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Madera Irrigation District Board Meets on March 16, 2021

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TechnofloBy Joel Hastings

The Madera Irrigation District held a regular board meeting remotely beginning with the call to order at 1 p.m. by Chairman Jim Erickson. All five directors were in attendance and the agenda was approved. There was no public comment for the Executive Session. Directors Cosyns and Loquaci were identified with conflicts of interest on selected litigation items in the closed session, which was immediately begun. That agenda noted two items of anticipated and four items of existing litigation.Bermad

Coming out at 2:07 p.m., the Board opened with the Pledge. There was no report from the closed session, no public comment after the reading of the policy and no conflicts of interest for the open session.

The Board then convened as the MID GSA with an update on parcel acquisition for recharge properties. Dina Nolan, assistant general manager, presented information, noting the press release issued on Mar. 3 about the acquisition of two properties that had been accomplished with carry over funds from 2020.  She noted the GSA is well ahead of schedule for 2021, when parcel acquisition had been targeted for 2030. There were no questions. She said further that the GSA annual report is being prepared under her direction and will be issued on time in due course.

The GSA meeting was adjourned at 2:15 and the group reconvened as the MID Board. The consent agenda was presented with minutes from January 19, approval of the warrant list of bills and monthly financial reports. Bills paid in the last 30 days totaled $3,182,453.94 and the cash balance on hand as of January 31 totaled $47,057,126.17.

The Finance Department report delivered by Controller Jennifer Furstenberg said MID had received approximately $4.9 million from the County of Madera in mid-January. This payment was for assessments and standby charges collected by the County, on behalf of the District, up to December 10th. The 2021 delinquency rate for the 1st installment was approximately 2 percent, the same as last year.

The Finance team is preparing the calculation for Subordinate landowners 2021 general assessments. Invoices will be mailed out by the end of March and payment is due June 20, 2021.

The interest portion of the bond payments have been made. The 2015 bond amount was $476,125 and the 2016 bond amount was $427,500 for a total of $903,625. The State of California published CPI (COLA) is 1.8 percent, salaries have been adjusted for the CPI effective March 1, 2021. There were no questions for Ms. Furstenberg from the directors.

The Human Resources Department report was delivered by Administrator Tanesha Welch. She said employee evaluations had been reviewed and completed for the months of January and February. Also done was standard employee separation, administration and recruitment. Candidate screening, correspondence and interviews for two vacant positions are being done. One is for Maintenance Worker I with assessment testing scheduled and held February 24 and interviews held March 4. Also, there is a vacant a position for Meter Technician with the job description updated and recruitment preparation.

Of importance is COVID-19 mandated reporting and tracking. COVID-19 risk assessment training was conducted on February 25, with self-wellness screening and preventative measures. There is implementation of new electronic self-wellness screening service that allows for staff to attest to their daily wellness by way of personal electronic device improving preventative measures by mitigating potential grouping and aiding in social distancing. Additional permanent signage has been purchased and strategically placed throughout the District to increase reminders of Wearing Mask, Washing Hands, and Watching Distances. COVID-19 reporting was done to the Madera County Department of Public Health & Cal OSHA. A webinar was attended with a COVID-19 update on  employer mandates and compensability regarding vaccines.

MID obtains its employee health and accident insurance coverage through JPIA (Joint Powers Insurance Agency) from ACWA (Association of California Water Agencies). The staff had attended a JPIA statewide human resources virtual group meeting. MID received recognition from the Agency for its low level of claims showing a safe work environment.

Director Carl Janzen asked what was learned from JPIA at the virtual meeting, but we were unable to hear Ms. Welch’s reply. We can speculate that COVID-19 issues were at least part of the agenda.

Always an important agenda item that usually generates discussion from the directors is the  Operations and Engineering Report delivered by Department Manager Charles Contreras. The report this time was six pages with details and photos about work completed since the last meeting. The report includes updates from engineering and maintenance along with work accomplished from the welding and mechanic shops and pesticide application report. It is clear that the leadership knows the efficient delivery of water, the fundamental mission of MID, depends on this remarkably extensive infrastructure.

At 2:30 p.m. as scheduled, there was a presentation from the Friant Water Authority by Johnny Amaral, the FWA director of external affairs. He thanked the group for allowing time on the agenda. He said FWA appreciated the help of MID on many issues, including federal and state affairs, SGMA, the San Joaquin Water Blueprint and repairs to the damage on the Friant Kern Canal. He praised the leadership on the FWA board of MID President Erickson.

