The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, March 8, 2018 board of directors meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. Continuing the thread about Highway Patrol sightings from yesterday’s trip to Farmersville; I saw only one patrol car on State Route 152 this morning. The officer had pulled over a Ford Bronco or some such and Hyundai shortly thereafter passed me going at least 90 mph. With a patrolman detained at my back I felt this speeding car opened the way to the westward approach and I found out you can get from highway 99 to the Los Banos City limits in a half hour if you don’t have to worry too much about a speeding ticket. So, drive safely.
At precisely 9:30 am Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order and we saluted the flag of the United States of America. Then everyone introduced themselves and there were two corrections to the minutes but they weren’t big. Director Jim McLoed, Banta Carbona Irrigation District announced he had copies of the documentary film “Beyond the Brink.” The consent calendar was passed.
Interim Executive Director/Attorney Jon Rubin announced some official position matters. Michael was reinstated as chairman and Don Peracchi of Westlands Water District retained the seat of vice-chair. Rubin will serve as official secretary to the board while maintaining his position as interim XO. Tona Mederios will continue to serve as the treasurer.
Rubin said SLDM has in interest in the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority JPA and the board agreed to pay $50,000 to keep up the membership through June of this year. There is the question of what the SJVWIA will be doing after the Prop One application process is finished. Michael will stay on the SJVWIA board and Chris White, GM Central California ID will serve as alternate. The next meeting of the SJVWIA will be held tomorrow morning, Friday March 9th at Fresno ID’s offices in Fresno at 9:00 am. There will also be a meeting of the Temp Flat MOU investors tomorrow morning at 8:00 am, Visalia Convention Center.
The board was asked to authorize sending a letter to the US Department of Interior in support of sharing costs to enlarge Shasta Dam. Garth Hall, Santa Clara Valley WD asked if this is necessary before more information can be had. Tom Birmingham, GM Westlands WD said this is part of upcoming Trump Administration budget and pertains to the need of a local entity to support. Director John Valera, SCVWD asked how much of the financial obligation will SLDM end up on the hook for. Rubin said this letter may need a little rewrite but it will not obligate SLDM financially and more of show of support for the project at this time.
Rubin next told the board there is a need for a consultant to keep an eye the Shasta Reservoir operations for temperature management. Sometimes the fishy folks hold water at Shasta to keep a reserve of cold water. There have been many problems with this and south of Delta interest have been harmed by unsound science. McLoed commented the National Marine Fishery Service has mismanaged the EPA from the git go. White said it is vital to get this science inserted into the operations right away. The board agreed and will spend $25,000 for a consultant.
Similarly, the board was asked to invest in a Delta smelt science plan consultant. The proposed plan was going to be funded completely by federal and/or state agencies but they can’t get their governmental acts together. The State & Federal Water Contractors were asked to kick start this program and it costs SLDM another $25,000 to participate. Hall spoke about one of SCVWD’s consultants – highly regarded, didn’t catch her name – is also in support of this and the board went along.
SLDM has pending agreement with Oakdale ID, South San Joaquin ID and DWR for up to 100,000 a/f at $200 per a/f. The releases will be on the San Joaquin River tributaries and allow for more Delta pumping. The board approved. There was a similar proposal with Merced ID for up to 15,000 a/f for $200 per a/f. The board approved this water will begin flowing next month.
That was the end of the action items and Barbara Heidelberg, USBR has moved from the Fresno office to the Sacramento office. She gave an update on how the financing of Central Valley Project infrastructure will be impacted by the WIIN Act. This talk deals with changing contracts between the feds and the contractors. An esoteric nexus of law and accounting – hang on I’ll do the best I can. She said there is very little to negotiate as most of the terms are written into law. The process has been completed with the Friant Division of the CVP and this will be used as the template to follow. Language such as “. . . subsequent costs described in Section 4011 (a)(209)(B), (a)(3)(B)” and “Aid to irrigation power revenues not available to repay construction costs.”; if I understood correctly. I don’t think I did – understand correctly but the board seemed to and the Bureau folks left the meeting.
Rubin said the strategic plan has moved to the place of evaluations. Michael said he’d like to see meetings begin as soon as next week. