San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, December 12, 2019 at its Los Banos headquarters. Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at 9:30 am reminding everyone to turn off their ringers. We did and then we saluted the flag all together. SLDMWA Executive Director Federico Barajas announced Pablo Arroyave has been hired as COO and now Francis Mizuno can retire. I’m glad for her but a little sad because she is, has and I expect will always be as gracious as can be. I appreciate her help to me over the years. Also I fear the popularity of the SLDM meetings has waned due to Mizuno’s absence. There were actually empty chairs today where usually visitors and staff must jockey for a saddle, or seat is probably more accurate. Introductions We all introduced ourselves and then something nice happened. Former Kern County Water Agency Executive Director Curtis Creel, who recently retired was the recipient of the San Luis Delta Mendota Golden Bucket Award. Good for him. Westlands Water District GM Tom Birmingham gave a – I don’t want to say eulogy because Creel is obviously alive – but a moving talk about Creel’s history and accomplishments. Birmingham said Creel was an engineer with DWR and I didn’t know that. Birmingham also said without Creel the negotiations for the Cooperative Operating Agreement between the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project over Delta operations would have been a nightmare. Creel said a few words and I was impressed that his father came with him to receive this award and Creel said he never had an original thought about water. It all came from his dad. In a world where folks are always trying to get you to believe they know what’s best it is refreshing to hear a little humility and honoring one’s parents. This leads me to believe Mr. and Mrs. Creel did a good job raising him. The consent calendar was passed no problem. That ushered in Action Items. Attorney Becca Akroyd explained some new law has been passed and SLDMWA will have to alter its records retention policy. The board complied with the new policy. J. Scott Petersen gave a brief updated on the fiscal year 2021 objectives and that passed. Action Items Barajas next spoke about the O&M contract with the US Bureau of Reclamation that includes a transfer of the O&M, operations and various financial and admin for the Delta Mendota Canal, San Luis Drain, DMC/California Aqueduct Intertie Pumping Plant, O’Neill Pumping/Generating Plant and Jones Pumping Plant. Akroyd said there are several provisions specific to the San Luis Drain but there is no change in SLDM’s liability. There was a deep dive on some of the legal language contained in the contract but as Barajas pointed out many other CVP divisions have already entered into or are preparing to do so, a very similar agreement. The contract was included in the packet and it was 43 pages with another dozen pages of appendix. Birmingham had a few questions regarding whether or not some of the original language from the current contract can be retained as needed. I believe Akroyd is in a good place to make sure the best language can be preserved. Whether that is accomplished by a paragraph by paragraph comparison. Barajas said there will be opportunities for everyone to comment. By the way, at the beginning of the meeting Michael said Akroyd had a record setting time in a recent marathon. He said SLDM now has one of the quickest legal counsel in the water business. Santa Clara Valley WD’s Gary Kremen asked if today’s vote could open the members to exposure; which prompted Birmingham to propose a motion that addresses this possibility. Folks liked that and a motion was seconded and passed. Peterson next told the board SLDM’s Andrew Garcia is moving on to SCVWD and that leaves a gap in the Tulare Kern Funding Area for the IRWM Disadvantaged Community Involvement Program. Antonio Solorio who works for Westlands is the new cat. SCVWD snagged a good man in Garcia. Information Items Jim Watson from the Sites Reservoir Project gave an update on the progress of the project. There is a well-stocked pool of partners buying into the Sites Reservoir. It’s a beneficiary pays project and off stream so no rivers are flooded upstream. Watson said Site adds a tremendous amount of flexibility especially during dry years. He projected the San Joaquin Valley could get an additional 200,000 a/f from the reservoir. The reservoir will be located on the west side of the Sacramento Valley west of Maxwell. At full build out it will 1.8 million a/f and can be built out by phases. The cost appeared to me to be $1.2 billion with the state kicking in $816 million and the USDA kicking in $449 million. The next big milestone will be congressional determination of feasibility will start the process to gain access for $449 million. Without the feds financing a smaller version that can be expanded will be built. Watson said most of the usual opposition is aligned with former NRDC attorney and member of congress Jared Huffman said he’ll remain neutral on the project. So that’s a win right there. One Dam Thing After Another Next Anthea Hansen, GM Del Puerto WD and Chris White, Executive Officer of the Exchange Contractors gave a presentation of the proposed Del Puerto Canyon Reservoir. As the name implies the project is a dam on Del Puerto