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Friant Water Authority June 28, 2018

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The Friant Water Authority met at the World Ag Expo facility in Tulare on Thursday, June 28, 2018. There was a full house and Chairman Kent Stephens got started right away calling the meeting to order at 9:00 am. Director Cliff Loeffler opened the meeting in prayer. Perhaps part of the day’s draw was the presentation by US Fish & Wildlife Southwest Regional Director Paul Souza. He toured the San Joaquin River yesterday from Temperance Flat to Sac Dam. He said he wants to see a major change in the fish verses farmers story because farmers and ranchers are the best conservationists. He recognized entrainment at the pumps and outflow in the Delta are big problems. He said he believes dealing with entrainment has become completely manageable. They know smelt follow turbidity and that is a yellow light.  He said monitoring real time is now possible. Outflow is not the silver bullet. Had a wet year last year with great outflow that didn’t help the smelt. Hot, dry summers seem to play a much bigger role in fish decline than previously thought. He also recognized predation in the Delta is a major factor.  Souza said the operations agreement between the CVP and the SWP is being worked out. He also complemented FWA for its efforts on the San Joaquin River restoration project.

Stephens thanked Souza and turned it over to Q&A. Director Kole Upton asked Souza if he sees some of the opponents like say, the Natural Resource Defense Council will every get serious about water. Souza said there is great passion about water in California on all sides. He said the CVP serves more than 20 million people, almost half of California and bigger than most states. He said farming is very important as is the environment and they need to work together. FWA CEO Jason Phillips thanked Souza for taking so much time yesterday. Souza noticed many Families Protecting the Valley signs and said it’s sad they are even needed. A grower asked at what point is the smelt or similar species survival taken off the table. Souza said the smelt are at an all time low but he’s looking into hatcheries. It’s worked for salmon. I asked about acreage being dedicated to habitat. He didn’t know off the top of his head but said he’d be happy to get that to me. Now, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Souza; how he’s not a knee jerk enviro and open to dealing with a problem head on. It certainly sounded like he will live up to his reputation.

   The consent calendar and financial reports were next and they were both approved. The US Bureau of Reclamation had Rufino Gonzalez give the CVP update.

Alex Biering gave the government affairs update saying the state was looking at declaring groundwater as a beneficial use that is being reviewed and improved. The bill giving the state’s Secretary of Resources power to designate rivers as wild and scenic has been weakened. On the federal side changing the institutional mindset of bureaucracy is a moving target but efforts are being made. Biering said consultants Mike Villines and Georgeanne White are helping her with public outreach. White spoke saying there is frustration about getting Friant’s message out. She said getting the Friant brand out to the public conscience proactively is the challenge. Many Californians, even in the Valley don’t understand the significance of SGMA, the subsidence on the Friant Kern Canal and some solutions such as the water bond. After interviewing three firms Biering, Villines and White recommend Randle Communications to help get the message out. Phillips said getting the message out the Valley is falling 2 million a/f short annually is a very powerful and little known. He wants two get this message out and he needs it packaged properly. The November Water Bond will bring $750 million to Friant to deal with the problem. The LA Times and Sacramento Bee are focused on this fact and he wants to spend up to $100,000 on getting the correct message to the right audience. Stephens said there are on average 11 million a/f flowing out to sea that could help the water imbalance. The stakes are high. The board approved unanimously. Biering said tomorrow is the day the Water Bond and all qualifying bonds get a number. She expects the number to be three. Phillips said there is a perception this bond will give $750 million to Friant to fix the subsidence. This isn’t accurate. The money can be used for fixing the entire length of both the Friant and Madera Canals. It could also be spent on the Delta Mendota Canal to help the Exchange Contractors which helps Friant. He wants FWA to begin discussing how to manage the money if the bond passes. His first priority is to fix the subsidence capacity problem but he wants to have a formal discussion on this. He believes there is more than enough problems to fully spend the money.

