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Madera Irrigation District Special Board Meeting, Aug. 3, 2021

Bermad irrigationBy Joel Hastings

The Madera Irrigation District held a board meeting on Aug. 3 at its offices in Madera but with the public invited via Zoom. The meeting was convened at 1 p.m. with the Board moving immediately into closed session. The agenda said there would be discussion of two items of anticipated legal action, five items of existing actions and two real property negotiations. There were no reportable actions.

Moving to open session at 2 p.m. there was a problem with the microphone because Zoom forced a software update at that very moment. The microphone remained inoperative and as a result, it was difficult to hear the meeting participants in the boardroom.

President Jim Erickson led the Pledge and then invited public comment. Speaking on a phone line, area grower Bill Diedrich referred to a letter that MID had sent its customers. The letter dated July 6 criticized the county board of supervisors acting as the GSA Board for the “white areas.” The letter claims that the groundwater allocation amounts are more than the amounts used in the GSP that had been filed and approved. It also says the estimates of groundwater recharge are unrealistically high, all with the result that overdraft will continue at high levels for the next several years causing problems for many well owners, both agricultural and residential.

Diedrich in his comments said that this letter had sparked “divisiveness” in the ag community resulting in personal attacks and undue criticism for Madera County Water and Natural Resources Director Stephanie Anagnoson, the staff person coordinating the work of the GSA. He said, “She puts her life and heart and soul into her work, and I don’t believe personal attacks are constructive.” He said the water issues being faced will require collaboration. He thanked the board for their time and he in turn was thanked for his comments, but there was no further discussion on this issue. On the Zoom chat box, two other meeting attendees asked for comment on the letter but there was no further discussion. We counted seven individuals not directly associated with MID on the Zoom, including Christina Beckstead, executive director of Madera Farm Bureau.TechnofloThe group recessed as the MID Board and moved to the GSA. Assistant General Manager Dina Nolan spoke about communication with the surrounding GSAs, but it was impossible to hear further details in her short report.

Reconvening as the MID Board, the group approved the consent agenda which includedAll Water Rights minutes for two previous meetings in June, including June 18 when the property assessment rates for 2022 were set. Also approved in the consent agenda was the payment of bills and the monthly financial reports. Total monthly expenditures approved were $1,740,671.00.

The Board heard the regular reports from Controller Jennifer Furstenburg and HR Administrator Tanesha Welch. The report from Charles Contreras, Operations and Maintenance Manager, as usual was detailed, specific and accompanied by photos of the larger projects for the month. As we’ve noted previously, his team accomplishes a lot of work which the Board appreciates hearing about.

General Manager Tommy Greci noted the end of the water season with deliveries stopped by July 26 with a total of 38,000 A/F. He said the 20 percent Class 1 allocation from Friant had held and he would know the revenue shortly when the meter figures are compiled. He thanked Contreras for working efficiently to make the best use of the water. There was a bit of other discussion, but we could not hear it.

An item of new business was the unanimous approval of several technical changes in the company 401a savings and retirement plan for employees.

Assistant GM Nolan described a contest designed to appeal to citizens in the district. During the past year, several parcels of property have been purchased to be used for recharge. But a property that has been owned since 2005 consists of approximately 10,900 acres of grazing land about four miles southwest of the city. It has been referred to as “Madera Ranch” but as part of its ongoing re-branding effort, MID is inviting citizens to submit a new name for this property. The winning name will receive a $500 prize. Full details, rules and the entry form can be found at the MID website – madera-id.org.

Directors’ individual comments rounded out the meeting. Directors Rick Cosyns, Carl Janzen and Dave Loquaci were brief but difficult to hear. Director Brian Davis was not in attendance. President Erickson concluded by reporting that he had attended a Friant meeting and the canal repair project continues to move forward.

At 2:42 p.m. the group went back into closed session, coming out at 3:26 p.m. with no reportable action.

Sidebar to Aug. 3 MID Board Report 

Madera ID Objects to Recent GSA Allocation Plan

By Joel Hastings

On June 8 the Madera County Board of Supervisors, acting in their role as the board of the Madera Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs), adopted a resolution establishing groundwater allocations as a critical part of SGMA (State Groundwater Management Act). Their action came after more than two years of work by staff with professional consultants, grower groups, civic organizations and individual citizens. The GSAs cover portions of the Madera Subbasin along with two smaller areas for Chowchilla and Delta-Mendota. The land here is often referred to as “the white area” because it’s not included in irrigation districts and therefore, these 85,000 irrigated acres rely almost exclusively on pumping groundwater.

The concept is that the Madera Subbasin can provide a sustainable yield of 90,000 AF per year without overdraft, bringing water use in line with available groundwater. Water pumped from the subbasin in excess of that is termed “transitional water” (TW) and that’s the amount that must be reduced to zero by 2040 according to SGMA. Each GSA in California was required to and has submitted to the state a detailed plan called a groundwater sustainability plan (GSP) showing how the overdraft will be eliminated.

The Madera GSAs’ resolution adopted by the Board of Supervisors, proposes to reduce overdraft by two percent per year through 2025 and at higher rates every five years after that. The Board considered several plans using somewhat different estimates but adopted what has been called “Option C” which pegs that “TW” number (overdraft) in 2020 at 113,00 AF per year.

Madera Irrigation District is objecting to several parts of the plan approved by the Board, with its lawyer, John Kinsey of the Wanger Jones Helsley firm, detailing their concerns in a six-page letter to the County dated July 2. The MID board also sent a shorter, “plain language” letter to its irrigation customers in the District. (It was this letter that was referred to in the public comments made by Bill Diedrich at the Aug. 3 MID Board meeting.) The basic complaint is that Option C begins with a higher overdraft total than the GSP allows and therefore overdraft continues longer and at a higher rate than is called for in the GSP.

The MID attorney’s letter says that the GSP plan calls for an overdraft of 86,400 AF in 2022 while Option C allows for overdraft of 108,480 AF but will actually be higher since there are no reductions that could be implemented in 2021. The letter says that the cumulative extra overdraft between the two schedules is a total of 72,140 AF just by the end of 2022.

MID General Manager Tommy Greci says the continuing high rates of overdraft coupled with the impact of the drought are causing hardships across the county for farmers, residents and community facilities as water quality and quantity is greatly diminished, with wells large and small actually going dry.

Madera County Deputy Counsel Mike Linden, on behalf of the GSAs has replied to the MID letter and two more letters have been exchanged. The county has issued a “Fact Sheet” explaining its calculations of sustainable yield and transition water. The information sheet contends its resolution is not in conflict with the GSP and that the law allows it to impose fees for use of transitional water. The document can be found here.

Stephanie Anagnoson, director of the Department of Water and Natural Resources for Madera County says she’s concerned the Madera GSAs are being unfairly blamed for lack of water across the county. She notes that the Madera GSAs are among the very first to actually enact water allocations that, as they are implemented, will begin to reduce overdraft.

There have been reports that representatives of the MID Board and the County Supervisors will be in closed discussions. The agenda for the next regular meeting of the Supervisors as the board for the GSAs is set for August 17.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from Waterwrights entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2021 by WaterWrights.netJoel Hastings

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 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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