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Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District November 1, 2022

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By Don A. Wright

The Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District held its board of directors meeting at its Farmersville headquarters and online with GoToMeetings. It’s not Zoom and sometimes leaves me feeling insecure about my connections. The screen lit up at 9:06am and folks were giving each other left over Halloween candy. Chairman Don Mills called the meeting at 9:07am. The first item was an announcement by General Manager Mark Larsen. He said Director Mike Chrisman died just recently. Chrisman’s passing is a loss for the area. His involvement in water was beyond extensive and formidable.

The Meeting

Larsen said item 9, weather modification and item 13 the Kaweah Oaks preserve will be tabled until next month. Someone else known to the board passed but I didn’t get the name. It was said he went like we’d all like to. The elderly gentleman had is morning coffee and went to his truck to go somewhere when his spirit unexpectedly do go somewhere, leaving his body and the pickup behind. Prayers for him and Mr. Chrisman’s family.

Larsen read a resolution honoring Chrisman and the board wanted the next contribution to the Water Education Foundation to be in Chrisman’s name. Amongst his other accomplishments, like being California Secretary of Agriculture, Chrisman was former chair of WEF. Mills commented Chrisman’s obituary was so full of accomplishments Kaweah Delta didn’t even make the list. Since Chrisman died midterm the board will appeal to the county to appoint someone to fill the remainder of the term. The minutes and the rest of the consent calendar items were passed.


Larson said when considering the budget it is time to give serious thought to moving the district’s headquarters. The surrounding properties are building up and it is getting difficult and dangerous to move equipment in and out of the increased traffic. Although there is a Tulare Irrigation District ditch on the backside of the property someone suggested routing the entrance there since no one has been using the ditch lately.

The district needs to get an appraisal of the property but the feeling was there’s been a good deal of appreciation due to location and other benefits. Larson said Kaweah Delta had headquarters in Visalia and the town surrounded them. They had to move then and now as even Farmersville is growing up around the yard and offices. He said he has some new sites in mind.

Water Report

Mills asked if the candy wrappers were waterproof since it looks like rain and some good news would be welcome. Water Master Vic Hernandez said there is indeed rain and snow in the forecast. And what a forecast. Engineer Dennis Keller interjected an interesting swath of possible outcomes due to the variety of forecasts. Hernandez said he’s going to be attending a snow conference in Sacramento and try to figure out where things are going with snowpack counting. Failed sensors need replacing, reservoir operations need to be updated and the Airborne Snow Observatory’s data input addressed.

Larsen said it’s a shame about the snow sensors because the technology is pretty good but the maintenance is spotty. It was suggested DWR hire a contractor to build some concrete bases for the sensors. Hernandez said DWR has hired three new employees for the snow sensors and they will start in January.

Central Valley Project

Keller gave the CVP report saying the upcoming storms are hitting Northern California harder than the middle part of the state. He said contract renegotiations between the Exchange Contractors and the US Bureau of Reclamation are a bit one sided if I understood. Ex Con is happy with the way things are. Ex Con should be meeting this Friday and we’ll find out more.

Someone asked what impact Sites Reservoir will have on the San Joaquin Valley. Keller said there are some Cross Valley Canal participants who have invested. He doesn’t think Sites will have as great a regulatory challenge as the biological opinions attached to its operational regime are less onerous. At least they are not as great as the biops the current North of Delta reservoirs are now subject to for releases. Sites is bigger than Pine Flat reservoir on the Kings River that’s more than one million acre feet. Mills said the Sites location is a perfect valley with a narrow canyon opening. This will be off stream storage like San Luis Reservoir. Water will come down the Tehama Colusa Canal and be pumped into the reservoir and later released by gravity back into the system.Technoflo

Friant Water Authority

Larsen said FWA has created an associated membership category. This will provide the contractors on the Friant Kern Canal who are no longer members of FWA an opportunity to participate on a one year trial period. As I understand it the associate membership can’t vote but it includes sitting in on closed session items. FWA doesn’t meet in November as it always falls on Thanksgiving. There will be a retreat this month for the directors, management and interested members of the public. I think Paso Robles. I wanted to go but no one was paying my way for me and most of the deliberations will be in closed session. But it is a preview of what priorities and plans Friant will be engaging in the new year.

