The Friant Water Authority board of directors met at the Bello Vita Event Venue in Visalia on Thursday, May 25, 2023. FWA now starts their meetings in closed session at 8:30am. Something I’ve been critical of in the past if the agenda lists the time allocated as open ended. I know for a fact there are boards that start in closed session and eat lunch during it and whenever they are finished then they have open session. The problem is the public doesn’t know when the open part of the meeting will actually begin. I’ve sat in waiting rooms with others for hours while – and I’m not making this up – you can hear what’s being said in the board room, you can hear them eating and there’s laughter and cross talk going on – while we sit there waiting. That’s not good public relations and on a more fundamental level it’s rude. Also it tempts pure of heart reporters to listen in on closed session items.
Friant, I’m pleased to say at the very least identifies a start time for open session and if it looks like closed session is running long alerts those waiting most of the time. That’s much more courteous. This year the start time for open session has drifted later and later. It was 10:00am earlier in the year and is now 11:00am. If you’re board and staff you’re already there should closed session end early. If you a member of the public you don’t get stuck standing in the hall for a couple of hours. And here’s another good thing about Friant – they do feed you and while they don’t yet use Zoom they do share the meeting online. Good for them.
The open session was called to order an hour later than advertised at noon by Chairman Jim Erickson who asked Director Cliff Loeffler to open the meeting with prayer. He prayed for wisdom and thanked Jesus for the cool weather and asked for the power to stay awake after lunch.
There was no public comment and nothing to report from closed session. The consent calendar was approved.
Wilson Orvis told the board the FWA Operations Maintenance & Recovery cost recovery policy is complicated and no less the conveyance rate update. The reason to make revisions to the OM&R methodology is to tie up lose ends from the 2019 adjustments. The question is how to charge for non-San Joaquin River water conveyance in the Friant Kern Canal. What if the water is SJR but has been banked? When moved to the bank the conveyance cost falls under the rolling average but when it’s brought back there is a different rate. Different colored water impacts the FWA’s San Luis Delta Mendota WA costs. That needs to be straightened out. Orvis said this is about cleaning up the wording, not an overhaul of the entire methodology. He said there was significant discussion to arrive at a finance committee recommendation that is the action requested before the board. There is still much discussion needed on this subject, perhaps a workshop or board retreat topic. Another topic was the cost of 215 Water and the relation to the 25-year rolling average used to set rates. Non Friant contractors occasionally move water too and that needs to be a cost relative to Friant member costs. The board agreed.
The second action item was also presented by Orvis and dealt with the revised spending plan for the FKC repairs. Executive Officer Jason Phillips said there are two options and the US Bureau of Reclamation is comfortable with both. It was difficult to hear which option was approved but one of them was. There was a long discussion and if I understood the City of Fresno wasn’t willing to support the revised plan. There was a spokesperson from the Eastern Tule GSA who said they have a plan in development and when pushed he said the plan is fair and achievable way for them to pay its obligations to FKC reports. The motion was made, seconded and passed.
Reports & Updates
An update on the FKC repairs was given by Janet Atkinson of Stantec who said April was a better month than May for work getting done. She gave a project update on the accompanying road work. Parts of the construction area were flooded and some materials were taken from other areas. There is still a lot of clean up work left to complete from the flood.
Ian Buck-Macleod said records should be set for San Joaquin River inflow all year long. The big melt peak is moving back to June but there are still 20,000 to 25,000 cfs inflow to Millerton Lake. CVP storage north of the Delta is better than average and they are managing for flood control. Oroville too. San Luis Reservoir has been full since April. All five units are pumping at Jones and could remain at that level through September. There are no regulatory reasons to stop.
The Friant allocation is still 100 percent and releases are at 10,000 cfs with 7,500 cfs going through the Eastside Bypass and that is 2,000 cfs above rated capacity but the levee guys are OK with it. There is still a lot of water moving through the Kings System. There was a block of SJR 90,000 a/f unreleased restoration flows that have to be used before the 215 Water is ended in mid-July. There could be another large block or maybe more later this year. There will be an entire FKC drawdown at the end of the year. Not just or subsidence repairs but the entire canal goes into maintenance mode. There are contingency plans should there be a need.
Phillips reported he’s only going to present the External Affairs report today and email his CEO report later. He did invite Director Tom Barcellos to give his report of the recent trip to Washington DC. He said there was a good group of folks to travel with and they met with a slough of elected officials and staff. He characterized all the meetings as good and the timing due to the flooding was helpful as awareness and interest is high. He said their tour of the Capital Building included walking outside on the Capital Dome. It’s several stories high and provided a great view. With that the meeting was adjourned at 1:02pm.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2023 by Don A. Wright
FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
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, Alexandria Biering Government Affairs/Communications Manager, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.