The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, August 10, 2017 board of directors meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. Before the meeting I overheard talk about a movie filmed here in the Valley named, “Pray For Rain.” It gives the farmers side of the drought and I understand it has proven far more popular than Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Release: Wealth for Power” that’s not doing so well at the box office. The weather has cooled down and I find it odd that 99 degrees can feel relatively cool even in this notoriously hot Valley. Chairman Cannon Michael wasn’t present so Don Peracchi, Westlands Water District, took the gavel. He began with a very businesslike statement – which is good to be reviewed on occasion.
After self-introductions, we launched into the flag salute, there were no comments from the public and the consent calendar was approved faster than I could type this sentence. Tona Mederios gave the board an update on the audit. Attorney John Ruben informed the board the finance committee heard the full report from the auditor and recommended approval. Auditor Bill Patterson gave a verbal report and everything was in good order. Bill Pucheu, Tranquillity ID and financial committee chair moved to accept and the board approved.
Executive Officer Jason Peltier told the board staff would like to have a deputy general counsel to beef up its crack legal team. A fuller proposal will be brought to the board next month.
Ara Azhderian gave a report on the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. This is the JPA promoting the Temperance Dam project on the San Joaquin River. SLDM is willing to join but not willing to pay this year’s $60,000 dues but willing to start fresh in February. Should SLDM join then Michaels would be on the board with Peltier as alternate. The SJVWIA has one full time employee, Mario Santoya and a part-time assistant, so a large administrative budget isn’t expected. Anthea Hansen, GM Del Puerto WD asked if there is a downsize to not joining and Azhderian said SLDM’s non-presence will detract from a west side of the Valley influence. Exchange Contractors XO Steve Chedester is on the board of the JPA and he said joining the group won’t commit SLDM to investing in the dam itself but only in the group. Sarah Wolf, Director Westlands WD said since SLDM has already put money into the Prop One application process – some feel this itself is too expense – should SLDM pay the additional $60,000 then SLDM should get two seats at the JPA board. Tom Birmingham, GM Westlands WD said he’d like to hear Michael’s views on this and suggested this be tabled until next month. The estimated cost of the Temp Flat application is $750,000 with the US Bureau of Reclamation paying about half and the other half came from SLDM, Friant Water Authority and Ex Con. Peltier said he’s spoke with Michael and he’s OK with this. The Prop One deadline is this Monday and Chris White, GM Central California Irrigation District who sits on the Temp Flat technical committee said SLDM joining today would save time in rewriting the JPA in the future. With all of this on the table Birmingham made a motion to join. The board approved so SLDM is now part of Temp Flat.
Next Ruben explained a proposed resolution to set the date for water resources and the finance & admin committees to meet on the Monday before the regular board meeting. Birmingham was on a roll and his motion to accept was approved.
Head Engineer & Assistant Executive Director Frances Mizuno presented the board with a resolution for the 22 GSAs within the Delta Mendota sub basin to authorize SLDM to make an application for a $3 million Prop One grant and the board went for it.
The last action item was for a resolution to execute a water transfer where Ex Con will transfer water to federal and state wildlife refuges and the Newman Land Company as a substitute supply. The board authorized this by passing a resolution.
Peltier gave an update on the California Water Fix saying the state has released its notice of determination EIR. On the fed said no Record of Determination has been issued. The State Board said it won’t act on the points of diversions until the ROD is issued and the feds say they won’t issue a ROD until the State Board acts. So there you have it. There will be a 9:00am workshop next Wednesday at the Los Banos community center to go over some of the financial points of the twin tunnels. Birmingham suggested on Hansen’s comments any public water agency should have access to the documentation so the home boards can see how much water at what cost before they buy in. It was pointed out these documents are inter-agency drafts and not open to public review at this time.
Azhderian said the water resources committee came up with a draft Request For Proposal to hire a consultant to come up with a strategic planning effort. This process could start as soon as September. These efforts should be conducted in conjunction with the monthly meetings. As this was a report item only the trigger was not pulled.
