The Friant Water Authority board of directors met at the Bello Vita Event Venue in Visalia on Thursday, October 26, 2023 and on Teams, that confounding contraption that rolled out of Seattle and is all the rage with the kids. The Bello Vita also provides a lunch and today’s was chicken and rice. It’s pretty good, the quality of the food has been consistent. I wear a cowboy hat, not a chicken boy hat so I prefer beef. But the breast was boneless and skinless and that helps. I don’t like chicken bones and the yellow fat stuff that lurks beneath the skin. Chick fat – the Microsoft Teams of protein.
Chairman Jim Erickson called the meeting to order at 10:04am and announced no reportable action in closed session. Closed session started at 8:30am. The consent calendar was passed and CFO Wilson Orvis gave the board the news a call for funds was in order and the board approved. It was a cool $667,000 split several ways.
Another financial impact to the members’ collective wallet was reported by Ian Buck-Macleod to the board. There is a conveyance agreement with Banta Carbona Irrigation District and Patterson ID for recapturing San Joaquin River restoration flows. As fish water goes downstream water can be drawn from the river and put back into the system. This doesn’t happen for free and the two districts with the proper facilities and permits to allow this to take place work on a contract with fees. These contracts need to be reapproved. Attorney Don Davis said things are shaking out and the board approved the agreement.
Matt Carpenter reported remotely, I don’t know who he is – he could be working for Friant or Stantec Engineering or the construction contractors but I think he works for Stantec since he’s giving a report usually given by Janet Atkinson of Stantec. And the report was about the construction progress on the Friant Kern Canal repair project. He kind of looked like an engineer. Someone asked about when a road in Tulare County will be reopened and that will be November 18th if I heard correctly. The canal lining is 40 percent complete and is expected to wrap up by the end of December. Director Edwin Camp asked what rain can do to that schedule. Carpenter said it will slow it down. The concrete crews have been working nights to avoid the heat but it’s cooling off and the daylight is shorter. But the crews are working 15-hour days.
COO Johnny Amaral reported on external activities that included applying to the Federal Emergency Management Administration for insurance claims relating to the flooding of Deer Creek that really boogered things up the Friant Kern Canal repairs.
CEO Jason Phillips told the board about the Phase I & II responses to subsidence. He said satellite data is now showing the subsidence is impacting more than just the repair areas under construction. The problem is from milepost 95 to about 115 to 120. In other words, there is more subsidence taking place than the original 2018 design was based on. Provost & Pritchard will be out surveying the area to ground truth the satellite data.
Phillips said the conveyance capacity of the repairs is based on the conveyance capacity up and downstream of the construction. He said a solution could be as simple as replacing more canal lining with longer lining panels. There are two bridges impacted. He said if there is an effective course of work that could be completed along with the canal repairs going on during the de-watering of the FKC over November through January that will be pursued. The staff has been stretching its collective minds on solutions and while there isn’t anything yet carved in stone it was important to keep the board apprised of the situation.
Buck-Macleod gave the water report saying there are indications this could be a wet year but it’s always too early to tell. I’ll repeat a quote by President Harry Truman that could apply to meteorologist predicting weather, “Bring me a one armed economist so he can’t tell me, ‘On the other hand.’” I suspect Buck-Macleod’s job would be easier if he had a one armed weather profit. It’s always too early to tell the weather but some folks believe they can predict the climate. But that’s always in the future too.
The north of Delta reservoirs have been running at 90 percent of the estimated storage. Buck-Macleod expects Shasta and Folsom to have flood releases. There is the Fall X2 line requirements impacting pumping. That is putting San Luis Reservoir behind the estimates but this isn’t a big concern. There is still a good deal of carryover through the system as demand earlier in the year was down due to the rains. The Delta operations and north of Delta ops are documented somewhere.
On the Friant Division an inflow prorate condition for Millerton Lake was issued for the first time by the US Bureau of Reclamation. Buck-Macleod said the inflow at Millerton can’t meet the demands. This is going to impact Class One water with a limit of what can be diverted. He problem is if Millerton Lake gets too low the turnouts on Friant Dam will be above the water line.