Friant COO Doug DeFlitch gave his report saying the proposed 2019/2020 O&M budget is estimated at $8.6 million. The board approved. It was one of the slickest request for multi millions of dollars I’ve ever heard. Good for him. Next the talk was about title transfer of the FKC from the USBR to the FWA. Phillips said there needs to be more discussions about the pros and cons on this and that is in the works. DeFlitch next spoke on the pump back project and there will a water quality steering committee meeting next month to help deal with this. The ad hoc committee on this subject will also meet next month.

DeFlitch next spoke on the subsidence fix. He said since this year is 85 percent Class I the full contracts can be delivered. But come this fall there needs to be work completed to get the capacity up to 1,900 cfs for next year. He presented the board with an agreement with Stantec Engineering to get the ball rolling. Stantec has a good team together; Janet Atkinson, Bill Swanson and Wayne Dahl. This contract is limited to the $6.5 million expected from the Bureau and should cover the design costs. Engineer Alan Stroppini said there are no specific due dates in the current contract. Director Edwin Camp asked about that. There are often penalties for nonperformance and someone suggested water boarding would be appropriate. Stroppini steered to back to a monetary penalty and due date. He said a modification could be made but it could impact the bid costs. It usually drives the costs up. Stroppini suggested the current contract could stand without a penalty. Attorney Don Davis said this is a Professional Services Agreement and there is usually more flexibility needed because the design time needs to float somewhat. He said when the construction contract comes up there will be penalties. Stephens said he’d be happy if Swanson put up $100,000 in case he’s late. That got a good laugh. Phillips said if there is a delay that comes up it won’t be authorized, it goes to him and if need be he’ll bring it to the board. Camp commented he’s never been involved in a project that hasn’t been delayed. Camp represents Arvin Edison WSD, the most impacted district on the canal. Swanson spoke directly to Camp saying Stantec takes its relationship with Friant very seriously and understands the personal urgency of this project. He wants to be a partner with Friant from the very beginning to the very end. He did say he wasn’t in the position to write a $100,000 check.

Atkinson spoke saying she’s spent her career developing water delivery infrastructure and honored to be a part of this process. Dahl also spoke and said not to worry about the schedule as there is no one more competent than Atkinson. DeFlitch said Atkinson will be meeting with hydrogeologist Thomas Harder to find out more about the subsidence curve. Phillips asked Swanson to plug in what if conditions to the model. The question was called and Director George Porter of Fresno ID said he will abstain since his district is opposed to paying any amount to the subsidence correction. Outside of that the vote was unanimous to continue the PSA without penalties. DeFlitch wrapped it up with and O&M report. Next Phillips gave his CEO report saying the general member budget draft will be ready for next month. That was a short report.

The meeting went into closed session. There will be one open session item later. I wasn’t able to stay and wait out the closed session in order to hear the attorney’s report. The subject of agenda item 15.a. was, “Memorandum of Agreement Regarding Coordination on the Establishment of an Implementing Agency for the Temperance Flat Reservoir Project and Related Preconstruction Project Activities With Various Water Authorities and Agencies”. It was a long subject.

The summary reported in May the board directed staff to pursue the development of an MOA between water agencies that were members of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority JPA to form a new JPA to transition leadership on the project to the agencies most likely to follow through on the Temp Flat project. The initial parties will be: the City of Fresno, FWA, Exchange Contractors and the San Luis Delta Mendota WA. There is room for non-FWA Friant contractors to join as well as other interested parties. What followed was a 10-page MOA chock full of the minutia that makes MOAs work. Although I’m not an attorney it did seem very thorough and each party has recourse under many different conditions. The bottom line is the board authorized Phillips to sign the MOA on behalf of FWA. To paraphrase Mark Twain, “Reports of Temperance Flat’s demise are premature.”

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright   No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.


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The Friant Water Authority is a Joint Powers Agreement with 11 districts to operate and maintain the Friant Division of the Central Valley 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