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Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District June 7, 2022

ConterraBy Don A. Wright

The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its Tuesday, June 7, 2022 board of directors meeting at its Farmersville headquarters and on GoToMeetings. The KDWCD boardroom is big enough for 20 folks to attend and social distance according to the agenda. However, they welcome guests to attend online. The drive from my world headquarters east of Clovis is just under an hour most days so I’ve attended many Kaweah Delta meetings. However, yesterday I filled up at $5.99 per gallon so I chose to attend online this morning. A little more about that at the end of this report.

The Meeting

Chairman Don Mills called the meeting to order at 9:00am. There was no public comment and the consent calendar was passed. General Manager Mark Larsen reported on the Kaweah Water Foundation. He said Sarah Rutherford of Provost & Pritchard would be the Executive Director. Kaweah Delta will provide administrative and technical support but Kaweah Delta will be reimbursed for any expenses by the Foundation. The Foundation will engage many things like drinking water issues but KDWCD will hire and fire all employees. As the Foundation gets its legs under it new hires are expected. It will be a similar arrangement as the one with the Greater Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Office space is limited but it looks as though most of the work can be done remotely. There is a 90-day clause to terminate the agreement by either party.

A New Kind of NGO

Blake Mauritson is the chair of the Foundation. He explained the Foundation was formed due to the CV Salts program as a management zone. The funding comes from dairy and other NPDES permit holders. There are couple of packing houses and other related businesses. The Foundation will test members’ wells and help prepare for more challenges in the future. Some of the board seats include Rick Borges and Johnny Gailey, names familiar to readers of Tulare Irrigation and the Delta View Water Association reports. One of the goals is to improve the groundwater throughout the Kaweah Subbasin to the point that bottled drinking water will no longer be needed. Mauritson had a great deal of praise for Rutherford. Larsen said there is a good fit between KDWCD and the Foundation as well as the GKGSA. The board accepted the agreement between KDWCD and the Foundation.

Mills said originally the agreement was year to year but he felt the relationship needs to be committed and long-term. He also said a study by engineer Dennis Keller showed many solutions that might now be implemented.

Legislation

Next Larsen gave an update on Sacramento’s attempts to legislate a fix to everything. He said Director Chris Tantau has brought Mike Villines to the table to possibly serve as a consultant. Villines consults for many other entities including the Friant Water Authority. It’s a $60,000 per year proposal that kind of took the board back a bit. But Tantau said there could be a negotiation about the scope of services. Director Mike Chrisman suggested banding together with other entities to share the costs. Audience member Geoff Vanden Heuvel commented the ag industry continues to hire consultants aligned with the political party that doesn’t run things. He said Villines is a great guy but access from Republicans isn’t as good as some of the other options. I suggested using the same criteria to hire people to look out for you as you would when selecting a candidate to vote for. The item was tabled for further consideration.

Budget Matters

Larsen presented the board with a budget proposal. Taxes, grants and service charges are the top three earners in order of percentage of income. Expenses breakdown as about half of the money going out is spent on projects and fourth to O&M. With the rest on fixed costs. From there Larsen presented the board an itemized breakdown of the proposed draft budget. It was noted the new security cameras focused on a remote facility will hamper the ability to skinny dip privately. Also, they need new trucks and tractors and such.

An interesting story Larsen told was about the power plant at Lake Kaweah. The power plant there was sold and last year was a rough year for the new owners. You many recall a few years back the control room flooded and the facility was rebuilt to prevent that. One of the improvements was a float that showed when the tower that submerges into the lake started to take on water. That would start a pump to clear up the situation so repairs could be made. There was another float that shut off the power. Somehow or other there was a leak when the pump ran that flooded the float for the power and the plant kept shutting down. One of Kaweah Delta’s employees figured out the problem after many, many tries by the experts. I didn’t catch his full name but his first name is Jesus and . . . well, I’m not going to make a pun on how he saved the power plant.

Another consideration is how the neighborhood around the headquarters has changed. It used to be rural but growth and improvement on the roads has caused a merger between Visalia and Farmersville to begin. Larsen said he reasonably expects a large shopping center to spring up across the street. The district has property further from town that would be more suitable for a lowboy exiting with a left turn. The good news is the current property is appreciating and should be easy to sell.

There was a talk about a 218 Election but they didn’t go there today. The board did adopt the budget.

Water Supply

Next Water Master Vic Hernandez said the water coming down the main channel for the first time on this year was bubbly due to the water soaking directly into the riverbed. Mills said now you know how Lakeside feels. He represents Lakeside Irrigation Water District and it is at the end of the line. Storage at Lake Kaweah peaked yesterday a little above 119,000 a/f. The water year is above 30 percent so far.

Engineer Nick Keller filling in for his father Dennis reported the San Joaquin River deliveries to the Exchange Contractors will end in mid-July instead of the original target date of the end of September. He said this ensures a solid 15 percent allocation for the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project. He also said the Sacramento River allocation is staying at 17 percent. Folsom Reservoir is providing the Exchange Contractors obligation as there was two, big, late storms in the American and Feather River watersheds. It sounded like there may be a chance out there for an increased allocation in July.

Friant

Larsen said the big news out of Friant was its closer look at how San Luis Delta Mendota is billing it. Tantau represents Kaweah Delta on the Friant board and said the Friant Kern Canal repairs are coming along but there will be a hard stop on the canal later in the year to accommodate taking a big chunk out of the KFC to connect to a tie in with the new section.

