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San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority January 10, 2019

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The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, January 10, 2019 board of directors meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at promptly 9:30am. The first thing we did was salute our nation’s flag and introduce ourselves to each other. The once change you get put a name with a face. Attorney Becca Ackroyd said item 11 needs to be removed. Under public comment I was able to invite everyone to Fresno State University’s water marketing seminar on January 24th.

Then a very nice thing happened. Michael said the past week was the first time he’s been able to get together with the new Executive Director Federico Barajas, Ackroyd and Assistant Executive Director Francis Mizuno who has been the interim Executive Director for the past several months. Michael said without Mizuno’s help he doesn’t see how the Authority could have emerged from this transition in such good shape and he’s very happy with the team in place. He gave Mizuno – I think it’s called a word cloud – it was a print of a drop of water with words in various sizes that express others’ opinion of her. For instance; more often the word smart or honorable or beautiful was mentioned the larger it appeared in the water drop. Good for her. She does play a big and important role in SLDMWA’s ability to function.

Next the consent calendar was passed and Mizuno presented the board with a new proposal for executive salaries. It’s public record but they make good change; what we used to call beer and cigar money. Westlands Water District General Manager Tom Birmingham (also an attorney) suggested the motion to be amended to reflect the salary increase be a part of the O&M budget otherwise there could be a challenge from social justice warrior about the hair off a gnat’s knee legal technicality. Everyone took a breath and agreed.

Mizuno let the board know there is a need for scuba divers to get in the Delta Mendota Canal and fix some stoplog guides. Due to the dangerous conditions she recommended the board waive request for proposals and sole source to DRS Marine, Inc. because of this firm’s expertise and experience with the DMC. The board went for it. Barajas was then appointed as secretary to the board and that makes it official. With next to no comments the board approved the Westside-San Joaquin Integrated Water Resources Management Plan. There is now an IWRMP which I guess is different than an IRWMP – integrated regional water management plan. Or they changed the name. I don’t know and I didn’t want to stop the meeting with a question to find out. One must choose their battles wisely and not look like a know nothing donut in front of a room full of people. Although, I don’t believe I’ve ever asked a question where I was the only one in the room who didn’t know the answer.

Mizuno told the board about the deal in the works with Contra Costa WD regarding the Los Vaqueros Reservoir. In 2011 SLDM signed up for a MOU that will cost it $100,000. The project will increase LVR’s capacity from the current 160,000 a/f to 275,000 a/f. This will benefit SLDM contractors with increased operational flexibility. There are many other moving parts to this deal including the establishment of an activity agreement. That caused a good discussion about the need to consult the home board before pulling the trigger. As it is, a resolution was adopted but Santa Clara Valley WD’s Director Gary Kremen asked to include the provision at SLDM can negotiate a better deal. The board was good with that. There were other issues involved but for the most part the idea was good.

Dennis Cardoza is a former congressman from the SJ Valley and is now a lobbyist with SLDM as a client. He said Governor Gavin Newsom reappointed Karen Ross as the California Secretary of Agriculture and that’s pretty good. However, Newsom’s appointment to Cal EPA (I don’t remember his name but we’ll get to know it most likely and he was Newsom’s enviro guy when Newsom was mayor of San Francisco) is going to require a lot of work to develop a good relationship. As for Washington DC Cardoza said there are many new congressmen and women who need to be educated. He said he expects the new Democrat controlled congress will be looking at improprieties within federal projects and urged the Central Valley Project to mind its minutia. He said there are a good deal of new elected officials, both state and federal, as well as new staff and they need to be contacted, one on one relationships need to be developed. New state legislation impacting ag water will include some attempts at swaying the voluntary agreements with the State Water Resources Control Board and the cost of water rights fees.

Barajas introduced Martin Rauch, Rauch Communications to discuss the Strategic Plan 2019’s goals, objectives and priorities. After last month’s meeting there was a workshop to go over the details of the plan. Rauch said there are updates to both the mission and vision statements and many details to go over. He said this plan is about the specific goals and objectives the board feels most important. There are many other things not in the plan that are also important but not listed. There were seven goals listed:

  1. Maximize the Water Supply
  2. Improve Governance and Policy Direction
  3. Staff Resources in Place to Implement Board Goals and Priorities
  4. Effective Operations
  5. Increase Scientific and Technical Credibility and Influence
  6. Effective Communications and Engagement with Stakeholders
  7. Finances are Well Understood and Supported by the Board

There were 14-pages of brief summaries covering these matters. Rauch said SLDM has been proactive and many organizations let too much time lapse between developing the goals and implementing them. He gave the example of hiring Barajas and Scott Peterson as indicative of moving forward and a good sign these efforts will be successful. Rauch said there has also been improvement in the board’s willingness to address the critically important need for understanding the finances.

