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Madera Irrigation District & GSA, April 18, 2023

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By Joel Hastings       Photo: Joel Hastings

The Board of Directors of the Madera Irrigation District held a regular meeting on April 18, 2023, at the District offices south of Madera. At this meeting, water rates were set at $72.50 / AF (per acre foot) for original district lands water and $145.00 /AF for subordinate lands water. A price of $80.00 / AF was set for operational water. The rates go into effect on Monday, April 24.

President Jim Erickson called the open meeting to order at 2:05 p.m. and led the salute. The roll call showed all five directors present and there were five members of the public observing in person with a bit of activity on Zoom. A closed session had been held the previous hour to discuss two items of anticipated litigation and six ongoing cases, but there was no reportable action.

The agenda was approved, there were no conflicts of interest and public comment was invited. Local grower and MID member Tom Colman said he simply wanted to thank the board for continuing to make water available for subordinate landowners. He said he had been able to receive water even during the recent dry years and he appreciated it.Conterra


With that, the GSA board meeting was convened as Assistant GM Dina Nolan called attention to items recently completed by MID as part of the annual report of the Joint GSP from four GSAs in the subbasin. The report references projects committed to by each of the GSAs with progress to date. She said that of 21 projects identified in the Joint GSP as the responsibility of MID, 20 of them have already been implemented.

One more recharge project was on the list but not due for completion until 2040. Even so, the District was already looking to purchase parcels of land to use for groundwater recharge basins or surface water regulation or both. A news release had been sent out April 14 inviting landowners interested in selling to submit proposals. The forms for proposals and purchase and sale agreement documents are posted on the MID website. She said several landowners had already indicated interest. All proposals are due by May 26 at 4:00 p.m. so that the board could potentially act at its June meeting. She said the MID projects are well ahead of schedule, aided by the wet winter, making it a good year for recharge.

She went on to explain that the Joint GSP calls for Madera County to complete the Chowchilla flood flume project with construction to begin in 2023. She said a demand management program was to have been implemented as well.

She referred to the news release issued after the Board’s special meeting on March 21 reporting MID had taken no action on the revised Joint GSP. That release stated in part, “Madera Irrigation District is committed to its landowners, the Madera Subbasin, and sustainability. MID is also committed to meeting its obligations under the GSP and is disappointed in the lack of meaningful action by other GSAs, and specifically the Madera County GSA.

She said MID continues to cooperate with the Natural Resource Conservation Agency using grant funds for a pilot program for on-farm recharge. She concluded noting that MID has put into its own recharge basins an average 1,300 AF per month.

Reconvening as the MID board, the consent agenda was approved with seven items including approval of meeting minutes for February and March, approval of the warrant list bill payment through March 30 totaling $3,454,557.13 and financial reports for January and February. A revised policy for use of personal vehicles for MID business was also approved.

Charles Contreras, operations and maintenance manager, gave his usual detailed report which emphasized the ongoing work of repairs to breaks in pipelines and canals caused by the heavy water flows of recent months. He said all leaks reported as of April 3 had been repaired but they continue to emerge. He said ordering and installing meters for turnouts that haven’t been used in recent years and for new customers is a priority.

Director Dave Loquaci told Contreras he has been doing a great job with all the repair work required getting water to so many. Loquaci credited him with much work repairing creek banks, noting ruefully there is no one else to do it. Contreras added he’s tracking time and loads of dirt for this work in case reimbursement might be forthcoming at some point. He said the work on the new basin at Markarian farms had been completed, installation of a new turnout and metering box.Lidco Inc.

Director Brian Davis said leaks in pipelines on his ranch have been showing up as never before and Assistant GM Nolan added she continues to be amazed at all the work that has been done.

Contreras finished up with a slide showing the average depth to groundwater as measured by the monitoring wells across the District. He pointed out that for the past three years, the depth has shown some leveling out in both the fall and spring readings to a little over 200 feet. It was emphasized that these are average calculations as required and the actual depths well to well vary widely across the District.

GM Report

In his General Manager’s report, Tom Greci reported first on the Madera Chowchilla Water and Power Authority. He said that the raising and lowering of stream flows had created some challenges to generating power through the plants, but with the prospect of dryer weather it is anticipated that moving into the irrigation season will allow a return to regular operations. Flooding had also caused turbidity in the water requiring backflushing every four days but with new filters ordered and new wiring being installed as planned, it will be back to normal operations.