Why did this happen? There was a big Class Two demand and Southern California Edison, while being helpful does have to hang on to some supplies to produce energy. Friant used 40,000 a/f more than its contractors had scheduled. The demand was higher in relation to the de-watering the FKC. Districts didn’t want to find the water trapped up north.
Phillips said he knows some contractors are planning on getting as much as possible out of Millerton after the FKC opens up again. He said he spoke with the USBR’s Michael Jackson and they are willing to be as flexible as possible in light of this year’s unusual circumstances. Carryover ends in February and that is the crux of the problem at the other end of the dial. No one wants to loss their carryover. It sounds like the Bureau is willing to extend the carry over limit.
On the federal side he said the situation in Washington DC is ridiculous. The ouster of Congressman Kevin McCarthy threw things into chaos. Until yesterday when a Congressman from Louisiana Mike Johnson, a relatively junior member was elected Speaker things were bad for federal water policy. The Farm Bill wouldn’t pass. Still much of the government is on the verge of a shutdown again in November. Is it possible shutting down much of the state and federal government would be a bad thing? The loss of McCarthy and the death of Senator Diane Feinstein has a big blow for federal water policy in the west.
Amaral moderated an ACWA forum at Harris Ranch recently and he said it was a success. I’d agree. On a similar note the sign ups for the Friant board retreat is way up. He asked if anyone is going to back out to please get him that info so they can manage the hotel block.
Phillips noted the week of February 5th Friant wants to take a trip to Washington DC. He said if any directors want to go please let him or Amaral know. He also said even with a government shutdown essential functions such as water and power are still operating.
Superintendent Chris Hickernell reported equipment and chemical needs. He said clearing the drain ditches and bridge repairs should be completed if not this month very soon. He said despite the prorate the turnout schedule will stand unless they hear different. He said 1.3 million a/f was delivered in the Friant system so far this past water year. When the dewatering comes the meters will be refurbished. He said the non-accident record is 2,502 days. Good for him.
Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley
Austin Ewell reported the new Senator Laphonza Butler has so far retained Feinstein’s staff but this is not carved in stone. On the Blueprint side, there was a good interaction with urban water agencies. There were partnership opportunities that led to Phillips getting to speak at the Orange County Water Conference and that led to interest from Metropolitan Water District. Good for them. The next big Blueprint meeting will be held at next month’s ACWA meeting. There will be a farmer to farmer summit in Sacramento next week between San Joaquin Valley growers and the Delta growers. This is something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time. There will be another such gathering based in the Valley in the not too far from now future.
Phillips wanted to clarify the Orange County Water Conference was hosted by local, municipal water districts. He participated in a panel discussion about what hasn’t been built since the plan was put forth in the 1950s. He was asked to discuss what has happened to farming in California since the peripheral canal was halted. He said there were 100s of folks there and it was a good connection for the Valley. He said the Southern California urban districts are on the knives’ edge of disaster. Had 2023 not been wet the Valley would have had to give water to Southern California since the Colorado River supply is uncertain. The Biden biops for the Delta are going to be worse than ever. There is 50 to 100 million a/f of storage in the Valley and the South could use this if the conveyance is in place. This is what the Blueprint can do and Friant can benefit greatly.
He said the Fish Friendly Diversions were called French drains and that was an item of interest in Southern California. It sounded like some of the urban districts are interested in partnering on a pilot project and that is very good news.
Phillips said the upcoming retreat will have an open session on the first day but the following days will be mostly closed session. There will be the history of Friant and some talk about the new biops. Chuck Gardner of Hallmark and Scott Hamilton of the Blueprint will be presenting updates. Phillips said financial support for the Blueprint is very much needed and it is a good investment in advocacy.
There is of course, a tremendous amount of hostile activity in the Middle East and his son is not underwater on a submarine at this time. His daughter is playing volleyball and she is leading the stats on “kills.” Phillips said if the government shuts down there will be a number of federal employees complaining about not working or getting paid. But as a former federal employee he said they do get back pay. That was the end of open session at an early 11:22am. Go be good to yourself.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide it’s clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete. Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.
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, Superintendent Chris Hickernell and Attorney Don Davis.