Rauch said there will be a comment period that will last until January 25th. Send them to Mizuno. After that he’ll start to work with staff on coming up with an implementation plan for the board to review. Banta Carbona ID Director Jim McLeod said he objects to the term “increasing” the water supply. He said the goal is to get the water taken away from the growers replaced. Birmingham asked if the board will have an opportunity to go through the document as a board as opposed to just submitting comments. He alluded to McLeod’s comments about the importance of words. He gave the example that the Authority doesn’t need water as stated, the contractors need water. He strongly suggested the document needs to be deliberated as a group. Rauch said this is a good idea and should be submitted in the comments. He said an executive committee would not be a good fit for SLDM, something Birmingham was in agreement with. Rauch said if most of the comments are in agreement then the improvements can be included. Birmingham said if there is no group discussion all the directors need to commit to reviewing this document with a fine-toothed comb. Steve Stadler, GM James ID said there needs to be discussion between directors and Ackroyd remined them to beware of the Brown Act. Birmingham said not to belabor the point but if everything is done by written comments it eliminates deliberation. He wants to have another workshop. He wasn’t able to attend the last workshop because of Cooperative Operations Agreement negotiations between the state and feds he was a part of. So, maybe the next workshop will be scheduled at a time when everyone can show up. Kremen asked about quorums when talking to other directors. I think there are 15 directors so a regular quorum would be eight, but due to standing committees the quorum can drop to five. The board decided to start with written comments followed by deliberation. I think.

Ackroyd gave an update on things happening with the State Board’s mischief. Phase II on the water plan was one item. Mizuno thanked Birmingham, Central California ID GM/Exchange Contractors Executive Director Chris White and Barajas for their work on the COA. Michael said the results were very good. McLeod asked about the fact that more and more water is washed through the Delta and there are no benefits to the fish. Birmingham said for the first time the new adapted management program will hold to account the impact of increased flows through the Delta’s benefit of beneficial use. The State Board has a Orwellian named “Voluntary Agreement” it is offering to folks to hopefully mitigate some of the unimpaired flows through the Detla.

The next item was Temperance Flat and Jason Phillips, Executive Director of the Friant Water Authority spoke. He said FWA and the Exchange Contractors have joined together to form an entity that will take over the Temp Flat leadership at tomorrow’s San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority meeting. The City of Fresno, Westlands WD and SLDM are also considering joining the new JPA. Mizuno reported WWD has signed on as lead agency for the CEQA of raising Shasta Dam.

For the past 22-years Tom Boardman has been with SLDM. He gives the water reports and readers will recognize his name. He was here today, but he now works for Westlands WD. He told folks he was very thankful for the relationships he’s gained from working at SLDM.

Boardman gave his report and said filling San Luis Reservoir has slowed as is typical of this time of year. Under the new COA instead of splitting the Delta pumping 50/50 it is now 60/40 favor of the CVP under the spring months in most scenarios. He said it is encouraging. He says to expect a much more formal COA accounting available to the public that can be monitored from the web to come on line soon. There are good improvement in snow pack due to recent storms. He expects improvement from below normal to above normal snow pack, or at least is hopeful. He sees the SLR filling sometime in March. The carryover from last year’s late allocation is being used before it is being loosed. Preseason irrigation is up to keep from losing the carryover and that is slowing the fill up of SLR. As usual when prognosticating over numbers the government has control over there are several variables to take into account. Boardman’s visions include the CVP’s responsibility of being able to pump more during the summer as the new agreement puts more onus on the state for through Delta flows.

Committee reports were thin as many committees haven’t met and those that did didn’t have anything to say. Michael Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition reported on outreach efforts conducted by his organization. He had news on how new SGMA requirements impacted the Brown Act’s influence on websites. SLDM has some very nice websites under its umbrella. He said his surveys show there are two types of public; i.e. the housewife in Glendale and news media and elected officials. The public-public likes farmers, a lot. It’s the other side of the public who raise the hell rained down on farmers. So, that’s good to know.

San Luis Water District Director Bill Diedrich is also the Chair of the ACWA Ag Committee and he said ACWA is half way through its own strategic plan. He plans on attending the upcoming ACWA trip to Washington DC. He said he has some fun relatives he and his wife enjoy visiting in the area. That sounds good.

Barajas gave his first Ex Direct report and said he is very appreciative of the opportunity to personally meet with each director since being hired. He said it was educational and informative. He said the 2019 board of director’s schedule has been released and there are four conflicts that need adjustment; the month of May due to ACWA, July falls on the 4th, September – same thing Labor Day and in December there is another ACWA conflict. He also wants to take a close look at the priorities as he understands them. With that the meeting 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, Attorney: Becca Ackroyd.

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