The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at its Farmersville headquarters. I read an article this morning by Victor Davis Hansen where he wrote within the last year for every new federal regulation enacted more than 60 were removed. That’s a pretty good ratio and I wonder what it would look like if the State of California were to follow suit. The folks in Sacramento probably added more than 60 new regulations for everyone removed. Anyway, KDWCD Chairman Don Mills called the meeting to order at about 9:00 am and things got moving.
General Manager Mark Larsen reported last month was a very busy time and there are many things to report on. The directors were sternly warned to turn in their Form 700s, financial statements as required by law. Actually, they were asked nicely. There were no pubic comments, the consent calendar was passed and Kent Jensen of M. Green & Company gave the audit report. I’ve sat through a few of these over the years and Jensen gave one of the best verbal presentations I’ve heard. First off, he spoke in an animated manner. So many CPAs evidently never enrolled in a speech course. They drone on, monotone, audience eyes glazing over as their breath becomes slow, shallow, even. So, by contrast Jensen was a rock concert. In a land where there is no legal requirement for the board of a public entity to sit through a verbal report – I’d have to say his presentation was an asset to his firm. I didn’t read along with the report but I didn’t hear anything about any problems. KDWCD had $3 million in “profit” but it wasn’t all sitting in the bank. But a good portion of this value was transferred to assets such as equipment and such. Retirement benefits were mentioned but they were not characterized as a problem but rather an item any responsible organization would stay aware of for the future.
Jensen brought along Mary Quillin who reported on federal awards programs and said the only crucial matter was the $800,000 of grant money spent. It was all clean. If I understood correctly you can get a bazzillion dollars of federal grant money and leave it in the bank and no one cares until you spend some of it. Quillin did a pretty good job of explaining this with passion and clarity. All in all the report was very favorable towards Kaweah Delta’s fiduciary responsibility. Larsen asked the board to form a small, ad hoc committee to overlook the district’s investments and make recommendations on how to improve them. No one jumped up to volunteer so Mills nominated himself and Vice Chair Chris Tantau – which was immediately made into a motion, a second and an approval as fast as you’d like. So, that’s taken care of.
The water report was next and the Kaweah River snow pack is 39 percent of April 1st average. One wonders why the bench mark date was set on April Fool’s day. This could go either way but there is some optimism. Larsen said he was home this weekend when he heard the distinct sound of one of those cloud seeder planes. I think they are converted WW II bombers. It started raining and he checked, sure enough it was a seeded event. There was good snowfall at the San Joaquin River watershed from this last storm but no official announcements yet. The Friant Division of the Central Valley Project has received a 30 percent Class I allotment that may change after this storm and the predicted storm coming in later this week are taken into account. Larsen said there has been some unreleased SJR restoration flow water available to sell and the board agreed to sell 68 a/f from San Luis Reservoir to Arvin Edison WSD at $70 per. Engineer Dennis Keller said there is 1,040 a/f of Class I carryover still in storage.
Tantau reported on the recent Friant Water Authority meeting and said retired US Bureau of Reclamation engineer Allen Stroppini was hired to work on the Friant Kern Canal subsidence problem. Tantau also went to Washington DC with FWA CEO Jason Phillips to drum up support on federal legislation favorable to common sense operations. Friant is also interviewing for a new CFO.
Keller gave a Temperance Flat update saying most of the press is focused on the Prop One application by the California Water Commission. He said this type of grant is more of an investment exercise that resulted in no communication between the applicants and the DWR reviewers. This didn’t work well and not one single applicant would receive any money. Of course the enviros got all giddy over this but hopefully for naught. This triggered an appeal and the applicants came in with revisions to help clarify the situation. A further decision will be made and hopefully this will be an improvement in communicating the public benefit ratios. Moving on from that subject – how will the new dam be operated? There will be more yield and how will that be used? Moved, stored? There is a lot of more work needs be done. The engineering firm Stantec has to improve the modeling for more variables to cover this. Keller said there is push back on the Investors MOU from the westside. He said the Exchange Contractors won’t sign unless the language is changed. Other participants like Chowchilla Water District also want to change the MOU.
Mills asked about Prop One reviews and Keller said even the evaluators can’t talk with each other. Most grants have known scoring criteria the applicants can strive to match. In this cast the Water Storage Investment Program or WSIP was flying blind in many ways. Wow. The WSIP portion equals 30 percent of the score and there is no provisions for any appeal or review for the other 70 percent of the score. Given what is taking place that sounds scary to me. I asked Keller if he sees the same steaming pile of problems for the other 70 percent of the application. He said the remaining 70 percent of the application is I a much more familiar format. Good to know.
Under the topic of future recharge Keller also reported on the Oakes and Paregien Basin Projects and there is progress. One of the sites needs new guard rails along the road and they actually have to get a permit to install these. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise to me. Larsen reported on the Hannah Ranch Project saying the right combination of earth moving equipment is now in place and very productive. Keller gave some more detail to the progress saying there is a crop of beans on the site that must be harvested in a couple of months before the final geotech work is completed. Larsen said there is a chance to save a substantial amount of money should a financing option become available on the equipment. I did not fully understand this scenario but an ad hoc committee (the Phase II Committee) was established to give staff the opportunity to keep closer communication with the board because this is an expensive project. Directors Jeff Ritchie and Ron Clark were swept up in the committee appointment frenzy and will now also have to drive tractors on the weekends.
