The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, March 4, 2021 remotely on Zoom from all over and at its Los Banos headquarters. I don’t know when SLDMWA upgraded its website but it looks good and is easy to use. I blame whoever did the upgrade for making my morning go better. Good job.
Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at 9:30am and attorney Rebecca Akroyd called the roll. There were plenty of directors for a quorum. There were no corrections or additions to the agenda. Public comment was next and no one spoke up. The consent calendar (considered to be routine and noncontroversial in some parts of the country) was approved without comment.
It’s time for the board to choose new officers and Executive Director Federico Barajas said it is custom for SLDMWA staff to serve as treasure and secretary. Controller Joyce Machado and Barajas ended up in these positions. Michael retained the chairmanship and Director William Bourdeau remained as vice chair. Michael said without tears he’s appreciated working with everyone and will try to be a better chairman this year than he was last year. Bourdeau said he’ll take this responsibility seriously.
The next action item dealt with four pieces of legislation. Director of Water Policy J. Scott Petersen said staff recommends the board take a support position on: H.R. 644 Calvert Rebuild Act, H.R. 737 Valadao, Renew WIIN Act, H.R. 866 Fish Act and state wise S.B. 559 Hurtado Canal Restoration Fund. Director Tom Birmingham said the recommendation was for the board to adopt a support position. Michael told Petersen he’d done a bang up job of laying out the reasoning for supporting the bills in his packet report. The board agreed.
The board was asked to appoint Barajas to the State & Federal Contractors Water Agency board of directors. Barajas reminded the board this was brought up at last month’s meeting. The board agreed a steady hand on the wheel was needed and Barajas was appointed.
Next the board was asked to consider a CEQA exemption to buy water from Oakdale Irrigation District, South San Joaquin ID and DWR. Frances Mizuno said this water would cost $250 per a/f and it would come from the Stanislaus River. This purchase has taken place before and proven beneficial to the native fisheries and habitat. The amount isn’t yet sure if I understood. The amount of water available is based on 50 percent of CVP and 50 percent State Water Project allocations or export ratio. This water is part of what can be captured at the Delta and the supporting resolution being voted on secures San Luis’ share. The board approved.
The last action item was modifying debt management policies by resolution. COO Pablo Arroyave reported the board directed staff in October 2020 to come up with a policy recommendation to help make clear when SLDM should self-fund or seek financing. Arroyave walked through it but there was a good bit of minutia, important but more than I can convey here in this report. Akroyd offered to put a redline on screen to review the policy changes. Mercifully no one took her up on it. It’s rough when you get more than two people trying to come up with better language. Friant Water Authority CFO Don Willard asked about self-funding participants being able to pay up front. Akroyd said that provision is in the updated packet available online. The board approved the resolution.
The first report was on state and federal affairs. Petersen and former congressman Dennis Cardoza gave a representation. I’d like to take a moment here and heap further praise on SLDM staff. Whoever writes up the agenda will occasionally list presenters full names. Good for them.
Petersen said members of the board met online with elected officials and bureaucrats in Washington DC about several water topics. He said there were 24 meetings and he thanked everyone for participating. He continued many of Biden’s nominations have made it past congress. Secretary of Ag, Commerce, EPA, Attorney General, Interior, X-man Becerra for HHS and US Bureau of Reclamation have folks working at the top now. A virus package passed the House and the Senate’s version may look different before it’s over. The House threw a lot of stuff in there including $350 billion to help replace economic loss including $1 billion for racial problems faced by farmers if I heard him correctly. Not sure what that means. I’m exhausted trying to keep up. I don’t even know if I’m too white to drink Coke or not white enough. I believe I’ll stand with the Reverend Dr. King and go with the character angle instead of the skin color test. I invite you to join me or not in seeking that sanity.
Cardoza said a lot of ground was covered at the online meetings and San Luis is on their minds in DC. He said some lady from Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s office will go to work for the new Senator Alex Padilla. Oh, that’s nice. Cardoza said after speaking with Senator Chuck Schumer and it isn’t clear how any infrastructure funds will be made available legislatively. He said to keep needed projects on the table.
