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San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority April 6, 2023

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By Don A. Wright

The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, April 6, 2023 at its Los Banos headquarters and on Zoom. The SLDMWA takes water from the Delta at the federal Jones Pumping Plant, moves it down the Delta Mendota Canal to the San Luis Reservoir and this water is then distributed to the South of the Delta Central Valley Project water contractors. They all join together as a joint power authority and meet monthly as the SLDMWA.

The Meeting

Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at 9:30am and CEO Federico Barajas started the self-introductions.  And there was a change in the agenda order and there were no public comments. The consent calendar was approved.

Board Member Reports  

Panoche Water District General Manager Ara Azhderian announced he’s leaving the Valley to manage the Monterey County Water Resources Agency. a bit of a shame I couldn’t hear him better. Azhderian has a great story to tell and was working at San Luis Delta Mendota back when Dan Nelson was still the CEO. Barajas thanked Azhderian for his contributions and it was obvious Azhderian is well respected in the water community. He’s always been helpful to me in answering questions without condensation. I mean condescension – sorry – water pun. Good for him and his family.Technoflo


Scott Petersen presented the recommended positions of a trashcan full of bills. Director John Varela, Santa Clara Valley Water District said his district has had an internship program to get boxes checked for diversity, inclusion and equity and he’s involved in the ACWA Foundation to further these aims. At Michael’s suggestion the board split the vote into two parts; opposed and support. The board followed staff recommendations. Michael also wished to pass on Director Bill Diedrich’s earlier comments on what a good job Petersen does with such a heavy lift of legislation this year. Good for both of them.

Equipment in the Air

            Pablo Arroyave, COO told the board there needs to be an equipment purchase of $217,000 for some heavy equipment. He also said staff is looking to bring the board better policy on how to account and notify the committee and board on large expenditures. The board agreed and was introduced to the need to spend another $230,000 on a dump truck. The Equipment, Operations & Maintenance budget has the money but it is about moving the funds around. There has been a dearth of available equipment on the market so purchases have had to be delayed.

Air quality regulations force an upgrade. Sales of used, noncompliant equipment are reportedly going for a dime on the dollar to out of state buyers. I’ve heard for years half of the Valley’s smog comes from the Bay Area. The offshore breeze keeps the air there clean and the sky blue (but for the occasional smoke from decades of bad forest management). The smog is blown into the Valley and trapped in Bakersfield along with the extra smog created from the overload of traffic on I-5 and State 99 that need to have six lanes minimum for their route through the Valley. But that’s OK because some of the Bay Area folks feel better about themselves tsking at the Valley in a superior tone for its poor air quality. Anyway, the board had to wrestle with the unfunded mandate to upgrade the Authority’s equipment from a very limited stock to choose from. The board agreed to buy a new dump truck. Michael suggested staff update the new board members on the purchase policy.

Water Rates Adjustment

The Operations Maintenance &Repair rates need an adjustment. Barajas said new information from the US Bureau of Reclamation – a much bigger supply allocation than originally proposed – will change the amount of money needed to pay for OM&R. On the one hand more water means more wear and tear on the facilities and on the other a wider dispersal of expense over a greater amount of acre feet. The original allocation was 35 percent and is now 80 percent. Barajas said the possibility of a 100 percent allocation is real. He said if this happens the change in OM&R will be minimal from the rate proposed today.


Agendas are often divided into action items and report items. Action items require votes and report items are for informational purposes. The first report was on government mischief. Petersen said on the federal side staff is looking to put together another trip to Washington DC for member agencies. He asked for those interested to contact him.

Petersen continued saying there is a lot of funding available and therefore a fight brewing on how to spend it. Petersen gave a lot of info in a hurry. There is some movement on the Endangered Species Act. There is a National ESA Reform Coalition they are involved in. The ESA is 50-years old and needs some updates. Many of the attorneys in the trenches oppose this as too much success could dampen the resolve of fundraisers to pitch in.

Bill Ball reported there will be a field hearing next week over some proposed federal legislation in Tulare. Two bills specifically – one is Congressman David Valadao’s More Water for California and the other is a bill to move all federal control over salmon to the Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife. Currently both Interior and the Department of Commerce have to find common ground when it comes to making decisions about salmon.

Petersen said on the state side we now have a new Delta Water Master. I will greatly miss Michael George’s wit and wisdom in that office. California’s budget continues to “evolve” but that doesn’t slow down the regulatory community. Petersen said there is an upcoming workshop April 22nd on the California Water Plan. He said bills are moving fast in Sacramento. There is a state advocacy trip with Barajas, Michael and Petersen to meet newly elected state legislators coming up soon. There has been a larger than usual turnover of office holders this year and they all need education on water as presented by partners in the San Luis Reservoir. This is the off stream storage shared by both the Delta Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct.Lidco Inc.

