The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its board of directors meeting at its Farmersville headquarters and GoToMeetings on March 7, 2023. After many years, as long as I can remember (a more precise timeline will be forthcoming) Mark Larsen has been the General Manager of KDWCD. He is now the GM of the Greater Kaweah GSA after Eric Osterling had to move from that position. I’m not sure who or if they’ve hired a new GM. Larsen is still listed as on today’s agenda.
At 9:05am Director and Vice Chair Chris Tantau was running the meeting as Chairman Don Mills was absent. Larsen was still in his seat and he had some bad news – John Kirkpatrick passed away last week. He was as Larsen said, a water giant. You can read about Kirkpatrick in Mark Arax’s book The Dreamt Land.
Water Master Vic Hernandez said all metrics are above average for snowfall and storage, like 215 percent to date on the Kaweah River. He said there is a wet and warmer storm coming in soon. There is an Airborne Snow Observatory flight scheduled for today. There’s been too much cloud cover lately to fly. Hernandez said they will try to get a couple of more flights in before May.
Engineer Dennis Keller said the freeze level will be above 5,000 feet and it is expected to have as much as three plus inches of rain above 3,000 feet. Larsen showed photos of the snow levels at Shaver Lake and people have been trapped in their homes.
Larsen reported Kaweah Delta is working on as much recharge as possible and the district will recharge in channel if the owner is willing to pay for it. This was going to be Friant water but they got outbid. However, this opportunity is still there before this year is over and the Delta View Association is very interested. Larsen reported along with Attorney Aubrey Mauritson they have rewritten the deal.
There are three priorities: turnouts, landowners who can pump from canals and in channel, or district basins recharge on their behalf. Larsen said there are many landowners willing to pay for water that wouldn’t normally be available. The CVP water that was lost went down south and the price was $500 a/f. A member of the audience, I think Johnny Gailey from Delta View spoke up saying it only takes a few hours to sell this water locally or lose it. So, the idea is to have this set up in advance so when the opportunity arises they can immediately act. Good for them.
Larsen said Kaweah Delta is ready to start putting water anywhere it can, expects to max out its storage and recharge and is ready to give landowners the ability to pump on their land for recharge. There is a $500 one-time administration cost but the water has already been paid for, the Kaweah River water, not the out of area supplies. The board agreed to the changes in the program. Larsen reminded folks the number of pumps at rental companies is limited.
Keller said there is now a 70 percent Class II on the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project. Tantau asked what the uncontrolled season might look like. Keller said he expects a lot of water going down the San Joaquin River. There are some problems at Friant Dam on Millerton Lake and only two out of four valves available to send water to the Friant Kern Canal are working. And course, the Friant Kern Canal is being repaired and modified near the Tulare/Kern County line. Keller said a lot depends on the ASO report. He said China Peak by Huntington Lake has more snow than Mammoth Mountain. That may be a first ever.
Keller said there still has yet to be a full allotment on the South of Delta side of the CVP. Many of these storms have not hit the North State and Shasta Lake and the Trinity River don’t have as full supplies. He does expect Shasta to hit the all-important four million acre feet storage this year. That means senior rights holders will get their supplies without having to reroute other supplies.
Larsen said the US Bureau of Reclamation has been releasing carryover water from Millerton Lake first. There are some additional supplies for transfer to local agencies to pass on to farmers and recharge. This was approved by the board.
Tantau represents Kaweah Delta on the Friant Water Authority board. Larsen gave a status report and said FWA will hold an April 13th Annual Meeting near Visalia. That’s going to be a fun one and informative.
Larsen said there has been some problems with the storm flows flushing out parts of the construction on the FKC and we’ll see what happens this weekend but no major problems have occurred or will. Tantau said the budget is still on track and the new turnouts are almost ready. Keller said during the repair course there was only 900 and something cfs. He said the Friant staff stepped up and sandbagged the banks allowing for flow. Good for them.
Keller reported the turnout on the Friant Kern Canal has passed inspection by the State. He said that puts the project on the performance mode instead of the catch up to deadline mode. He called that good news and saved the district a good deal of money. Right now the construction site is wet and work has halted but the schedule compliance will allow for this work to be made up later in the year. Some water can be brought onto the ranch for recharge, maybe 100 a/f, but the conveyance to the recharge area isn’t ready. This will be available for flow control. Project Manager Shane Smith said things have progressed well enough to keep the grant funds in place without a penalty. The State did take into account the unusual weather conditions. Smith said DWR wants to spotlight this project as a success.
Keller reported there still needs to be fencing and guardrails along the road and he hopes to get the meters calibrated soon. Before there wasn’t enough water to raise the level to reach the meter in the feed ditch.
The other parts of this project are the check structure and an inlet/outlet structure. The structures are in an area impacted by the irrigation run and won’t be accessible until that has finished. Smith said the construction company was told to move on, work somewhere else and be prepared to come back after the irrigation run this summer. Rip rap is a consideration during wet years. Rip rap is busted concrete and rock that is used to stabilize banks to prevent erosion. So far there has been enough rip rap to go around.
