The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its Tuesday, December 7, 2021 board meeting at its Farmersville headquarters and on GoToMeetings. It used to be the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s was a slow, peaceful chance to recharge one’s batteries. Harvest was finished for most, the heat was gone. There was pruning but even that can be a wonderful time. I have friends who would gather with their family; fathers, brothers and sons pruning the vines while the mothers, daughters and wives cooked and visited. There’s still a little bit of that seasonal slow down but it feels like it’s shrunk from a month to the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Lots of happenings lately. The State of California’s government has backed out of the not so Voluntary Agreements. The Biden administration issued a presidential order setting aside the biological opinions setting back species recovery in the Delta by decades. The State Water Resources Control Board has adopted critical race theory and will now work victim status based on race into its decisions. And so much stored water has been sent out to sea the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project may be giving ag zero allocations this year.
The meeting began at 9:00 am with Chairman Don Mills welcoming everyone.
Water Master Vic Hernandez reported a good chance of snow coming up and everyone needs it. There is supposed to be a good rain coming in Thursday and more to follow next week. If the weather stays cold it will mean more snow, which is what we really need right now.
Friant & CVP Matters
Engineer Dennis Keller reported the USBR has paid off its commitment to DWR at San Luis Reservoir and that water will go to State Water Project. He said Ernest Conant reported at ACWA conference the CVP will be at least 300,000 a/f short due to the state not paying off its Cooperative Operating Agreement. Biological opinions are going to be rolled back to Obama era settings and the progress made in the past few years will be reviewed. Lake Shasta will be back under old temperature control regulations forcing water from the Friant Division to supply the Bureau’s Exchange Contractors obligations. Keller said without a radical change in precipitation Friant is getting a zero allocation this year.
Keller said Friant is releasing 650 cfs into the San Joaquin River but it hasn’t made it to the Mendota Pool yet. The dry weather has created a very thirsty riverbed that is really hammering the channel loses. The priorities for the state are:
- 2-habitat but not wildlife refuge,
- 3-refuges comes next
- 4-at the end is CVP and SWP contractor supplies under the new reviews.
General Manager Mark Larsen reported the state has released $100 million for repairs of canals including the Friant Kern Canal. Director Chris Tantau said Friant is gearing up to fight the battle of 2022 after the battle of 2021. COO Doug DeFlitch is leaving Friant for Pennsylvania and Johnny Amaral will take his place. Due to Christmas the FWA board meeting will be this Friday.
Larson reported on the Hannah Ranch Project saying the levees are taking shape. The coffer dam on the FKC has been removed. They posted photos to show the board the progress being made on the turnout. It was unfortunate that some of the smaller pipes have been tagged by frustrated artists. But their canvas buried so that slice of vandalism will no longer be exposed. Most of the work in that intertie has been buried. There are more forms to be built for further concrete pours. Panels on the FKC have to be replaced where the coffer dam exposed the canal sides. Keller said there may have to be even more work the next time the canal is de-watered. The coffer dam is gone, the contractor took it with him as it belonged to him in the first place. The FKC wasn’t disturbed and now has a new turnout.
Keller said stop logs on other Hannah Ranch projects like the dam have been leaking and as they were made by Waterman Industries of Exeter the manufacturers will be hearing about it. It sounded like there is also a big chunk of common sense missing in dealing with Caltrans and Fish & Wildlife. There has been problems with permitting on various species and closing a portion of a road needed to complete portions of the project.
There is a contract with Nicholas Construction that needs a review but things are ready to go once that happens. The crew working on the FKC turnout is available for the next phase of the Hannah Ranch Project. Some dirt and road work needs to be completed. It is possible the Hannah Ditch construction could begin before the end of the year if I understood correctly.
Larsen put up a satellite photo of the project showing how earth could be moved along the route of the channel. He said this ran along the Rocky Hill property and the Kaweah River near McKay Point. It wasn’t clear to me if he was referring to the Rocky Hill housing development or if there is a Rocky Hill farm or ranch. Rocky Hill housing is an interesting, private community on top of a foot hill just east of Highway 65 overlooking Tooleville. I went up there once to take some photos of the Valley from the higher view but the management company wouldn’t let me in and never returned any of my calls requesting access.
Tantau asked when the Delta biops were reverted and that happened when the zero allocations were announced if I understood. Member of the public Geoff Vanden Heuvel asked Keller how the biops could be swept aside after the formal adoption that included scientific review. Keller said this was done by presidential executive order issued nominally by Biden. The biops were undone on a whim. Attorney Aubrey Mauritson said there is a lawsuit going on. Under former California Attorney General Xavier Becerra California sued over the biops because they arrived during the Trump administration. The current lawsuits are challenging the authority of Biden’s executive order as a run around to get past established law. The biops were started during the Obama administration and the heavily Democrat state apparatus had no heartburn with them in those days. Like Vanden Heuvel asked, “Why are the rules only changed when they are in our favor?” There’s no doubt this is a political decision and not based on science.
Larsen reported the flying magnetic helicopter found some clay layers near a proposed infrastructure site. Bore holes are being drilled and thanks to the flying magnet the costs were reduced by half, it sounded like. Instead of poking holes in the ground hither and yon the imagery provided by the flights was used as a guide saving extra work and money.
Consolidated People’s Ditch has sold KDWCD 40 acres to develop as a recharge site. The walnuts have been cleared and there is an existing basin next door. It looked like it is about 40 acres also and the two holes can be tied together. There is an old house on the property and for permitting reasons the basin will be dug around it.
Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency GM Eric Osterling reported there was a webinar last Friday and that will be made available on the GKGSA website. Osterling said monitoring and other needs such as allocations are shaping up. The GSA has been doing a soft launch with outreach to get stakeholder input and awareness. He expects some options will be developed in draft form and shared in January. There is a technical committee meeting being called to try for some short deadline grant funding that has to be applied for by the end of the year. The board will meet this coming Monday and review the rules and regulations proposed. Osterling said he has hired a staff member and he expects a to have to make another hire soon.
Director Brian Watte asked about the State Board letter poking into the Groundwater Sustainability Plan preparations. Osterling said the letter was addressed to the Department of Water Resources and not directly to the Kaweah Subbasin. SGMA does allow the State Board some role but its recent actions were viewed with suspicion by many.
The Kaweah Subbasin has three GSAs: the Greater Kaweah, Mid Kaweah and East Kaweah. They will be working together to put forth projects. Larsen said the three GSAs met with KDWCD and some other groups to discuss land repurposing. He said it was a good meeting and he said a MOA has been drafted. It sounded like a good attempt to get ahead of things before someone else comes along and tries to force unwanted outcomes. Osterling said this could be tied into how to utilize funds from the pumping caps.
It turned out there was nothing in closed session and the meeting adjourned at 10:17am, one of the shortest Kaweah Delta meetings in recent memory. They didn’t turn off the GoToMeeting feed and folks were wishing each other merry Christmas. Good for them and merry Christmas to you too.
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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
Terry Stafford, Facilities Manager – email@example.com
Debbie Vierra, Administrative/HR Coordinator – firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Dotson, Senior Engineer – email@example.com
Office and Field Staff
Equipment Operators – Jesus Sandoval, Chris Bell
Water Master – Victor Hernandez
Office Assistant – Kathleen Halvorsen
Bruce George – Special Projects Consultant
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.