The Madera Irrigation District board of directors has reduced the price of water to its members from $10 per acre / foot (AF) to $0. The board held a special meeting on March 15, 2023, and unanimously accepted the recommendation of staff in an effort to bring more water into the District for recharge and to help manage flood flows.
President Jim Erickson called the meeting to order at 10:33 a.m. at the District offices on the south side of Madera with all five directors present. The roll was called, the flag saluted and the agenda approved. No director had a conflict of interest and there were no comments from the public, three of whom were in attendance.
General Manager Tom Greci opened with his report thanking the board members for attending on short notice. He said with the recent storms and more in the forecast every reservoir is managing flood flows except Shasta. He said the Fresno River (bank to bank as it flows through Madera) is being carefully watched as is the Madera Canal for more flood inflows. He said they are coordinating with the Bureau and the Corps of Engineers. He said with the flood flows occurring there is an opportunity for a policy change.
The agenda moved to old business, revising the crop water distribution policy. Greci said he had never seen such water flows in his career and there is a great opportunity to bring water into the District and the GSA. He said creeks have been blown out for the second time now but the staff led by Charles Contreras, operations and maintenance manager, has been working overtime to repair damage. He said he’s hoping for the intensity of the storms to drop a little, a statement which he said he had never before made. He said the staff recommendation is to incentivize bringing more water into the system by dropping the price to $0 even while emergency repairs are ongoing. A motion was made and seconded to approve this pricing resolution for both original district lands and subordinate lands water.
During discussion, Director Brian Davis asked about mountain snowmelt at different elevations. Greci said that with the warm rains there still are significant amounts of snow at higher elevations. With rainfall on top, the snow is extremely wet as well. He said webcams show water up to the chair lifts at China Peak. He said that reservoirs are being kept as high as possible and if growers take no-charge water for recharge it helps both flood control and groundwater. Director Tim DaSilva commented how much this can help with the water balance [in the aquifer]. Greci continued saying we’re not a flood control district but this all can help.
Director Carl Janzen said there is continuing District expense for the repair work paid in effect by all growers. Assistant Manager Dina Nolan said this work will have a cost for the board since it’s not cheap to repair these creeks and ditches, not only in labor but materials, too.
Greci said even with no charge, the District asks that all growers fill out orders and submit them so that flows can be scheduled with the staff, preventing unexpected water level drops or surges.
Davis asked what the effect would be of the emergency order recently announced by Governor Newsome. Greci said it had no impact on District operations. Director Dave Loquaci pointed out the restrictions that were part of the order, such as no spreading water on dairy land or ground recently fertilized. He went on to say that this shows how shaky weather forecasting can be and in spite of the water, there is still overdraft and the groundwater balance has to be dealt with.
Director Davis asked if there had been any further consultation with the county on delivering any water to white areas. Greci said that not one acre / foot of water had been moved outside the District.
Nolan said there are the years we have to optimize [groundwater recharge] and we need every landowner who can take the free water to help out. Director Janzen said he’d like to say that with water available for delivery the whole growing season, not a single pump has to be run in the District.
At this point the directors returned to the motion for no cost water, passing it unanimously to adopt the resolution. The price is effective immediately and will be factored into the meter readings that are taken beginning tomorrow, according to Nolan. Director Loquaci reminded the group that this is not free water, the District continues to have to purchase it at regular price from the Bureau… $42 per AF.
The meeting was winding down, but there was still more discussion. President Erickson, who is also the current board chair of Friant, was asked about repairs needed on the Friant – Kern Canal. He said there had been flooding at Deer Creek but it was mostly dirt lost. With the mention of dirt and repairs, Loquaci suggested that as the District has dirt stockpiled it might be made available to landowners for their own repairs, an item for a future meeting agenda. There was a question online about the level of the Fresno River. Greci said that it was being monitored but that is the decision of the Corps, not the District.
The meeting concluded with adjournment at 10:52 a.m. Within two hours, the District issued a news release announcing the $0 per AF price and urging landowners to take advantage at once, since the amounts and duration are unknown. The release urged landowners to follow regular procedures filling out order applications through the District office in person, by phone or email.
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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 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