The Friant Water Authority held its Thursday, May 26, 2022 board of directors meeting in person at the Visalia Convention Center and on MS Teams. I’m trying to come up with a pun on the MS portion of Mirco Soft Teams and none of the ones that seem creative and funny to me are appropriate language for mixed company and I’m Awake not woke so I still believe men who use foul words carelessly, especially around women and children are low lives. Forgive me for the times I’ve let it slip. Anyway Visalia is close enough to keep the round trip below $100 if I fill up at Costco so I don’t have to MS Teams it.
The meeting began in closed session at 8:30am and about 10:30ish folks started wandering into hallway and back into the room and sitting down. I would be interesting to record all the various nonsense discussed before things start. Chairman Cliff Loeffler got things going with a prayer at 10:41am asking God for wisdom.
Attorney Don Davis said there was no reportable action in closed session. Under public comment grower Tom Barcellos asked if when setting up the room, tables could be provided for the public so folks could use their laptops easier. I’ve noticed myself included bellies are infringing on lap territory. CEO Jason Phillips said that request will be vetted by the appropriate committee. Director Matt Leider moved and seconded a motion to make this happen so the public will have a table to lay its collective head upon as they knap through the meetings.
The consent calendar was passed so the minutes and the bills have been dealt with. CFO Wilson Orvis asked the board to adopt an investment policy statement dealing with the employee retirement plan. The board agreed and that was the only action item for the day.
Janet Atkinson of Stantec Engineering gave an update on the repairs of the FKC. She said while building a turnout at the Deer Creek area they hit enough groundwater to require mitigation for construction to continue. She said this was expected and I guess that makes sense due to having a creek there. But it is also part of the area experiencing subsidence causing the need to repair the canal in the first place. Somewhere along the route of the construction a bird’s nest with fledglings was found. I didn’t catch what kind of bird but it’s the kind that will require everyone to avoid this location until the little ones leave the nest. Someone asked if Friant can sell the groundwater from the construction and it was said it will be sent to the canal and someone else asked about the water quality and if this will require a Warren Act Contract.
Water Resource Manager Ian Buck-Macleod gave the water report saying peak flows are behind us. Millerton will get about one million a/f and that’s less than half of the average runoff. However, Folsom had a comparatively great year. The American River watershed was right in the sweet spot for whatever storms blew through. Shasta is also low but better than previous forecasts. Same with Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River, low but higher than previously thought.
Macleod said it looks like the federal Jones Pumping Plant will double the number of pumps to two in June and maybe three in July. This means the threat on Friant’s 15 percent allocation should go away at the end of June. San Luis Reservoir is low but things are improving slightly there as well. So far 80,000 a/f of San Joaquin River water has made it to the Mendota Pool as a call by the US Bureau of Reclamation so they can meet their Exchange Contractor supply obligation. Macleod said out there somewhere in the mist a maybe, perhaps, kinda possibility of an increase in Friant’s Class I allocation.
He said the last ASO flight is most likely well outdated even though it was recent. The weather has turned warm like it does this time of year and there wasn’t enough snow this year to stay for long. The extra releases for Ex Con is maxing out the SJR channel and causing restoration flows to stay at Millerton Lake.
The legendary Rufino Gonzalez of the USBR gave his report saying the word on supplies is improving a little. The Unreleased Restoration Flows, the save the salmon water that can’t be used at this time will become available, I think he said 30,000 a/f. Compared to other reservoirs Millerton Lake is doing better. Gonzalez said the State Board issued two curtailment orders but after push back from the Bureau they reversed their decision. He was asked point blank if it looks like Friant could get more than 15 percent allocation. He said depending on State Board actions the best case scenario is a 20 percent allocation.
Eric Quinley, GM Delano Earlimart ID said due to construction on the FKC he urged the Bureau to keep in mind the contractors down stream of construction will have a diminished access to water until February.
The lovely Alex Biering reported on what’s going on in Sacramento. The state budget continues to outperform the private sector. There is $2 billion set aside to buyout irrigated ag land and convert it to something other than irrigated ag land.
