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Friant Water Authority July 18, 2022

By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Executive Committee on Monday, July 18, 2022 at its Lindsay Headquarters. Closed session began at 8:30am. At 10:00am Chairman Cliff Loeffler took up the open session. This meeting was in person, by telephone and on MS Teams. I believe thousands of years from now when the historians dig through the rubble of our age there will not be anything to find that says, “Micro Soft Teams, what a great idea!”

Why is Friant shackled to MS Teams? That’s a question that keeps me up at night. Like them or not the Friant Water Authority does things in a state that doesn’t. They’ve been able to get hundreds of millions of dollars together to fix a vital water artery almost unknown by the people of California. And for the majority of those who do know of it, its role is misunderstood.Conterra

So why would otherwise cogent, resourceful and mostly good looking folks choose MS Teams? It was explained to me the federal government chose MS Teams at the start of the worldwide cooties and Friant thought, well sir, we deal with them a lot so perhaps its best to be on the same platform. Now the investment has been made and they’re dealing with. And, least anyone draw a different conclusion, I’m happy to not spend gas money any more than I have to. So, to be clear I’m grateful Friant is offering online availability.

Water Operations

            Ian Macleod gave his report on water operations. He said North of Delta operations have been struggling but for Folsom Reservoir on the fed side and Oroville on the state side. Those reservoirs were in the right place to benefit from a storm. However, Shasta and Trinity is still looking not so good. Neither Macleod nor the US Bureau of Reclamation have a “not so good” category, yet that may not be a bad description, so perhaps they should.

There is good news. As of this past weekend the total diversion of 210,000 a/f of San Joaquin River water going from Friant to the Mendota Pool so the Bureau can meet its Exchange Contractor obligations has ended. This past spring the estimation was double that amount but the situation in the Delta has allowed more pumping from the federal Central Valley Project Jones pumping plant. The State Water Project’s Cooperative Operating Agreement obligation to San Luis Reservoir is being adjusted in the right direction and that is helping supplies.

I believe Macleod said there will be 31,000 a/f of unreleased restoration flows available on the Friant system if I understood. I don’t know what that water will cost but at just about any price it should go fast. One of the questions awaiting answers currently is whether or not to keep the San Joaquin River wet between Friant Dam and the Mendota Pool. There are no migrating salmon this time of year and it could be prudent to save some of the water for the fall. I was able to get on the MS Teams in the midst of this report but I believe I heard it said there will be Yuba water heading south.

San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority

Friant CFO Wilson Orvis said the SLDM meeting discussed general membership and leg ops allocations adjustments which doesn’t directly impact Friant. The San Luis Transmission Line project is having some financial hiccups. The Bureau isn’t signing on but there is the possibility SLDM could team up with a private partner solar contractor and self-finance. Wilson said there is also a chance for Western Area Power Administration financing and he thinks that’s preferable. The new SLDM finance director Ray Tarka is now on the job. Madera ID Director Jim Erikson has been attending SLDM and the Resource Management Coalition meetings. The RMC is a group of parties impacted by the San Joaquin River Restoration and also meets in Los Banos. A good deal of the money Friant spends goes to SLDM because of the exchange of San Joaquin River water for Delta water.

CEO Report

             Jason Phillips reported he attended Porterville and Ivanhoe IDs home board meetings and it made him thankful he is where he is. He said Friant is sharpening the pencil on the Friant Kern Canal repair project. There are still concerns about getting all the money together in one place. There’s still a $100 million out there waiting to be deposited in the FWA bank account so it can pay it on.* Phillips said there is state money promised and this will be very helpful but it doesn’t always show up in a timely manner. State Senator Melisa Hurtado deserves a great deal of credit for putting this financing together. Good for here. The Groundwater Sustainability Agencies along the worst part of the canal’s subsidence impacted area did not pass a 218 Election. That doesn’t mean the money won’t show up but it will be on installment. Orvis said there are enough funds to make it through June of 2023. Director Edwin Camp rhetorically asked, “How much is the state’s budget surplus?” I’d like to add depending on how you do the math, moving the end terminals of High on Speed Rail five-miles closer would fund all the repairs on the FKC, the Delta Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct.

Phillips said there are some Bureau folks including Richard Welsh, Chief Deputy Director coming to tour the FKC. Phillips asked Macleod if there is any update on the water quality issues. Macleod said the member reaction has been overall very good. He said there has been some South Valley hesitancy but FWA is ready to give the home boards in-person briefings. There have been a couple of South Valley Cross Canal districts who don’t want to participate. There will be a meeting about this matter next week in Visalia after the regular Friant meeting. Phillips noted attorney Alex Peltzer has been supportive. Peltzer has been involved in water law and changes in Friant’s organization over the years so his endorsement is a step in the right direction to building unity.

And just like that, before you even knew what hit you, the meeting was adjourned at 10:39am. Go be good to each other.

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*I know the feeling but at smaller amounts.

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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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