Hannah Ranch Project

Keller reported on the Hannah Ranch recharge project. A couple of bumpy stretches in the road as they run trials. The flow meters on the inlet structure have continued to fail and new ones must be overnighted from Boston. They also hit red clay; I believe unexpectedly, while doing earthwork. Clay soil can be good in some areas like banks and sandy soil can be good on the bottom of recharge facilities. You want the water to seep in and not out.

The turnouts’ electrical supply will have an improved routing. I don’t recall if the power lines will be underground or not, but I think underground. There is even room to build a shop on a corner location with good access to the project and nearby surface roads.

This part of eastern Tulare County has always been a beautiful example of the San Joaquin Valley’s terrane. It’s ground zero for majestic Valley Oaks, huge trees living hundreds of years that provided acorns as a staple for the local Indians. There are year round (mostly) water courses and gently rolling hills covered with grasslands. I think it’s one of the prettiest places on earth.

Keller was showing a slide presentation to the board and you really couldn’t see clearly what was projected on the screen. But everyone broke out in laughter when Keller showed the photo of the first amount of water flowing into the project. It was difficult to tell but it looked a little like a toilet overflowing slightly. Keller as a rule doesn’t include much levity in his presentations so I’m not sure what was shown. The board certainly didn’t laugh when it approved Payment #6 to Nicholas Construction for progress being made. Keller reported getting butterfly values has been a nightmare due to supply chain and USA or Canadian are being considered, but it’s more expensive.

Engineer Larry Dotson reported on an agreement with the City of Farmersville on a recharge project. It was difficult to hear but I gather there are precedents for this type of project and the interaction between the district and a municipality. In this case all the boxes must have been checked as the board approved.


Larsen reported it has been a challenging time for the Greater Kaweah GSA. The growers have been very upset about the transparency of the GKGSA’s decision making for allocations and fees. I don’t like to air dirty laundry for the sake of sensationalism, but there is a problem. The Kaweah Subbasin white areas have felt their voices have not been heard. There are rational people of good will on both sides. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be growing pains and it can’t be business as usual.

SGMA is uncharted waters, pun intended.

There are outside forces like Assemblyman Steve Bennett who authored AB 2201 last year and had to pull it under threat of veto by Governor Gavin Newsom. That legislation would have imposed yet another layer of state mandates on what is supposed to be local control. The bill included requiring an engineering report finding the well wouldn’t cause subsidence or impact neighboring wells and approval by the overlying GSA before a county could issue a new well permit. The bill didn’t take into account there’s nothing to guarantee an engineer knows anything about well drilling. The degree of certainty in the report required to meet the bill’s language would cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and most likely wouldn’t fall under current professional errors & omissions insurance.

Bennet represents the Ventura region of the coast. I have heard he’s going to not only reintroduce the engineering report requirement in a bill this next legislative session but also change SGMA to require metering of all wells and shorten the review period from five years to two and half years. The threat of legislators like Bennett rewriting SGMA as they see fit dooms it. You can’t keep moving and resetting the goal. A stable rule of law has to be in place and it appears some folks just can’t seem to exercise the self-control needed to write sound legislation. I know I have readers in all of the GSAs and counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Has anyone from Bennett’s office contacted you requesting input on how to improve the current well permitting process? If so please let me know. When I asked Bennett if he’d solicited input from the professionals who would have to carry out the mandates of the new legislation he told me he didn’t have time to get into the technical details. I asked him if he didn’t have time, who did? Haven’t heard back on that one yet.

Yes, there are growing pains in SGMA and there are people without the Valley’s best interests watching and waiting. At the same time no one held a gun to the head of GSA board members forcing them to serve and it is about serving.

GKGSA GM Eric Osterling wasn’t present at this meeting. Mills said since Osterling wasn’t present he’d praise him a bit. He said he’s proud of Osterling’s ability to take the slings and arrows when things get tough. It was a stamp of confidence. There is yet another meeting today in Director Jeff Ritchie’s barn at 1:30pm There have been a plethora of GKGSA meetings lately.

The meeting then shut down at 10:11am for closed session and three cases of anticipated litigation. The next meeting is scheduled for December 6th and that was that.

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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 & Brian Watte


Mark Larsen, General Manager –

Terry Stafford, Facilities Manager –

Debbie Vierra, Administrative/HR Coordinator –

Larry Dotson, Senior Engineer –

Shane Smith, Projects/Administrative Manager –

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.