the Finance Committee. Another vacancy has opened so there was a need for two candidates. It looked like there was going to have to be a volun-told-you for two guys or gals. However, three candidates stepped up and now there are more folks running than seats available. So, they came up with a good idea and instituted an alternate to help ensure a quorum can be achieved. Directors Arlen Miller and John Doe McCowan were selected as committee members with Director John Doe Wooten as the alternate.*Technoflo

Davis continued saying there is a third amendment to the San Joaquin River restoration flows. This involves Banta Carbona and Patterson Irrigation Districts to take water off the river and send it south down the Delta Mendota Canal.

Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod said Banta Carbona and Patterson have two different issues. Banta Carbona lost some money on the power costs. Davis said each year renewed approvals must go to the state. He said things are getting narrowed down for water quality and other issues and concerns so a more permanent, long-term agreement can be made. The Board approved the amendments.

The first Friant resolution of the year, Number 2024-01 was put before the board to approve applying for a grant under the California Department of Water Resources. Engineer Kate Duncan said the goal is to benefit recharge, reduce flooding and help communities considered officially disadvantaged. It’s a million dollar grant without a matching cost component. Woohoo!

COO Johnny Amaral said this is almost a niche offering as it works very well with what Friant is doing along the Friant Kern Canal. The board said yes – apply away at them grants.

Friant Kern Canal Repairs

            Janet Atkinson, Stantec Engineering reported on the repairs to the FKC. She said the rain has slowed down the pace of construction in some ways due to mud. Last year the Deer Creek siphon was inundated and caused a problem. It was a little hard to hear as Atkinson was attending online. Fortunately there was a slide show accompanying her report but for the tall guys sitting in the way least I see what was going on the screen. But there was a table by an electrical outlet and one extra chair, so I really got nothing to complain about. If I understood and I believe I did, progress is on track – task and fiscally wise. Good for them.

Water Report

Buck-Macleod reported a massive storm is heading this way, like 10-feet of snow in 48 hours and should hit in the next 24 hours. Northern California reservoirs are making flood releases. For some reason South of Delta ag has been allocated at 15 percent by the Bureau. Everything north of the Delta has a 100 percent allocation. I suspect the south allocation will increase.Lidco Inc.

Buck-Macleod said there has been a lot of action at the federal Jones Pumping Plant. For most of the year all five pumps or units have been active. It is possible and even likely the pumping will be cut back in April and there is going to be an outage at the O’Neal Forebay to replace a transformer. They are trying to line it up with the reduced pumping this spring. Also, 100 percent of the steelhead take has been taken. He said this indicates two things: steelhead populations are improving or the accounting method is antiquated.
Buck-Macleod said it looks like San Luis Reservoir will fill. Almost 2,000 a/f per day is entering Millerton Lake. Millerton is on the San Joaquin River and the source of Friant supplies. He said the 60 percent allocation is expected to increase and there are concerns about spilling carryover. He said the Bureau is asking Friant contractors to turn in 100 percent allocation schedules in anticipation of an increase.

Gooberment Mischief

Our old friends Mike Villines and Amaral gave an update on legislation and related political matters. Villines said there are about 2,000 bills floating around Sacramento that need to be evaluated. The budget deficit is about $50 billion and that will drive a lot of things this year. He said later we’ll see bills regarding the State Water Resources Control Board and a water bond. The hearings will start very soon and that will help clarify things. Villines said the new Chair of the Water, Parks & Wildlife Committee, Assemblywoman Diane Papan is a major improvement.

Amaral said Friant is in talks with DWR and it is positive. The last meeting was yesterday and DWR asked him to let the folks know there is money for subsidence monitoring.

Since the last board meeting some Friant folks when to Washington DC recently and had good meetings. Senator Mitch McConnel will be stepping down at the end of the year. There was a Family Farm Alliance conference last week and there is a FFA report in the package. Amaral said FFA President Patrick O’Toole passed way this past Sunday. He said that is a major loss and the relationship with FFA has been very good for Friant.

Amaral participated in a SGMA roundtable event at the World Ag Expo and it was well attended. He said he’ll also be on a panel at next week’s Water Association of Kern County. The annual Friant meeting will be May 16th at a Winery in Madera. He also thanked the Bureau for its cooperation on some recharge items. He announced Lisa McEwen from the SJV Water was in attendance and he told me not to get jealous – he loves all reporters equally. Ok, that sounded good.


            Chris Hickernell, Superintendent gave his report saying much of it has been covered but during the dewatering a great deal of work was accomplished. All the panel replacement is finished. Some gates were late showing up. There is a great deal of electrical work, especially getting the SCADA on the new portions of the canal to tie in with the overall Friant network. He said they burned through that part of the budget.

Some servers were replaced and lots of space usually underwater were mucked out. They replaced more than 200 panels.

San Luis Delta Mendota

Orvis reported SLDM passed its budget. There has also been a new framework developed for the MOU between SLDM and FWA.

CEO Report

Phillips said he is also giving the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley report. He said Dr. Eddie Ocampo is now Chair and Geoff VandenHeuvel is now Vice Chair. There was a conference recently of the Urban Water Institute where the Blueprint was represented. He said it went very well and created a good deal of interest in the urban water folks to team up with agricultural folks. The Blueprint is talking with Metropolitan Water District about improving infrastructure in the Valley for water banking. Another successful effort has been the two Farmer To Farmer Summit between the SJV and the Delta growers. This has been helpful and although I haven’t been in the private meetings I know Delta folks and things are heading in the right direction.

Phillips said he attended the Family Farm Alliance conference and it was overshadowed by what was happening to Pat O’Toole. He said O’Toole had a stroke just before the conference and due to the weather at his home ranch in Wyoming he didn’t get to the hospital quick enough and ended up in hospice during the conference. He passed away this last Sunday.

The Friant Annual Meeting will be in May and in Madera. All are welcome.


Next was the Washington DC report. Director Arlen Miller said he was very impressed with the amount of awareness and the respect Friant received. Director Rick Borges said it was his first trip ever to DC and the meetings were productive. Congressional staff was knowledgeable about issues impacting Friant. He complemented Friant staff, the lobbyists and all involved. Miller said they continued to cross paths with the Exchange Contractors delegation. Borges said he’d never met Ex Con Executive Director Chris White and then he met him four times in three-hours. Miller also said there was an extra treat of getting a tour of the Capital Dome. Phillips said they also appreciated the dinner with Congressman Jim Costa.

Phillips said to begin prioritizing the November 19-21 Friant 2024 board offsite meeting. It’s not a retreat, it’s hard work. They go through the issues and staff works hard to make this event successful. And in turn it provides staff guidance throughout the year.

Erickson said he appreciated the team going to Washington and the importance of that connection. And that was that as of 12:09pm. Go be good to yourselves and others and thanks for reading this far.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide it’s clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.

*I didn’t catch the first names of the directors during the meeting and late at night as I edit, I can’t find any names resembling what heard on the FWA website. So, the new Finance Committee members will remain nameless for now.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2023 by Don A. Wright


854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305

The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 15 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.

Board: Chair Jim Erickson, Vice Chair Rick Borges

Staff: CEO Jason Phillips, COO Johnny Amaral, CFO Wilson Orvis, Water Resources Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.