The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its Tuesday, April 5, 2022 board of directors meeting at its Farmersville headquarters and online with that nasty old GoToMeetings. You know what else is nasty? The way the state government spends our tax dollars.
There are four people listed as working at the State Water Resources Control Board’s Press Room. Try calling any of them and getting through. I tried during the Kings River status hearing and never had anyone answer the phone. So, this morning I needed some information and tried again. Before we go any further I want to make completely clear I do not hold any of the employees listed as responsible for their phones not working. I’ve actually spoken with them and they’re good, hard working folk. And further, these are the numbers listed at www.waterboards.ca.gov so I’m not doxing anyone.
The website says Jackie Carpenter is the Director of the Press Room. Her number is 916/314-7356. Call it, it hangs up after one ring. Same thing it’s been doing for a year. Blair Robertson is listed as the Public Informational Officer (Drinking Water). His number is shared with Ailene Voisin, PIO (Water Rights). For more than a year now the 916/324-4775 number’s voice mailbox has been full and can’t take any more messages. On another page Robertson’s number is 916/341-5263 and it hasn’t got any more voicemail space to leave a message than his other number. Edward Ortiz, PIO (Water Quality) has a different number 916/327-8239 but its voice mailbox is also full. On the same page it lists the mainline to the State Board as 916/341-7365 (strikingly similar to Ms. Carpenter’s number). Call it and you won’t guess if you try for 10-years what you’ll get. A guy named George has an outgoing message saying he retired in October and no one is checking the messages. That message has been there for more than a year. I am NOT making this up.
Again, I don’t blame the press room PIOs. They are working in a dysfunctional situation. The state agency tasked with administering water rights can’t provide working telephone numbers to the people whose very job is to answer questions. In the midst of this disarray its Executive Director Eileen Sobeck has a quote on the site as of this morning stating, “There could not be a more critical challenge facing us at this time than the challenge of achieving racial equity.” https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/racial_equity/
I could think of a couple of challenges even more critical. I bet you could too. I’m going to suggest before the bureaucrats and unelected officials try to impose social engineering on us they get their phones to work in the middle of a drought. Then maybe folks might have a little more respect for our state government.
Why was I calling the State Board? Because I couldn’t get through to the governor’s office to find out about Gavin Newsom’s emergency proclamation last week that counties can’t issue well permits without the overlaying GSA attesting it won’t harm the GSP. More later.
The meeting began at 9:05am with Chairman Don Mills calling it to order. General Manager Mark Larsen said Stone Corral ID and I think Ivanhoe ID have joined together to share a new GM with Exeter ID, Gene Kilgore, who started last Friday. Former Stone Corral GM Dale West has officially retired or will soon. Poor guys been trying to get a break for a while. Former Exeter ID GM Tom Weddle is now at a public utility district down near Lake Arrowhead.
Larsen said there was an executive order last week from the Gov. He said there were three previous executive orders and this one continued them. It also gave the State Board more say so in determining ornamental turf be allowed to die. So businesses will have to let their lawns die. Larsen did confirm the order included obligating the counties to restrict any well drilling permits without permission from the overlying GSA that the new well will not hamper the GSP. Mills asked attorney Aubrey Mauritson who said the counties are scrambling to figure out how to deal with this. Tulare, Kings and Fresno Counties are meeting today about this matter. She said she thinks the counties are going to pass this on to the GSAs because they don’t want to interfere with the existing SGMA. There is an accompanying bill out there that could cement this into law. I think AB 2201, which also gets into water quality and subsidence.
Larsen said the executive order also had some language to ease the regulatory process. It didn’t specifically state CEQA, so who knows. Engineer Dennis Keller said in Tulare County the county can’t issue a permit without permission of the State Board’s Division of Drinking Water giving its OK. He said as far as he knows you can’t get an ag well permit. The AB 2201 would require a State Board permit to drill a well in California. This led to a discussion on State Senator Melissa Hurtado’s effort to replace the State Board with a Blue Ribbon Commission SB 1219. Good for her.
