By Don A. Wright
The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its board of directors meeting at its Farmersville headquarters on Tuesday, May 2, 2023. It was in person only, no online so the room was packed. On the verge of standing room only. Was it because of the audit report? Also I must be off the good guys list because I did not receive the press release informing the world Shane Smith is the new General Manager. Good for him. The previous GM Mark Larsen, who has been GM for as long as I can recall, is now the head of the Greater Kaweah GSA. Eric Osterling, who was the GM for the GKGSA is now the Assistant GM for Laguna Irrigation District. Got it?
Chairman Don Mills called the meeting at 9:00am and Smith asked if there were any public comments. There were none. The next thing I knew some young man gave the audit report. The agenda said the firm was M. Green & Company. He did a very good job. He was animated and hit the highlights without all the gobble-d-gook. He went a little too long but KDWCD is in the clear and received the best rating possible. One point I found interesting is with all the flooding the staff has been working overtime and the young man told the board to be aware of the accrued benefits costs. I suspect that’s something all districts should keep an eye on. The board approved the audit report.
Watermaster Vic Hernandez said it was a little easier to manage April than March. The amount of water moving through the district is 200 percent of average. He said the Army Corps of Engineers have done a good job of releasing flood water and preserving irrigation water. Based on 2017 the releases currently are a little high when all the SGMA recharge is figured in. They are cutting back releases by 300 cfs which will be felt in the Tulare Lake bottom as less inflow. He said there is no spill expected on the Kern River and the Tule River is under control.
Engineer Dennis Keller said most of the high country snow was unaffected by the recent heat wave and it was hot this past weekend. In the high 90s at my place. Smith added if there were any flood questions now was a good point in the agenda to ask. There were none.
Smith reported to the board there is grant funding available to help mitigate and address flooding. There is the usual red tape between FEMA and the state. Mills asked if this will take a month, a year or a decade to get the money. Smith said the word is to wait for FEMA a while until the true impact of the flooding is known. There is a 90-day window from the filing of the application and seven phases from application to receiving funds. Director Chris Tantau asked Keller if he had experience will FEMA flood paperwork and of course he did. Keller said to plan on a while before the check is sent 20-mule team.
Smith said DWR has an emergency pump program to disperse pumps through a Rain for Rent contract. DWR will pay for the installation and maintenance. The program will also allow the replacement of bad pumps for good. The contract is through the districts. Tulare ID’s GM Aaron Fukuda said while the contract is through the districts the pumps can be placed to directly benefit landowners. The issues within the governor’s executive order limits where the pumped water can go. No dairy land for instance. Smith said DWR is eager to go. The board agreed to participate. Director Brian Watte asked if since this is California do the pumps have to be solar powered. Fukuda said Fresno ID sent out a press release that showed an old shopping cart being used as a fish screen. I think that’s what he might have said.
Keller said the biggest inflow going on is at the Central Valley Project’s Lake Shasta. There will be more than five million acre feet there before it’s over. The Feather River is a big producer this year. It flows into Lake Oroville. The San Joaquin and Kings Rivers usually mirror each other in yield and if I heard correctly each of these rivers could approach six million a/f. The Kings might get an additional 40,000 a/f yield. Keller expects 215 Water will be able to flow down the Friant Kern Canal even with the repairs. Fukuda asked what the 215 cost will be. The last talk with the US Bureau of Reclamation the cost of 215 is the same as Class II supplies which is higher than usual. Keller said to be careful which choice you make as the capital credits are very different. Also, there have been no 215 contracts returned from the Bureau as of this morning.
Friant Water Authority
Tantau represents Kaweah Delta on the FWA board and said the meeting last week started with more than four hours of closed session and a lot of reports on the canal repairs. Keller said the KFC will be dewatered towards the end of the year and that will hamper deliveries possible through most of December and January.
Smith reported Friant has found a USBR grant to help fund Airborne Snow Observatory flights. He said there have been three flights so far this year. He said the Tule River watershed contractors will be able to join in on the ASO. That makes the San Joaquin, Kings, Kaweah and Tule River participating. That makes a bigger pool to help spread the costs and increase the number of flights and amount of area covered. Unfortunately the Kaweah River watershed was not measured when there was almost no snow in the Sierra Nevada to establish a base.