Arroyave gave his report saying the crews are just about finished with rewinding pump five at the Jones Plant and then pump one will be tackled.
Mizuno gave the transfer report saying there may be carriage losses of 30 percent moving water from north of Delta to the SLDMWA area. The costs range from $350 to more than $400 per a/f. She said there will be an opportunity to learn about carriage loss this afternoon at a presentation. Carriage loss is how much water evaporates or soaks in or for some other reason doesn’t make it from point A to point B. You still have to pay for all the water and hope carriage loss is minimal.
Tom Boardman gave the water report saying over the last 30-days Shasta has gained some water but needs 250,000 more a/f of inflow. There is a storm moving in this weekend and a bigger one expected next week. Folsom Reservoir storage is going down. The X2 line is tapping into stored water and cutting pumping. The X2 Line is the furthest inland salt water can come in from the San Francisco Bay. Flows from the Delta are used to push back this line of saline water. It’s getting so pumps have to be turned on and off daily. These are very big pumps and the torque required to get them spinning up to speed is tough on the equipment.
Boardman said the any allocation increase later in the season isn’t likely without some big storms. Arroyave said the Bureau has indicated being able to turn on an additional pump next week and while that’s better than a poke in the eye Michael summed it up saying there are thousands of cfs flowing out to sea while the pumps can only move 700cfs.
Michael asked Boardman how much Shasta operations will follow the 2014-2015 drought pattern. Boardman said the Bureau will begin cold water measurements and that will add more data to base further forecasts. Boardman said if the storms allow for two to three unit pumping by mid-March there may be some increase in allocation. Even if March and April precipitation averages come out normal it will help. Director Bill Diedrich said the California Farm Water Coalition has some great articles on what is happening with the State Water Resource Control Board in relation to climate change. Click on the WaterWrights logo.
Birmingham reported everything the Water Resources Committee talked about has done been talked about today.
The State & Federal Contractors met and the Family Farm Alliance information is in the packet. Brandon Souza from the CFWC said the tours that used to be in person are now being assembled by video and other electronic means. CFWC will host webinars to bloggers and other influencers and so far those efforts have reached more than a quarter of a million people by their estimates. The collaboration and coordination efforts with other Western States’ governments and ag leaders had resulted in several templates for op-eds and letters to the editor on the topics of water infrastructure and such matters including the topic of red tape which ought to be interesting.
The ACWA report was given by Diedrich and he said the ACWA Ag Committee wants to dispel the myth that ag gets the lion’s share of water during droughts. Diedrich said ag water management plans need to be turned in on time. Folks are watching. He said the Bureau’s Ernest Conant spoke but didn’t have much to add to what was said today. He said Tom Payne spoke about the ASO and it was a dynamic presentation. Tim Quinn spoke about the Water Collaborative work at Stanford bringing in diverse interests that otherwise may not have stepped up to engage in the San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint. Michael asked Diedrich how to sign up to be a part of to these hearings. Diedrich said the committee meeting is open attendance and offered to send folks a link. I would have liked to have heard that meeting. Director John Varela said Diedrich runs a good meeting, the content was extraordinary and sadly ag wasn’t well represented by attendance. He vowed to bring more attention to the ACWA Ag Committee to the coastal farmers he represents.
Director Anthea Hansen spoke saying the Central Valley Project Water Association did meet and things are getting ramped up. There are big picture issues like the CVPIA true up and extraordinary O&M. The CVPWA was formed to help keep tabs on how the CVP is managed and operated. She said she heard Petersen might be participating and that sounds good to her. She said the Association has a good working relationship with the Bureau’s accountants.
Diedrich said he would forward the power-points and notes from the ACWA Ag committee meeting on request. That was it for board member reports. Due to some conflicts Diedrich and Director John Bennett both had to recues from closed session. The meeting the went into closed session to talk about 20 or so lawsuits or potential lawsuits. And that was that.
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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.
Board – Chairman: Cannon Michael,
Staff – Executive Director: Federico Barajas, COO: Pablo Arroyave, Attorney: Becca Ackroyd, J. Scott Pedersen: Director of Water Policy