Larsen said water quality issues along the canal is going forward also. It took a long time to come up with an agreement palatable to all parties. Non-San Joaquin River water will be tested before and after it’s introduced to the FKC whether by gravity or pump. There are communities dependent on FKC water for domestic purposes and towards the furthest downstream contractors silt can build up that slows recharge at banking sites. Attorney Aubrey Mauritson pointed out this is voluntary agreement and will require the US Bureau of Reclamation to buy in as well. Keller said this is different than the Warren Act contracts. He said this guideline is for pumping into the canal and will help with the planned pump back portion of the FKC. There isn’t a consensus from all the Friant contractors according to Keller.

Hannah Ranch

Keller said Highway 245 will be shut down next Tuesday so don’t drive down that road for a while, like more than a year. The FKC turnout will be finished mid-July. There are two 70 inch pipes running under the road and Caltrans requires the entire portion to backfilled with slurry. Highway 245 connects Woodlake to Farmersville and Exeter.

Engineer Larry Dotson reported on the Paregien Basin project and the CEQA and other investigations have been completed. He said for the first time he’s encountered a burial treatment agreement with the Santa Rita Native American tribe over artifacts. I remember when this law was written. It keeps Indian burial ground locations secret to prevent souvenir hunters or others from violating the site. Tribes can’t disclose the location of the sites but they can help if some bones or something turn up. The board went into a special hearing and approved the mitigated negative declaration. In 30-days the State will issue the CEQA clearance. Keller said so far $30,000 was spent on an archeological study to find a cow bone.

State Mischief

Larsen spoke about the Governor’s executive order a bit and the State Board reviewed and upheld an emergency resolution that lawns can’t be watered. He said the HQ’s lawn is going to turn brown. KDWCD also got a $10 million grant to study fallowing land to reduce water demand. The Tule Subbasin also got $10 million for the same thing.

Greater Kaweah GSA

GKGSA Executive Director Eric Osterling reported there was a recent CNN story about west Goshen domestic wells and the GSA wasn’t contacted, of course. Stanford released a report showing a study about how much of the subsidence started well before the GSAs are formed. Osterling said the $10 million grant for land repurposing is going to be very helpful. The Rules and Regulations update is being written up by Mauritson. He said he’s in contact with Land IQ about accuracy and redundancy corrections. He said the GSP review is being coordinated with DWR. He said DWR can’t recommend rewrites but can give red and green lights, however they’re getting a bunch of yellow lights.

Mills said he wants to see the rules and regs ready for the July meeting and neither Mauritson nor Osterling thinks that can happen. Mauritson said the GSP rewrite is sucking all the oxygen out of the room. Mills said he’s losing his hair over this.

Osterling reported Diana England at Tulare County has been helpful and the well permits are now up and running fairly smoothly. Kings County is requiring notarization of the GSA well permit review. No one has anything good to say about that move by the county. In response KDWCD’s Kathleen Halverson has gone out and got her notary public certificate. Good for her. The meeting then went into closed session at 11:17am.

 

Election Day

The more than $75 to fill my tank I mentioned earlier reminds me today is Election Day. Why is gas so expensive? We have plenty of domestic fuel. Kern County is a major player in oil production, or it could be if allowed. Why is the cost of fertilizer and other inputs so high, and while I’m at it, what’s up with baby formula? We have a transportation infrastructure from the ports to the railroads to trucking terminals to Interstate Highways. I recall our Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg taking maternity leave while hundreds of cargo ships were anchored offshore in Southern California. Why does the State of California’s government lurch from one drought/wildfire disaster to the next? Does anyone seriously believe climate change prevents an engaged and responsible government from preparing for the inevitable instead of blaming it? We have a reservoir system that can see us through, depending on who you ask, a minimum of three-years of drought or more. Here’s something to ponder – the cost of five miles of high on speed rail would pay to refurbish the state’s water infrastructure system. It’s pretty obvious on the state and federal level the emperor is naked.

In my experience and I hope yours as well most of the folks working for the government work hard and are honest. Yet leadership hides behind COVID and despite a purported $90 billion surplus it’s still difficult to get a telephone answered by a living human being in Sacramento. By and large the bureaucracy is run by non-elected/appointed officials. Some of them can inject a little hell on the rest of us day by day and a lot of hell on us occasionally.

Who appoints these people? Elected officials. When you choose to place your vote in favor of a candidate consider if this person sees government as a force to social engineer and transform society in an image unrecognizable under our constitution or an exalted position to bestow favors and conflates privileges as rights. Do they respect freedom of speech and hold moral positions on the sanctity of life? What’s their stand on the dignity and quality of life for women and children to be free from men pretending to be something they are not and demanding access to women’s restrooms, locker rooms and even jail cells? Are they even courageous enough to acknowledge such a basic truth as a difference between the sexes? Do they see skin color and ethnic origin over quality of character? I guess what I’m asking here is, “Does the candidate adhere to the concept of absolute truth or does he or she believe in the magical thinking of relative truth?”

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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

Email: kaweah@kdwcd.com

www.kdwcd.com

Board of Directors

Don Mills – President, Chris Tantau – Vice-President, Ron Clark, Jimi Valov, Jeff Ritchie, Mike Chrisman & Brian Watte

Management

Mark Larsen, General Manager – mlarsen@kdwcd.com

Terry Stafford, Facilities Manager – tstafford@kdwcd.com

Debbie Vierra, Administrative/HR Coordinator – dvierra@kdwcd.com

Larry Dotson, Senior Engineer – ldotson@kdwcd.com

Shane Smith, Projects/Administrative Manager – ssmith@kdwcd.com

Office and Field Staff
Water Master – Victor Hernandez
Office Assistant – Kathleen Halvorsen

Primary Consultants

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.

 

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