Next she gave some bill updates saying AB 2201 would amend SGMA without calling it that. It would require GSAs to state a new well won’t impact the area’s GSP before the county can issue a permit. This is very similar to the Gov’s executive order, which is only in force as along as a drought emergency is in place. It has been said neither the governor nor the state senate are warm on this bill. ACWA is opposed to this bill. AB 2201 should move to the state senate within a month. Director Eric Borba said if the governor will not support this bill it should be pulled before a veto comes along. Borba added this bill is a disaster. There is a large coalition of GSAs sending opposition statements to the Gov.
SB 1219, by Senator Melissa Hurtado could go up for a vote maybe even tomorrow. This is the bill that would dissolve the State Water Resources Control Board and replace it with a blue ribbon commission. Biering said this bill doesn’t appear to have the needed support but it is being noticed and may perhaps have a positive impact.
Johnny Amaral reported on federal matters said the Senate is split 50/50. California’s primary is June 7th, coming up quick and it’s a top two deal. Two Republicans or two democrats could go on to the general election.
Amaral said the Senate is working on a canal conveyance act is being worked on. This would have the feds pay for a third of the costs to repair the FKC. He said Senator Diane Feinstein has been very helpful on this. Expect more and more recesses as the general election gets closer. He said this election is about everything from baby formula to gas prices and it’s going to get weirder.
Loeffler praised Superintendent Chris Hickernell for an outstanding safety record. Hickernell gave an operations and maintenance report saying copper sulfate is being used for aquatic weeds and carbon monoxide for burrowing rodent control. There was a failure with the Lindsay shop’s air compressor that required fixing. FWA has some employee housing and the one on the Kaweah River got a kitchen update. He said there are updates to the information and technology system.
San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint
Austin Ewell, volunteer Executive Director of the SJVWBp reported saying there has been a good deal of progress made. A well-qualified board has been established and strategic planning sessions have yielded mission and vision statements. There will be a large group meeting at Fresno State University. Outreach is being headed up by Vice Chair Dr. Eddie Ocampo to get a diverse group together. A fulltime employee will soon be hired to help take care of the increasing number of tasks as the Blueprint moves forward.
Ewell also said the Collaborative Action Plan has been working diligently on some environmental issues in the Delta. Phillips added the Blueprint can be helpful to the governor with how to spend the budget surplus. He also said the Blueprint can develop and give voice to a Delta plan because there isn’t one.
Director Kent Stephens asked if anyone has suggested to the gov he give all or part of the budget surplus money back to the taxpayers. Someone told him that’s crazy talk.
Orvis gave the San Luis Delta Mendota update saying the San Luis Transmission Project has slowed down. The rise in interest rates has brought about a significant increase in the costs. With the call on Friant beginning in April there have been discussions about how those releases are being treated.
Phillips said with the complication of water policy increases they might as well throw in tax matters. In the meantime he said there appears to be a cooperative agreement over the long suffering water quality issue on the FKC. Any water that doesn’t come from Millerton Lake would fall under this proposed policy. While it is voluntary at this point any member trying to put non-Millerton Lake water into the canal is going to face a number of members’ displeasure. He asked the directors to take this agreement to the home boards to get the input and vetting. Phillips said this is a much better direction than the former lawsuit waiting to happen. Macleod said this agreement impacts every Friant contractor including Madera and Chowchilla. This is progress. Water quality has been a hot topic for more than a decade.
Phillips said the amount of info covered in both open and closed session can be overwhelming. He said he is available to speak to the home boards to discuss matters. He included the non FWA contractors as well. He said he tries to get to every home board at least once a year. Although due to the amazing lunch Arvin Edison throws he goes there more often. I would too. It’s the best.
Michael Jackson from the Bureau showed up and Phillips asked him to give some additional consideration to water supply carry over. Jackson said there is hope for more exports from the Delta and the SJR releases will slow or stop. He said the Friant forecast has been stable and he is holding out hope for a summer allocation increase and the carry over request.
Stephens asked if there is a backup plan to open the canal during construction should a miraculous short-term water supply develop. Amaral said that would be very difficult to do but in recognition of this possibility there is a very specific timeline, November 26th through January 15th of taking the canal down. With that the meeting adjourned.
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FRIANT WATER AUTHORITY
854 N. Harvard Ave., Lindsay, CA 93247, Office 559/562-6305 Email: email@example.com 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.