He described the recharge workshops that had been held on the Davis and Markarian farms on April 12 in partnership with the NRCS, resulting in some grower interest and favorable publicity in the local media. He also commented on the successful Friant annual dinner last week as well. There were no questions from the board or the public on hand. One questioner on Zoom asked about ranking criteria for land sales to the District and was referred to the website.

There was a brief discussion of snow depths and the opportunity to carry over water allocations until next year. Greci said it will depend on what happens this summer and how fast snow comes off the mountains before the Bureau will make its decisions.

Audit Report

At 2:45 p.m., Kip Hudson of the accounting firm Hudson, Henderson & Company, Inc., CPAs in Fresno came on the Zoom to present the audit report for the financials of 2021 and 2022. He said it was a clean audit with only an adjustment for the recording of prepaid expenses. He hit the highlights of the balance sheet and income statements saying the finances of the organization are sound with proper management practices in place. Operating revenue totaled nearly $23.6 million in 2022 with water sales amounting to $16.9 million of that total. As with public agencies, the audit reports are part of the record and available for inspection at the District offices. The report was accepted by the board.

Water Rates

Next was discussion and action on water rates for the coming season. GM Greci said with the return of dryer and warmer weather, he recommended going to full rate beginning sometime next week. He said it’s been a challenging year to calculate expenses what with finding a home for water. He said the staff recommendation was in the $70 to $80 range to meet the needs of the expense budget. It was noted that if expenses are met at a new rate, that rate can be lowered later in the year. After further discussion, the board approved a rate of $72.50 / AF for water to original lands, doubling that rate as usual to $145 for water to subordinate lands and $80 for operational management water. These rates become effective on Monday, April 24.

Previously set rates were as follows: construction water – $300; district conveyance for lands within the District – $70 plus 15 percent losses; and district conveyance for lands outside the District – $180 plus 15 percent losses. The flat rate water schedule is also available for property under six acres at six increments from $440 to $1,152. These prices, terms, billing arrangements and penalties are available from the District office.

During the conversation, Tom Coleman was asked for his reaction to the subordinate lands water rate. He said at that price ($145), he “would use 100 percent surface water  and would not limit the use of MID water in any way, shape or form.”Land IQ

Director Loquaci said he hoped the District could provide a total of 300,000 A/F for the season, while Director Carl Janzen said he hadn’t dared be that optimistic but had figured on 250,000.

The board set the date of June 13 for the annual board of equalization meeting to set assessment rates with June 16 planned to hear any appeals. Director Davis was approved as the MID director for the board of District 6 of the Association of California Water Agencies. He succeeds Janzen who said Davis would do a good job.

The last business in the open meeting was director reports. Director Tim DaSilva said he had nothing to report from the very short sessions in Los Banos for the meetings of the San Joaquin River Resource Management Coalition.

Director Davis said he had found the Cal Water Agencies meetings useful, particularly to tell the ag water story to representatives of urban water districts. Davis also expressed the hope that as water customers, growers will be patient and plan for irrigation water requests to give MID staff time to make deliveries.  The possibility was expressed that cracks in pipes and concrete structures could be the result of subsidence, not just cold runoff water coming in. But thank goodness for this year’s water, he concluded.

Director Janzen commented on the kerfuffle in the Fresno Bee that resulted when the San Joaquin River Conservancy board of which he is the MID member terminated the employment of the CEO on a ten to one vote. He also said he worried about the trailer park on the north side of the river just east of Highway 41, during the upcoming snow melt.

Director Loquaci said he remains concerned that we keep moving forward with SGMA to reduce the overdraft. He said even though the District board didn’t act on the joint GSP revisions, he said we’re still following our part of the GSP. He said we support the coordination agreement, the joint meetings and the MOU for domestic well mitigation. He said everyone needs to come to the table to take part.

Director Erickson said he’s spending his time on Friant activities as the current board chair. He thanked everyone for coming to the Friant annual meeting. He also asked Contreras to let his crew know how much their extra work and overtime are appreciated. He said MID staff can talk to the growers when they need help, even parking equipment overnight. And with that, he closed the meeting at 3:30 p.m. and the board returned to closed session.

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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; Tim DaSilva, 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