He began by saying that with the change of Administrations in Washington, there are changes at the upper levels of the Federal agencies, beginning with a new Secretary of Interior. He said there will be a big effort by California water agencies on educating the new staff. He said while there is a review of Trump policies, he doesn’t expect much change regarding FWA and the Bureau of Reclamation.

He said that with the passage of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, there will be a pivot to the next round of infrastructure. He said that he had spent time working in Washington and he knows that really no one can predict what will come out to impact California water. He added that after 10-year hiatus, Congressional “ear marks” are coming back. He acknowledged that what looks like pork barrel spending to some, to others is support for important local projects. He said there will be guidelines and it can be a way to get funding for projects in the Congressional districts. He said it will be up to local leaders to work with their Congress members. Projects of about half million dollars are in the sweet spot.

On the state level, he said everything is being consumed by the recall effort aimed at Governor Newsom. He concluded about 3 p.m. inviting questions from Board. Directors commented that with all of the federal money being spent, including money coming to California, that it’s too bad there couldn’t be funding provided for the Friant Kern Canal repairs.

Next came the report from General Manager Tommy Greci. He acknowledged the special award from ACWA – JPIA insurance program. He said that on March 24-25 there would be governance training provided by the California Special Districts Association. He said again this year the ACWA spring conference would be conducted virtually on May 12 – 13.

He concluded with the topic on everyone’s mind… water supply for the District. He began by repeating the Bureau’s announcement that Class 1 Friant water would be at a 20% allocation. The Bureau issues what might be called “odds” noting that the 20% had a 90% certainty. He said there was a 50% chance that there would be 45% Class 1 water.

Everyone expressed the hope that the recent storms could help and that it was too early to talk about deliveries and pricing for members. The April meeting will be when that discussion begins in earnest.

After the meeting, Greci explained that the District’s Friant allocation at 100% is 85,000 A/F, so the 20% figure means 17,000 A/F. During the height of the season, the District normally delivers 20,000 to 25,000 A/F monthly. He said the Friant water, while very important, is only one source of water for the District.

Next on the agenda was consideration and then unanimous approval of a new employment contract for Operations and Maintenance Manager Contreras. An annual salary of $130,000 was approved with a three year agreement that includes cost of living increases per the California CPI calculation.

Reports from directors concluded the meeting as follows:

Rick Cosyns – Neighbors are asking about water and they are happy to see maintenance work.

Brian Davis – Last week at a strategic planning session for the state water board, it was decided to keep in the mission statement wording to the effect that there is a “guarantee of reliable sustainable water supply for agriculture via modern conveyance.” The wording remains in place, even though everyone realizes the term “guarantee” is problematic.

Carl Janzen – He said he’s on the nominating committee and will make sure Brian is nominated.

Dave Loquaci – His comment, “I have nothing to say” drew exclamations of amazement from around the room (oops, Zoom), which he acknowledged.

Jim Erickson – He said it is a constant battle to get financing for FK Canal repairs, but everyone is working towards a solution.

With no other business, the Board went  back into closed session at 3:30 p.m., coming out at 4:36 p.m. with no reportable action and adjournment.

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Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637             559/673-3514

Staff: General Manager -Thomas Greci, Assistant GM – Dina Nolan

Board: Jim Erickson, Chair; Rick Cosyns, Vice-Chair, Brian Davis, Carl Janzen and Dave Loquaci

HISTORY: From The Madera Irrigation District (MID or District) encompasses an area of approximately 139,665 acres. MID operates a primarily gravity irrigation distribution system with approximately 300 miles of open flow canal systems as well as 150 miles of large diameter pipelines.

The District has a Central Valley Project (CVP) repayment contract with United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) providing up to 85,000 acre feet (AF) of Class 1 and 186,000 AF of Class 2 water per year from the Friant Division (Millerton Lake). The CVP water is released from Millerton Lake through the Friant Dam, and then conveyed through the Madera Canal for delivery into the District’s service area. The District also entered into a CVP repayment contract with the USBR for the yield from the Hidden Unit (Hensley Lake). Under the Hidden Unit contract, the average annual supply available to the District is approximately 24,000 AF per year.

DWR SGMA # 5-022.06