A review of grants was next. Staff put together a spreadsheet of the 16 grants the district is involved in. Included where amounts, spending, time lines and more informative data. It was a good way to keep track of what’s happening. So much of what gets paid for comes from a system where the government takes money from the productive citizens, spends a bunch of it and then allows the same productive citizens to compete to get part of it back.
The report about the Terminus Dam Power Project was next and there is a ramp up taking place during the start of the irrigation season. It was said the renewable energy market is dismal and appears that way for as far as can be seen. There are water rights related to this and it costs $10,000 per year to maintain them.
Larsen then reported on Greater Kaweah GSA saying the $1.5 million grant has come through to be divided with the GKGSA and the other two GSAs for GSP development. The money won’t be available until 2019 so the budgeting reflects that. Larsen has been acting manager and he said getting a full time GSA manager process has begun. Larsen said he hopes to get a decent amount of local talent and maybe some outside as well. There has been requests to modify the GSA boundaries to the southwest side of the GSA where there are well fields. The tech advisory committee is looking into this. The tech advisory members got together with the public last week to discuss coordination. GEI engineer/consultant Larry Rodriguez will head up this effort. Tulare ID used a helicopter to hoist a machine using magnetic impulses to tract underground streams. It has been proposed the entire Kaweah Sub Basin should follow suit. Another proposal was using the Davis Engineering’s evapotranspiration data to model for the entire sub basin. What years should be used for the baseline was discussed but accounting for water was the most complex issue brought up at the recent tech advisory committee. Canal loss is a big issue. Who gets the credit for the water? The folks who paid to import the surface water or the owner of the canal or the landowner? Yep, there is a lot of talk to come about this. Mills said it has be determined what is legal and fair and the best path to stay out of adjudication.
The next meeting will be April 3rd and the meeting went into closed session.
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Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District
2975 N. Farmersville Blvd.
Farmersville, California 93223
Board of Directors
Don Mills – President, Chris Tantau – Vice-President, Ron Clark, Stan Gomes, Jeff Ritchie, Mike Shannon & Brian Watte
Office and Field Staff
Chemical Applicator/Equipment Operator – Jim Mudford
Equipment Operators – Jesus Sandoval, Chris Bell & Tommy Crosswy
Equipment Operator/Mechanic – Ryon Van Essen
Hydrographer/River Operator – Jose Rivas & Rick Avila
Water Master – Victor Hernandez
Senior Equipment Operator – Tom Dilbeck & Doyle Pettyjohn
Accountant – Shelly Heier
Administrative Assistant – Kim Hollis
Board Coordinator – Anita Wilson
Office Assistant – Kathleen Halvorsen
Engineering Technician – Matthew Jacobus
Bruce George – Special Projects Consultant
Dennis Keller – Civil Engineer (Keller/Wegley Consulting Engineers)
Aubrey Mauritson – Attorney (Ruddell, Cochran, Stanton, Smith & Bixler, LLP)
Richard “Dick” Moss – Civil Engineer (Provost & Pritchard Consulting Group)
Shelley Orth – Editor/Wordsmith
From the Kaweah Delta website:
The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District (KDWCD) was formed in 1927, under the provisions of California state law known as the Water Conservation Act of 1927, for the purpose of conserving and storing waters of the Kaweah River and for conserving and protecting the underground waters of the Kaweah Delta. Later the Water Conservation Act, as well as the purpose of the District, was expanded to include power generation and distribution.
The District is located in the south-central portion of the San Joaquin Valley and lies in portions of both Tulare and Kings Counties. The total area of the District is about 340,000 acres with approximately 255,000 acres located in the western portion of Tulare County and the balance, or 85,000 acres, in the northeastern portion of the Kings County.
The Districts lands are primarily agricultural in nature, although the cities of Visalia and Tulare constitute significant areas of urbanization. Farmersville is the other incorporated area. The population of the District is currently estimated to be in excess of 175,000 people with the principle crops being cotton, misc. field crops, deciduous fruit and nut trees as well as alfalfa.
Numerous public and private entities within the District’s boundaries divert water from the Kaweah River and its distributaries. Nearly all of the lands served with Kaweah River water also are served irrigation water from groundwater, primarily due to the erratic and relatively undependable nature of flow on the Kaweah River. All municipal and industrial water uses within the District are supplied from groundwater.
KDWCD and Tulare Irrigation District (TID), which lies entirely within the boundaries of the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, has a long-term contract with the federal Central Valley Project (CVP) for water from the Friant Division of the CVP. TID has historically received substantial quantities of CVP water surplus to the demands of the District which augment the Kaweah River supply.
The District and the Kaweah River groundwater basin have experienced long-term groundwater overdraft estimated in 2007 to be as much as 40,000 acre-feet per year. The District has performed multiple studies of groundwater data to determine the extent and volume of groundwater overdraft within its boundaries. There are currently over 40 recharge basins within the District covering approximately 5,000 acres. While KDWCD owns and operates many of these groundwater recharge basins, it does not provide water banking services for others.