Greater Kaweah GSA
Next Larsen said there will be a board meeting next Monday the 13th. He said there are lots of calls about the dashboard and water management. He said it’s a fine line because he doesn’t advise farming but does give suggestions for water management. GKGSA has been awarded the Land Flex grant. He said DWR is moving faster than he’s ever seen. He said if anyone is going to fallow land they have to make that decision yesterday and DWR is aware. DWR will be coming to the area (three GSAs were awarded) to help explain the program to growers. There are some problems with red tape that need to be explained.
Larsen said as for the 800-pound gorilla in the room; DWR gave the Greater Kaweah GSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan an inadequate determination on the plan turned in last July. There were three problems: defining what a significant effect on groundwater is, how it will be measured and how subsidence is going to be addressed adequately. There are big data gaps throughout the Valley that make definitive findings very difficult.
The GSP has been passed to the State Board. Larsen said the feedback is this; DWR isn’t going away and the State Board doesn’t want to have to manage the subbasin. I don’t think they are really able to as they won’t have the necessary data either and no one has ever done this before. Larsen said the State Board isn’t setting a hearing and as long as the GSAs are determined and proactive he’s optimistic this will work out. There will be a meeting between the State Board, DWR and the three Kaweah Subbasin GSA managers in the next week.
Larsen did say it is frustrating to be redoing paperwork instead of implementing solutions. He said of the 12 GSPs releases six of them didn’t pass. They were all in the Southern San Joaquin Valley. This is ground zero. The six plans who passed were either not in the Valley or in an area like the Kings Subbasin with better surface supplies. Mauritson said there were thousands of pages and boxes to check and if you didn’t get it correct. . . Larsen said there was an incident with a page in the plan that has the word preliminary on it. That word was supposed to have been removed but DWR remarked it showed a lack of commitment and contributed to the inadequate determination.
Tantau asked what the GSAs response on the ground will be. Mauritson and Keller both said the GSA is obligated to continue with its plan. Larsen said when the plan was first submitted the state had two-years to evaluate it but the GSA is obligated to implement it. Mauritson said the state isn’t trash canning the entire plan. The state realizes it can’t do any better. Larsen said he and Michael Hagman and Aaron Fukuda, the other GSA managers are working well together.
Fukuda said when he’s talked with DWR and the State Board there are two different evaluations, GSPs and implementation report in 2025. He sees room for a train wreck of permanent limbo of incomplete plans running projects. Larsen said there are concerns since these are DWR concerns will the State Board pile on its own fears. Keller reminded everyone the State Board’s comments to DWR during the GSP comment period were different than what DWR was worrying about. Ouch.
Next Larsen talked about forming a Joint Powers Authority for the Greater Kaweah. He said the first draft had Tulare County as the lead agency. There were some problems with that and a revision to place the St. Johns River group in that roll. There were also some further changes to the JPA bylaws. Having the County as the treasurer/auditor of the JPA wasn’t as flexible as would be needed. He said Tulare County did a fine job but isn’t in a position to fulfil that position as quickly, I believe was the need. KDWCD approved the changes and they will be sent back to the JPA.
Kaweah Water Foundation
Sarah Rutherford reported the KWF plan was approved and is moving on with implementation. The KWF had a board meeting last week and hired additional help. The consulting portion was covered by bringing on some more IT help and for some reason someone from the Davis area of the state* has been brought on. Rutherford said the KWF is having EQUITY conversations with the State Board and even though this a ridiculous, impossible goal in a free society, she said it is better for the area to talk it out with them in Sacramento. She’ll be in Sacramento for the rest of the week. I don’t know her and I don’t know all that much about KWF. But Rutherford appears to be enjoying the support and confidence of the board. Good for her.
Multi Benefit Land Repurposing
Larsen said the project is moving forward. He’s been talking with consultants about putting the program together and must include a great deal of outreach to disadvantaged communities. It’s a $10 million grant to convert farmland to solar, habitat or other usage that uses less water. That $10 million is for the entire subbasin and that’s not going to go far.
The next meeting date will be April 4th. There are three closed session items; two litigation and one personnel involving the general manager. The open portion of the meeting stopped at 10:38am or at least the video stopped at that time. Now just because something is on closed session doesn’t mean it will be discussed. Listing something on the agenda allows meaningful discussion but doesn’t guarantee it will be. I’m as curious as you are who will be the new GM at Kaweah Delta.
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* Hope they can be trusted after what I saw at the Assembly hearing last week.
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Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District
2975 N. Farmersville Blvd.
Farmersville, California 93223
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, Eric Shannon & Brian Watte
Mark Larsen, General Manager – email@example.com
Terry Stafford, Facilities Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org
Debbie Vierra, Administrative/HR Coordinator – email@example.com
Larry Dotson, Senior Engineer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Shane Smith, Projects/Administrative Manager – email@example.com
Office and Field Staff
Water Master – Victor Hernandez, Office Assistant – Kathleen Halvorsen
Primary ConsultantsDennis 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.