I asked if this executive order puts any onus on the GSA if it allows a permit and the well turns out to be viewed as harmful. Mauritson said you can be sure the GSAs will be reviewing their policies. This could open a whole can of worms. What will the results be if the legislature continues to chip away at SGMA and the urban area elects impose their ideas on the rural?
The board next reviewed what entities it wants to contribute to and how much. There’s a whole hornet’s nest attached to this on occasion. There’s a guy named Bob Reeb who heads up a group called Valley Ag Water Coalition that wouldn’t support SB 559 and that leaves a bitter taste for those on the Friant system. In any event gifts of public funds have to carefully considered. I’ve offered KDWCD to not cover their meeting for $1,500 per month, but so far no checks have arrived. And, there will be no checks for Valley Ag Water Coalition either. The board said thank you very little to that group for not supporting water conveyance in the San Joaquin Valley.
Water Master Vick Hernandez said they’re looking at maybe 35 percent of average snowpack in the Kaweah River watershed. He said he’s been talking with Marco Crenshaw from Tulare ID and TID may not run this year. Hernandez said the melt is accelerating and should peak this week. The Valley floor is looking at temperatures in the mid-90s and the freezing level will be above 14,000 feet elevation.
Larsen reported on the Central Valley Project and he said it looks like the 15 percent allocation the US Bureau of Reclamation has for the Friant is in jeopardy. That water could go to the Exchange Contractors. Friant didn’t sign the latest voluntary agreements with big concerns. Friant’s San Joaquin River supply had already had Delta outflow carved out from the SJR River Restoration program and enough is enough. Many believe the unwavering desire for ever increasing Delta outflow is to dilute the pollution the Bay Area dumps into the wild and to prevent the naturally occurring salt intrusion into the west Delta where the new development has a straw. So it is actually about saving the folks in the Bay Area money on waste and drinking water treatment. At what expense? You know.
Director Chris Tantau represents Kaweah Delta on the Friant board and he said all the Friant activities are currently centered on keeping the 15 percent allocation. Keller said there could be a conveyance problem and the Bureau might not be able to get the entire 15 percent to the Exchange Contractors down the San Joaquin River. That means it could save some of the Class I Friant supply. Maybe three percent or better. Keller also said the Bureau won’t use DWR predictions anymore and there is a move in the legislature to audit DWR’s accuracy in water supply predictions. He also cautioned the board to not undervalue any water it may offer in exchanges, sales or transfers.http://www.red-trac.com
Keller reported the turnout from the Friant Kern Canal to provide surface supplies to the Hannah Ranch recharge project is coming along well. There was no progress payment for the contractor as the invoicing was turned in too late.
Greater Kaweah GSA GM Eric Osterling said he’s working with the other GSAs and Tulare and Kings Counties on how to deal with the executive order regarding well permits. They are still working with DWR on how to amend the GSPs. He said that has been a green flag, red flag activity as DWR can’t tell them exactly what to do but can advise a direction. He said he’s looking forward to the checkered flag. The annual report was turned in on deadline which was last Friday. He said Land IQ had an in person workshop for growers and Savanah Tjaden of Provost & Pritchard explained the Dashboard she developed. There were a few other things discussed but the meeting went into closed session at 10:22am.
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Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District
2975 N. Farmersville Blvd.
Farmersville, California 93223
559/747-5601 KDWCD is part or the Greater Kaweah GSA DWR #5-022.11
Board of Directors
Don Mills – President, Chris Tantau – Vice-President, Ron Clark, Jimi Valov, Jeff Ritchie, Mike Chrisman & Brian Watte
Mark Larsen, General Manager
Terry Stafford, Facilities Manager
Debbie Vierra, Administrative/HR Coordinator
Larry Dotson, Senior Engineer
Office and Field Staff
Water Master – Victor Hernandez
Office Assistant – Kathleen Halvorsen
Dennis Keller – Civil Engineer (Keller/Wegley Consulting Engineers)
Aubrey Mauritson – Attorney (Ruddell, Cochran, Stanton, Smith & Bixler, LLP)
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.