Peltier said the ramping up to reconsultation on the salmon and smelt biops should be viewed as a positive opportunity to update the science and could actually help the fish instead of the mess of the last decade that have harmed the fish and farmers. It’s been established to simply throw more water at fish doesn’t work. He said this will be a huge “time sink” with the Central Valley Project and State Water Project community investing heavily. Ruben said the ability to sit as a designated non-federal entity, though limited, will help tremendously. Representatives from Santa Clara Valley WD and Westlands WD amongst other will get to participate in a small policy group. Some technical support may dome from yet another TAC, technical advisory committee. Director Jim McLeod, Banta Carbona ID asked how anyone can rely on the government that has not been able to take care of anything in the past three or four decades. Peltier said he sees a more integrated approach coming to light and that is reason to hope enough to enter into this with conviction. There was some discussion about whether or not the recently passed WIIN Act was responsible for SLDM gaining a seat at the table. Birmingham explained but wasn’t sure exactly how all the parts fit. In fact, I wasn’t sure how any of the parts fit. Director Bill Diedrich, San Luis WD asked if the districts will be allowed in on the implementation and if I understood correctly the answer to that is yes. Director William Bourdeau, Westlands WD said the costs and collateral damage to the Endangered Species Act could make the cost of producing food prohibitive due to the unintended consequences. All of the entities represented by SLDM want to be engaged under their rights from the WIIN Act and get after it by showing solidarity.
Mizuno gave an update on the San Luis transmission project. She said there is a meeting today to finalize some of the design of the project meant to increase power supply reliability. She spoke about some of the financing options for at least a minimum of 600 megawatts. This could be broken down into thirds of conveyance; each third would get a 30-year lease that would then default the conveyance capacity back to I believe SLDM. I confess I got lost after that. I did hear (at least I think I did) a decision by Cal ISO to allow a higher capacity could save SLDM a good deal of money. So, that’s being pursued as part of an MOU. She’ll bring it back in September. Peltier added Cal ISO is a different animal. Director Gary Kremen, SCVWD asked if there is a reliable estimate of the cost now available and again, I’m not sure. Mizuno said she finally received the repayment contract for $5 million to rewind the pumps at the Jones Pumping Plant. If I understood some of this money could be used for extraordinary O&M project SLDM has already self-funded. More on this in October.
Tom Boardman gave his operational update and said the state Banks Plant is pumping 500 cfs above its usual until the fall X2 line cuts things off. Flood releases from the SJR and Kings River to the Mendota Pool is over as of the end of July and this late run helped the situation at San Luis Reservoir greatly. The CVP share at San Luis should drop below 700,000 a/f. The state’s demands are running lower than expected and that will last until later in the year when districts’ demands ramp up. That will clear out the state’s encroachment on federal share at San Luis. He sees the fed side being about to pump fairly well in the fall. He said depending on the Fall X2 line the reservoir could fill early.
Peltier expounded on the Fall X2 and said it could move further west. He said this was the first designated wet year to experience this. He said it’s extraordinary how collaborative the discussion has been on X2. The enviros have their undergarments in a wad over this but that’s to be expected. McLeod said the returning salmon run is very good yet they were born during the drought. How is this? Peltier said if you question one of the fisheries folk they’ll tell you there are many things about the salmon that are not understood.
Mederios said staff is working on the financial reports and reconciliations will be sent out for member reviews. This was in order to get the needed data to true up figures and deals with the self-funded matters. There were some questions that brought in a discussion on the categories of power required for certain billing rates. There are districts that have moved water under the Warren Act and that raises the question; why should the broken CVP force extra costs on contractors using the Warren Act?
Mizuno reported on O&M saying the major concern over the last month was the louvre fish screen. The screens need to be cleaned, sometimes daily and that requires some of the pumps have to be stopped. She said there have been 40 stops and starts. These pump units are huge and they are not designed to be turned on and off like a light switch. There is a meeting this afternoon with USBR representatives because it has become clear the Tracy Fish Facility is not being properly managed. The Bureau has said its budget is too low. Well, may SLDM needs to take that over. SLDM did take the maintenance on until 2003. She added Panoche WD is looking for a new GM and the SLDM website will post that and other related needs on its website.
Azhderian gave another report saying this year has been a very temperature management friendly year. The National Marine Fisheries Service got a pilot study going to model temperature and use that for mortality models. NMFS is representing this as a better approach to transparency. This could translate to lower water supplies and almost no benefit to the fish if history proves a reliable guide. He said a seismic study raised some concerns about the B.F. Sisk Dam on the San Luis Reservoir and the Bureau is looking into this with a possible retro-fit and allows for the possibility of increasing the storage.
The meeting then went into closed session for 18 or so items.
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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. Executive Director: Jason Peltier. Attorneys: Diane Rathmann and John Rubin.