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Madera Irrigation District, September 20, 2022

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JOBS/HELP WANTED

By Joel Hastings

The Board of Directors of the Madera Irrigation District was called to order at 1 p.m. on September 20, 2022, by President Jim Erickson. All directors and staff were attending at the MID offices on Road 28 ¼  in Madera and the public had the opportunity to attend on Zoom. There was no public comment and no recusals for the closed session. That session included consideration of six cases of potential litigation and five cases of existing litigation, including one with the Madera County GSA (“white area”) and one with the county itself.

Coming out as scheduled at 2:08 p.m., the Board opened the meeting with the Pledge and an announcement that there was no report from the closed meeting. With no public comment, the group convened as the GSA board.

Assistant General Manager Dina Nolan who coordinates the GSA work gave the staff report saying the pilot project is underway with the NRCS in the county cost sharing grower construction of recharge and ponding basins, with their private investments potentially showing up as credits on their water bills. MID had provided a financial incentive to these growers as well.

Moving back into the regular MID board meeting, the group approved the consent agenda which included meeting minutes for June and July and the financial reports and warrant of bills to pay, budget reports and approval of the emergency resolution allowing Zoom meetings. The warrant of invoices approved totaled $4,430,725.97. Cash on hand as of July 31 in both unrestricted and restricted accounts totaled $43,409,278.91.

Charles Contreras, operations and maintenance manager,  gave his usual thorough and illustrated report,  highlighting work done during the water season repairing leaks around the system and monitoring water flows to customers. He also cited work done in the shop on vehicles and equipment. The water season began on June 27 and concluded on August 9. Required documentation was also submitted and approved for the use of various chemicals for weed control along the ditches.

At 2:20 p.m. a bit of new business was considered, with Chip Hudson of Hudson Henderson & Company, Inc., CPAs on Zoom to present the 2021 audit of the new 401a employee retirement plan. He said all was in good order and the audit found no need for management corrections. He said his firm tested for internal controls and everything checked out well from their perspective. Director Brian Davis asked what the board should watch for. Hudson said verifying eligibility and participation and proper vesting of employees were key factors. The audit approval resolution was passed unanimously with no further discussion.

The board then heard from Robert Shull, Director, Investment Services – California Class of Public Trust Advisors. Based in Colorado, this firm manages funds for a wide variety of government and other public agencies. He said his company offers a local government investment pool launched in mid-June and already attracting $120 million from 21 participants. It’s a way for agencies to earn a higher return with their current balances needed for operations. The program offers safety, yield and daily liquidity. He spoke more about other longer term funds his company offers.

After he left the meeting, the directors expressed interest noting that an additional two percent return on $2 million in cash would be significant. Staff was directed to bring back more information for the October meeting, since a resolution allowing for this use of funds would be needed if they were to proceed.

General Manager Thomas Greci provided his report, leading off saying that staff had nominated Director Carl Janzen for Board Member of the Year for the California Special Districts Association. AGM Nolan read the material that had been submitted for this 25-year MID director who has served as chair and vice chair. In his preparation, attendance and participation in meetings he has led by example, she said. He has served on related boards such as the Friant Water Authority. Nolan also read letters of support from other agencies as well. Janzen acknowledged the accolades with thanks.

Greci continued with updates from the Madera-Chowchilla Water & Power Authority. He said recruiting has begun for an assistant superintendent, bidding is underway for a bridge repair project and the power plants are being examined for needed repairs and upgrades.

He said dissolution papers are being prepared for the Upper San Joaquin River Water & Power Authority. Formed originally in 1979 to look at power projects, it has long been inactive. He’s working with member agencies to find documents and those with authority to act. There is no disagreement that it should be dissolved, he said.

In his water supply update, Greci said that MID delivered 55,000 acre feet to customers. He said we’re going into next year with better conditions for the reservoirs. He said they will be monitored to be ready to accept spring water flows as necessary. He said San Joaquin River restoration flows are ready to run on October 1 with the Bureau and the FWA working on this, he hopes starting in November. He said likely not a whole lot of water will be available.

He said water bills went out in as a single invoice for the season, rather than separate monthly bills. On that point, Director Dave Loquaci said there was a bit of shell shock for some. A grower had called him asking for more time. Loquaci said he told him to pay what you wish but it is policy that a two percent fee is applied to unpaid balances. Loquaci had told the grower he would bring this concern to the next meeting, which is what he was doing.

Controller Jennifer Furstenburg noted that the payment program is longstanding board policy, payment due dates are shown on water contracts and the two percent cannot be waived, certainly not for some but not others. Loquaci added that many members of the District are city dwellers with no ag water but who pay the surcharge on their taxes, which are due on time. The issue arose because the water season technically lasted for three months but the bulk of water was delivered in July. Separate invoicing for the small amount of water at the end of June when the system was being charged and the first week in August would have been time consuming and more expensive for the District. The consensus among board and staff was that the current policy is sound and that the two percent fee in today’s economy is not excessive.

Greci pointed out that the District had made another payment on its bonds, which will result in savings to members of $23.7 million on this debt. As a result, the 218 assessments on landowners being paid will only need to be in place for four more years instead of 14. A news release had been issued last week with this very positive message.

He concluded his report saying the District is participating in a job fair on October 20 providing information about the variety of District operations and the employment opportunities available. On a personal note, he said he would be off next week to participate with his family in a sixth grade camp. He recalled a presentation he had made to that class last year in which he admitted with a chuckle he had lost control of the group in the first five minutes.

One more item of new business was renewal of a longstanding agreement with PG&E regarding use of water passing from Bass Lake to Millerton Lake used for power generation. The Soquel Letter Agreement Extension was approved without comment as it has been since 1977.

Reports from the directors is the final item of business at these meetings. Director Tim DaSilva mentioned discussions he had heard about subsidence at a dam in the District. Director Janzen said he had listened to the  Friant Authority meeting to hear the report about river restoration. He said there was no Power Authority meeting, but that final information was being prepared to let bids for new transformers. Director Erickson said he had attended that Friant meeting where he represents MID. He expressed disappointment about recent water messages from Governor Gavin Newsome. He said, “Once again, he forgets about the Valley.” Director Loquaci had spoken earlier, and Director Davis had no comments.

The meeting concluded with a brief conversation about the amounts of rain that had fallen throughout the District ranging from a half to over an inch, mostly west of Highway 99.  The meeting adjourned at 3:35 p.m.

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Madera Irrigation District – 12152 Road 28 ¼ Madera, CA 93637 phone 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 www.madera-id.org 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

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