The Kern Water Bank Authority held its Monday, December 10, 2018 meeting at its opulent Bakersfield headquarters. I like a board room with a stuffed coyote and free soda pop. Very much to my surprise Chairman Bill Phillimore called to the meeting to order at 3:03 pm, not the 3:00 pm sharp. Phillimore runs one of the tightest meetings in the ag water universe. So, as you can see three-minutes can be a relative eternity in a meeting that averages less than an hour in length.
General Manager Jon Parker explained a bit about the KWB’s Conservation and Storage Project EIR. This is for water that would only be available when there is high Kern River flow. I didn’t read the EIR but if I correctly read the power point slide this deal could snag KWB up to 500,000 a/f. This water would have historically been diverted to the inter-tie or flood areas. There wasn’t a lot of significant impacts from what I could tell. But there was an alternative two with only 374,000 a/f, the amount above that would be sent to Southern California. The comments received didn’t cause any changes to the EIR except for fixing typos. I understand that.
Next, there were no public comments but there was a letter from Buena Vista Water Storage District. BV felt the issue of second priority rights needed to be in the EIR. However, the letter didn’t list any physical impact so therefore under CEQA it was more or less a moot point. The letter said this would be a change of ownership in place and purpose of use. Outside counsel Christian Marsh, Downey Brand LLP of San Francisco said this isn’t the case under the State Board views, if I understood. He said BV has made the request to recharge in 2010 but it hasn’t done so – that constitutes no change. Attorney Ernest Conant said the board was given a full copy of the EIR and BV’s letter. There was some discussion among the board but as Marsh pointed out this will be ultimately determined at the State Board. There are five applicants on these water rights but so far only KWB has filed a CEQA. That puts KWB in a good place at this point. The board was asked to approve Resolution 2018-03 to put in the application and it was unanimous but for David Beard who represents Kern County Water Agency’s Improvement District Four and abstained. KCWA is one of the other applicants. There was a brief closed session to discuss something to do with Kern River applications. Conant reported no actions.
Danelle Lopez gave the financial reports and did such a good job Kim Brown (who is also a CPA I think) made the motion to approve and the board did. Bill Taube said a turnout within KWB’s right of way was charged by KCWA for inspections. That check was pulled from accounts payable until someone can figure out if the KCWA can get away with it.
Next the regular meeting date was changed from the second Monday of the month to the first Monday of the month starting in February 2019. Or so I thought. If the time stays at 3:00 pm it will conflict with Kern Groundwater Authority’s coordination committee. There are about three or four KWB guys that go to that meeting. Changing the time was more or less tabled.
There is a new government regulation that now requires KWB to adopt a debt management policy or it won’t be able to get in bondage. Speaking of; earlier in the meeting Parker handed out a bond counsel proposal from Doug Brown and Conant said he’s worked with him, as did Beard and he’s good. KWB has a Swap loan from Wells Fargo it wants to unwind. Richard Porr is under consideration to be the Swap Counsel for KWB. Porr – pronounced poor by those in the room – used to work for DWR.
Parker started the staff reports saying the shallow monitoring well levels are heading in the good direction. The bike path wants a little more room and even a foot brings down the wrath of the enviros and enviro-controlled government policy warriors. KWB is underway with multi-million-dollar improvements to its infrastructure including increased conveyance. Meyer Civil Engineering wants $260,000 to continue pump station designs. The appropriate KWB committee will get involved from here. There are still 400 head of cattle on the bank. There has only been ¾” of rain but it’s keeping the grass growing. It was reported the ornithologist saw 700 golden finches and that is the largest flock ever seen. Phillimore said KWB needs to keep a constant spot light on this to the enviros. There is a tremendous benefit to the world from banking. There are also record number of raptors at this time.
Phillimore said Wells Fargo, Union Bank and Valley Republic Bank were all requested to submit some term sheets for loans. He wants to unwind the Swap – part variable and part risk would spread the risk. He said there are always questions about the variable loan but it could help get the member districts in a better position. He said Wells Fargo has sent in some material. Lopez said she doesn’t care as long as it isn’t a more complicated version of what is going on now.
Parker said Conant should address Kern County’s intent to back out of its KGA obligations. In other words, it thinks the KCWA will take over its duties to the white areas. Taube was pretty worked up over this because about three years ago the county publicly chewed on the KGA districts for screwing up the SGMA process and it wanted to takeover. I asked since SGMA states counties are in charge of the white areas how does Kern County justify dumping the white areas onto the KCWA. The KCWA has jurisdiction over all of the land within Kern County’s boundaries as it is the agency that deal with the State Water Project. This is a unique situation to Kern County. I have a soft spot for county government but I suspect tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors meeting not be an occasion for singing Kum by Yah and the county won’t have anyone else to blame. The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright
KERN WATER BANK AUTHORITY
1620 Mill Rock Way, Bakersfield, CA 93311 Office: 661/398-4900 www.kwb.org
Staff: Jon Parker-General Manager, Danelle Scott-Accountant, Ernest Conant-Attorney, Nick Torres-Superintendent
Board: William Phillimore-Chair Westside Mutual Water Company, William Taube-Vice Chair Wheeler Ridge Maricopa Water Storage District, Steve Jackson-Treasurer Dudley Ridge Water District, Dennis Atkinson Tejon Castac Water District, David Beard KCWA Improvement District 4, Wilmar Boschman Semitropic Water Storage District & Kim Brown Westside Mutual Water Company
Located on a large, undeveloped section of the Kern River’s sandy alluvial fan, the Kern Water Bank covers nearly 30 square miles over California’s southern San Joaquin Valley. Ideally situated, both for its unique geology and its proximity to water supply and delivery systems, the Kern Water Bank plays a dual role in California’s economically vital agricultural heartland.