Canyon. There will be some water from Del Puerto Creek but most of the 82,000 a/f of stored water will come from the DMC. It is off storage. The draft EIR has been released and construction is expected to start in 2022 and last until 2028. The 45-day comment period starts today. There are multiple benefits from the project and there could be some WIIN Act money. There are three areas of feasibility that must be satisfactorily addressed: fiscal, environmental and physical location. Peterson gave a state and federal affairs update including legislative news. He said the House and Senate reached some agreement or at least agreement to negotiate on a budget. Aurelia Skipwith has been confirmed as the new Director of Fish & Wildlife by the Senate. Congressman TJ Cox has proposed a bill for domestic drinking water that could include $200 million for Friant Kern Canal repairs. There will be a tour for amongst other Erik Ekdahl of DWR to see how SGMA could playout in the area. Barajas spoke about modeling different scenarios of increasing storage at San Luis Reservoir by raising the BF Sisk Dam. There are many options with both the state and feds involved. And, private investment could be utilized. Director Jim McLeod, Banta Carbona ID said before Shasta Dam saltwater intruded into the Delta often. He said the Delta needs to thank Shasta, New Melones and Folsom Dams and keep that in mind when pumping. Garth Hall of SCVWD gave a very brief update on the Panoche Reservoir Project saying things are chugging along swimmingly. Peterson said the science studies SLDM has invested in are still being pursued. Some of the money has gone to studying impacts from the BF Sick Dam raising. He expects more investment needed for the biological opinions and Delta operation updates. He said it would be good to not have spikes of scientific funding. Petersen said Tal Eslick has been hired as the Executive Director of the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint. Dr. David Sunding of UC Berkeley is conducting a comprehensive economics study of the San Joaquin Valley and its relation to water. Water Conditions Tom Boardman gave his report. He left SLDM to work for Westlands but his report hasn’t really changed. He said there’s 24,000 cfs sloshing into the Delta thanks to recent storms. The feds are pumping 80 percent of capacity due to repairs and the state side is also hurting as the O’Neill Pumping Plant at San Luis Reservoir is under repair as well. Boardman said late dry conditions and the Fall X2 line has caused less water to be stored and that impacts the 2020 outlook. However, in 2017 there was a come-from-behind recovery but it will take a beg, wet year to get the pumping back to where it can happen. The allocations will have to be high for a full reservoir by spring. The new biops could come into play by January but the Bureau has stated it will operate conservatively since the new biops are untested. Boardman was asked how the cold water pool in Lake Shasta is doing. He said that’s hard to pin down this time of year because the lake doesn’t stratify until spring but the large amount of storage currently there bodes well. Engineer Joe McGahan gave a phone update on the San Luis Drain. He said a 25-year permit is being looked at. Selenium in the San Joaquin River is suspected to cause some problem or other with a split tail fish at the pumps. This came from a decade old, unpublished report. The current agreement expires December 31 of this year. He’s writing an extension request and there will be more in closed session. Executive Report Barajas gave his report saying the 2020 board meeting schedule has been posted for review; May and September meetings are not the usual. May will meet on the 14th due to ACWA and September will meet on the 10th due to Labor Day. Next month’s meeting will be at Santa Nella with a budget workshop following the regular board meeting. He also said the Bureau is holding a CVPIA workshop today, here at the SLDM boardroom. It sounds like a scoping session. Committee reports yielded no reports. Mike Wade from the California Farm Water Coalition said he’s working on finalizing a communications strategy with Petersen and updating the SLDM website to be more user friendly. Wade said this is 30 years for the CFWC. He toured a bunch of bloggers with about 300,000 readers combined. This proved to be a good move as the positive publicity generated has been. . . well, positive. The CFWC also had 46 op eds picked up many in the major publications such as the LA Times and San Jose Mercury. Director John Varela, SCVWD praised Wade for the work he did to highlight the Santa Clara County agriculture. He also thanked Director Bill Diedrich, San Luis WD for his outreach to get more collaboration between the Valley and the coast area. Diedrich is also on the ACWA Ag Committee and reported ACWA is moving its Sacramento Offices, I don’t know where. He said the best way to enjoy an ACWA conference is to get there the night before so you can attend the first day’s 8:00am Ag Committee meeting. Jeff Bryant, GM Firebaugh Canal WD praised Peterson’s work. The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 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. Chairman: Cannon Michael, Executive Director: Federico Barajas, Assistant Executive Director: Pablo Arroyave,