Kristin Olsen-Cate said April 28th is the deadline to move bills out of policy committees. She said there are SB 23, AB 460 and AB 1337 getting special attention. She’s helping Petersen to organize next week’s visit. The IRA has extended all filings and payments until October. How about that? Since California’s budget is heavy on income tax this adds a great deal of uncertainty. Petersen added to keep an eye on leadership complications in the Assembly. Michael thanked them for keeping track.

CEO Report

Barajas said SLDM isn’t getting a refund from the ACWA JPIA due to losses from wildfires. This is usually about $100,000 each year. Any member of the JPIA is receiving a similar letter.

Barajas reminded the board to contact Martin Roush about the strategic plan so the upcoming workshop can run smoothly. He also said coordinating schedules is a challenge, amen brother. He said staff is trying to put together a full day tour of SLDMWA for new board members and hopefully that will take place this month. If not next.

COO Report

Arroyave said he’s working with others on snowmelt. They are withholding deliveries to the Mendota Pools until the Kings River situation is clearer. The Kings eventually runs to the Pools in wet years. He also said something about the pumping plants.

Water Forecast

Liz Kiteck of the USBR gave the report saying current operations on the Trinity River are still running winter flows. This is water that contributes to Sacramento River flows. She said even though Trinity is on the poor side she has hopes inflow will improve. They’re gaining storage at Lake Shasta and she’s confident the four million acre feet will be reached. There may not be flood flows but she expects it to fill. The American River snowpack is huge and everyone is hoping for a slow and steady melt, nothing hot and fast. The tributary rivers are doing well and just the Stanislaus River should yield two million acre feet. No flood flows expected there.

There will be 215 Water available from the Delta, if there are any takers. She expects the DWR snow surveys to come in next week. The Northern Sierra has 200 percent, the Central 250 percent and the Southern 300 percent. This weekend’s going to be warm but it will soon cool and that’s good news. She added the water at Shasta is cold and she expects no problems with temperature control restrictions this year. She hopes to have an update next week and new allocations by the end of the month. The temperature target this year is 53 degrees at Clear Creek. The temperature control is for salmon.

Other Reports

Michael asked for committee reports. There was a reportedly healthy discussion at the finance committee meeting but the minutes were mislabeled as April instead of March.

Mike Wade gave the California Farm Water Coalition report. He said there is a communications plan in conjunction with ACWA to get the word out on attacks against water rights. There is a new effort called California Water for All dealing with new legislation on turning Bulletin 160 into a real water plan for the state.

There is an ACWA conference next month. Varela said ACWA now has a Foundation for Diversion Inclusion and Equity. He mentioned Dr. Steve Blumenshine from the California State University system as the member on the foundation board representing agriculture and he welcomes other ag representation. He said there will be a full court press in Monterey. Director William Bourdeau said there will be an ACWA ag committee meeting this afternoon.

The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley report was given by Petersen who said the Hallmark Group has come on board and is developing a communications plan. There was a large group meeting in Tulare last month with presentations from the legislature and the PPIC. Congressman Jim Costa also showed up and gave some information.

There were 35 members of the Collaborative Action Plan group touring the area last week. They saw storage, wildlife interaction and other points of interest. There were environmental and drinking water groups on the tour who got a chance to see firsthand how the one size fits all doesn’t fit the Valley. He said it was a good tour.

It was announced the Central Valley Project Association will have a virtual workshop going over the budget. There were no board member reports at this time because they were given at the start of the meeting.

Closed Session

The meeting went into closed session at 11:03am. There were 20-items, mostly legal actions. So, that was that for our brothers and sisters on the west side. Go be good to each other.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2023 by Don A. Wright

SAN LUIS & DELTA-MENDOTA WATER AUTHORITY was established in January of 1992 and consists of approximately 2,100,000 acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors within the western San Joaquin Valley, San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The governing body of the Authority consists of a 19-member Board of Directors classified into five divisions with directors selected from within each division. The main conveyance is the Delta-Mendota Canal that delivers approximately 3,000,000-acre feet of water within the Authority service area. Of this amount, 2,500,000-acre feet are delivered to highly productive agricultural lands, 150,000 to 200,000-acre feet for municipal and industrial uses, and between 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet are delivered to wildlife refuges for habitat enhancement and restoration.

Board – Chairman: Cannon Michael,

Staff – Executive Director: Federico Barajas, COO: Pablo Arroyave, Attorney: Becca Akroyd, Director Finance: Ray Tarka, Director Water Policy: J. Scott Petersen, Director O&M/Facilities: Bob Martin

Email: 209/826-9696
P.O. Box 2157 Los Banos, CA. 93635