Keller said the depth of snow is a very accurate measurement but it won’t tell you how much ice might be underneath. Hernandez said every flight is part of building a data base. There is also a dearth of snow pillows and mule skinners to physically measure the snow in the Kaweah. The board agreed to participate in the grant.
Keller said there has been some confusion of when the gates the Hannah Ranch turnouts were shipped from the Texas manufacturing facilities. They keep getting billed for the gates but haven’t received them. Or have they? There are boxes in a warehouse that might have been mislabeled and could contain the gates.
Engineer Larry Dotson reported the land for another recharge project has been secured. Evidently a black walnut orchard will have to be removed. There was talk about cornering the burl wood market. It was initially reported incorrectly this project involves the City of Visalia and its water treatment plant but it does not. The project that does involve the City does have some remaining questions about how much water can be recharged due to treatment to quality standards.
Fukuda said there are some quirky agreements required by the state. He said at a recent meeting Smith and Dotson did a good job of moving the regulators from center stage and letting the managers and engineers run the show.
Larsen reported on the issues involved. There was a series of committee meetings and new members on board. The Land Flex program has at least eight applicants from the GKGSA and the deadline has been extended. He said he gets calls about this being a wet year but the allocations are based on wet and dry years and those allocations and penalties and the rest are firm. He said all three GSAs in the Kaweah Subbasin have all been working very well together on the GSP corrections. There is a meeting with the State Board tomorrow. He said the State Board is also going through a learning process and doesn’t know quite what it wants.
Smith said Reyn Akiona from the land repurposing program was here to speak. Akiona owns Valley Eco consulting and is contracted with Kaweah Delta. He said there are four $10 million block grants for each of the four subbasins. There could be another chunk of change to add to the $40 million. He calls it the MLRP, multi-benefit land repurposing program. He said DWR packed a lot into this program. There is a planning and outreach & education program that would usually run ahead. He said the Sequoia Riverland Trust, Self Help Enterprises and PhDs from UC Merced dealing with the Socio/Environmental Network. He said much of the outreach can be done by them.
Akiona said DWR doesn’t want to see a bunch of plans sitting on a shelf in the back of the district. Instead he’d like to see a core plan that would allow for some funding by the end of the year. He said policy support for GSAs need to be developed for things like land purchases. He said time is of the essence.
Project criteria is being identified and includes having a Disadvantaged Community component and last for 10-years minimum. Landowner compensation, site selection for recharge and ecological benefits. Again he said the goal is to get this up and running quickly. He wants to concentrate on the planning. He said land acquisitions under the MLRP is doable but has some strings attached. DWR wants to see the purchase and project implemented within the grant period, three years.
Mills asked how much of the money goes to outreach and how much to projects. Akiona said the goal is three/fourths of the money goes to the projects. The board agreed.
Keller pointed out AB 1337 and said it is gaining special attention because it impacts pre-1914 water rights which is what KDWCD has. It is gaining some traction. Since under the last Brown Administration the State Board has been trying to impose curtailment on pre-1914 rights. This resulted in lawsuits and in all cases the state lost. In the past when the state loses in court the legislature changes the law.
The bill states it is meant to give the State Board full control of all water rights. AB 1337 has no co-sponsors yet it is moving. It is using the human right to water law as a guise to fill the gaps. The author Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks is from East Bay MUD which has pre-1914 rights but gets it water through pipes from Hetch Hetchy and it isn’t impacted the same as other rights holders under this proposed law.
The open session ended at 10:46am.
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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, Jimi Valov, Jeff Ritchie, Eric Shannon & Brian Watte
Shane Smith, General Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Stafford, Facilities Manager – email@example.com
Debbie Vierra, Administrative/HR Coordinator – firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Dotson, Senior Engineer – email@example.com
Mark Larsen, Greater Kaweah GSA Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org
KDWCD is part or the Greater Kaweah GSA DWR #5-022.11
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.