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Friant Water Authority September 12, 2022

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By Don A. Wright

The Friant Water Authority held its Monday, September 12, 2022 Executive Committee meeting on Mircodot Teams and at its Lindsay headquarters. The meeting began in closed session at 8:30am for a total of 12 possible items of interest. At the scheduled 10:00am open session start, the committee and its legal crew had yet to come up for air. That did happen at 10:22am.

The Meeting

Chairman Cliff Loeffler asked for public comment and there was none. The minutes were approved  without comments. The first thing after the housekeeping items was a report by Ian Buck Macleod. He said there was a little monsoonal action last month and there might have been between a quarter to one inch in the upper San Joaquin River watershed from the remnants of Hurricane Kay. There were records being set by the heat wave California has recently experienced. We used to call that summer but now it’s known as climate change. It seems to me we’re getting August weather in September. I’m not a meteorologist but I predict the next climate change will bring about fall type weather anywhere from within two to three months before the first of January. San Luis storage is up for this time of year but any allocation increase is on hold. With the heat came more dry conditions that legitimately brought about caution on storage. The Jones Plant is back to three pumps, or units.

Macleod said there is hope for a better than average fall. There is nothing more to report on unreleased reclamation flows but that the Friant contractors need to put another 26,000 a/f into their schedules because you can’t carry over this water. There is supposed to be 152,000 a/f coming downstream from the upper hydropower storage on the San Joaquin River. There has been some debris problems from the fires causing troubles with this. The US Bureau of Reclamation isn’t expected to increase any allocations at this point of the year without a big fall rain. The gears are grinding to prepare for recapturing restoration flows later this fall. He didn’t have an estimated amount of how much water that could yield and it depends on how much the upstream districts can pump back.

CEO Jason Phillips asked how much water we’ll get this year and wanted to know what the pig spleens show. Lower Tule River ID Director Tom Barcellos wasn’t available for comment since he wasn’t at the meeting but in the past he has shown some pretty convincing evidence dissected hog parts are as reliable weather predictor as many other more “scientific” methods. MacLeod said there is a triple dip La Nina shaping up over the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Like many weather and climate indicators it could portend either extra wet or extra dry or normal precipitation. Director Josh Pitigliano said the Old Farmers Almanack shows a wet winter.

Phillips gave the San Luis Delta Mendota report since CFO Wilson Orvis was attending the SLDM finance committee as this meeting was taking place. Phillips said there could be a new consultant for Delta science but the cost should be minimal.Technoflo

CEO Report

Phillips said he heard a great sermon yesterday but since it’s not on the agenda he’ll keep the meeting short by not repeating it. He reported the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley has written a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about his water strategy. It points out the gov’s plan includes many positive suggestions and then turns around and it writes off one million acres of farmland to retirement. The Blueprint was created to present the Valley’s positions on water. There is interest from other SJV groups and elected officials in signing on to the letter. There is an effort underway to bring together the Blueprint with other interested parties, DWR and the administration to discuss things with Antonio Villaraigosa from Newsom’s office. The former Los Angeles Mayor was appointed by Newsom to serve as infrastructure advisor – I guess so the Gov doesn’t have to figure out how to spend all the federal money by himself. Not a bad gig. Good for Villaraigosa. The press release said the appointment was made on August 11th and stated there is $120 million federal for transportation projects. It’d be interesting to know Villaraigosa’s take on if whether or not the $25 million earmarked for High on Speed Rail to spend on design work for the Merced Extension might not be better spent as part of the $20 million slated to go to the Port of Los Angeles’s Terminal Island Grade Separation? It makes me wonder why the railway from Merced to Bakersfield that no one not directly at the trough even wants, gets any of this money let alone $5 million more than the major port in California that needs improvement to function adequately let alone compete internationally. Which project benefits California more? Which project makes America stronger?

There is a trip to Washington DC at the end of the month for Friant. That just so happens to be when the Family Farm Alliance, the California Tree Fruit Associations and some other groups are going back there at the same time as well. So they should get some traction together to reach the intended audience with their message, we need water related infrastructural improvements.

COO Johnny Amaral said the time to sign up for the November 14-17th board retreat in Paso Robles at Allegretto’s is soon approaching. Phillips said this is a good time to include the alternate directors to get everyone up to speed. Then Phillips said something about something else and I didn’t catch it before they adjourned earlier than usual at 10:56 am.

Other Stuff

Some other things that have caught my attention lately include:

Westlands Water District held its 70th Birthday celebration at KVPT Channel 18, the Valley’s Public Television station on Thursday, September 8th. Two films by producer Jim Thebaut of The Chronicles Group where screened; “Beyond the Brink” – showing the importance of the San Joaquin Valley agriculture to the earth’s food supply and  “California’s Watershed Healing” showing how better forest management can improve the yield of watersheds while improving the habitat at the same time. After the screenings there was a panel discussion led by KVTP’s CEO Jeff Aiello. Thebaut, Erik Wilson of My Job Depends on Ag and Laura Ramos Associate Director of Research & Education, California Water Institute at Fresno State University all spoke on the film and what’s next for Valley agriculture. The films and the panel discussion should be airing on Channel 18 soon.

A national podcast on dairies in the San Joaquin Valley by California Milk Producers Council’s Geoff Vanden Heuvel “I put 2,500 to 3,000 miles a month of my truck just driving up and down the Valley going to water meetings, and to see what’s been built here is just incredible and marvelous,” said Vanden Heuvel in a Dairy Defined podcast. “We’re running the risk of losing that if we don’t do some things intelligently.”

The statewide meeting for California Women for Agriculture was held in Fresno this past weekend in conjunction with their major participatory role at the Ag One Foundation’s annual BBQ fundraiser which was Sunday September 11th. The meeting was Friday and Saturday at the Fresno County Farm Bureau headquarters. I was able to include the Saturday afternoon session and it was great to meet ladies from all over California who step out of their regular duties as wives, mothers, single ladies and generously share their passion for agriculture. I came away inspired and energized.

The Ag One BBQ was an outstanding event. Always seem to underestimate the attendance so let me put it this way – no way there was less than 1,000 or more than half a million folks gathered to support the Jordan College of Agriculture at Fresno State University. FSU President Dr. Saul Jimenez-Sandoval gave a stirring speech about the importance of water to the area. He cited the leadership Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley plays in feeding the nation and world. Good for him. One fact I forgot to mention in the original draft of this report was that a custom, hand-made hat from Nichols Hat Company sold at the fund raising auction for more than $1,700. Nichols Hat Company is locally owned and operated. That’s some chapeau, or chapeaux as they spell it in Louisiana.


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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, 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.

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