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Friant Water Authority May 17, 2021

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Bermad irrigationThe Friant Water Authority held its Executive Committee meeting on Monday, May 17, 2021 by WebEx from its Lindsay offices. I read two articles this morning before the meeting. The City of San Francisco is suing the State Water Resources Control Board for limiting its Tuolumne River water supplies. I subscribe to the California Farm Water Coalition’s News Line. It’s the best news aggregate for stories about water that could impact Central Valley growers and irrigators. Maven’s Notebook is good too.

Anyway, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the city filed the lawsuit this past Friday in Tuolumne County Superior Court. The suit claims reducing the City’s supplies for through Delta flows will harm the “long-term socioeconomic and environmental impacts” of 2.8 million people who rely on the Tuolumne River supplies. So, there’s something in common with our brothers and sisters in the Bay Area. Also in common is the predictable nickers twist from the Natural Resources Defense Council. According to the story NRDC senior attorney Doug Obegi said he was disappointed San Francisco would rely on the Trump administration’s junk science that will allow them due to claims of water rights to degrade and destroy the river and its salmon runs. I also read in a different story that other planets in our solar system are warming up due to solar energy. Surprisingly in this article the NRDC didn’t chastise the sun for causing interplanetary global warming.

The Meeting

The meeting began in closed session at 8:30am according to the agenda. There were four cases of property negotiation, all with Tulare County APNs, so that makes me think it has something to do with the Friant Kern Canal repairs. There were also two potential exposures to litigation and three possible initiations of litigation cases listed. The open session was scheduled to begin at 10:30am. At 10:56am the conference room camera came on and there was some talk about golfing somewhere and how water rights are not like mineral rights even though water is a mineral.

The open meeting began at 11:00am and Executive Officer Jason Phillips asked to change the order of the agenda. Chairman Cliff Loeffler asked for bobble heads and the board was OK with the change. The minutes were also approved.

Phillips said a strategic plan workshop has been discussed and scheduling this meeting is important. He said a facilitator will be used. The date is June 29th and 30th in Paso Robles. It’ll start at 10:00am on the 29th and will end on the 30th with lunch.

Tierah Chorba, a lady who goes by Bob will be the facilitator at this workshop. She said her grandchildren call her Granny Bob. She’s been working with the Friant team to make sure there is a good agenda for the workshop. Phillips said he’s worked with Chorba in the past and has been very impressed with her skills. He said she is one of the best in the country. She works a lot with the Department of Interior and opened up to questions. It was asked how long she’s known Phillips and she said since he was a pup. She worked with him way back when he was working in Klamath. Someone asked how she got the name Bob. She said she had a child later in life and her younger daughter had a condition and couldn’t pronounce mom and called her bob. It is easier than her Hungarian name. She’s also known as the velvet hammer and values honest conversations. She was a hit with the board and I found her charming as well. The Friant organization has been strained with the extra expenses of subsidence damage and drought always adds sand to the gears. So this retreat could be a very much needed opportunity to make some adjustments.

The Canal

The next item was the Friant Kern Canal repair project update. Now FWA calls it the Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. The always dapper Doug DeFlitch reported the US Bureau of Reclamation has sent out a request for bids and let everyone know by passing the word along. Janet Atkinson with Stantec said the pumpstation design is on tract. Attorney Don Davis said the agreement with Tulare County is wrapped up and that is good news.

DeFlitch said there is a possibility of work starting sooner than scheduled. The permits are pretty much taken care of and all that is lacking is the right of way. Director Edwin Camp said, “Watch this be the wettest winter on record.” Phillips said he’s spoken with the Bureau about that and other delays that could take place. He said they are aware of the potential. Loeffler said the process to get this far with the progress of clearing the way is, if not unprecedented, very close. He thanked staff for the hard work.

External Affairs

Speaking of one of the best in the business, Alex Biering reported on things from Sacramento. She said there is not at this time a clue as to how Governor Gavin Newsom’s new drought fund budget release will impact the FKC. SB 559, Senator Melisa Hurtado, was heard recently and she was able to testify there will be federal and local cost sharing. That seemed to encourage the legislature and there should be a vote coming up before the end of the summer to move this forward. Biering spoke about the emergency drought proclamation. The State Water Board will hold a workshop tomorrow to try and figure out what Gav wants. A fuller report on that event will be forthcoming and she had a lot of cool stuff in the board packet available on the FWA website.

Phillips said there are many important State Board hearings coming up. Biering said there is the Sacramento River temperature plan that could cause a loss of supplies for south of Delta ag. That in turn could cause a multitude of problems should this trigger a call on San Joaquin River water to send downstream to the Exchange Contractors. Which, in turn could harm the cold water pool in Millerton Lake and it could get too warm and threaten salmon restoration in the SJR. A letter to the board has been included in the packet and Phillips said most of the folks in California don’t understand how what happens at Shasta impacts Bakersfield. There is another State Board hearing on Tuesday to take up the issue of curtailment for post 1914 contractors.

Johnny Amaral reported on matters from Washington DC saying there is an August timeline to finish the infrastructure bill. There are two arguments over this humongous, trillions of dollars bill. What is infrastructure is in question and how much to spend. That’s right, politicians can’t agree on what is and what isn’t infrastructure. The Senate is looking at billions of dollars and the House is looking at trillions. There is also a big surplus in Sacramento. Amaral said Phillips is slated to testify by Zoom before congress twice. Once as a guest of Congressman Devin Nunes. No matter one’s political affiliation or outlook it would be hard to deny Nunes has kept a focus on telling the story about water in California and included farmers in this story. Good for him.

CEO Report

Phillips said he’s spending a great deal of time trying to keep Friant’s 20 percent allocation. He’s been talking with member districts and in case you haven’t been tracking it – the Sacramento watershed runoff forecast dropped more than 600,000 a/f since April 1st. He also said to keep the SB 559 bill in the light as it is the state cost share, the road map in case the gov pulls a switch. My words not his. Phillps said the May 27th Friant board meeting will include ethics training so we can all know what is in the Brown Act. The home boards will also be invited to attend this training. This month’s board meeting is also dress like a grownup day. There will be photos taken. The meeting then adjourned promptly at 11:46am. La la.

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

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, COO Doug DeFlitch, CFO Don Willard, Government Affairs & Communication Alexandra Biering, Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod, Superintendent Chris Hickernell, Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral, Director of Technology Christopher Hunter and Attorney Don Davis.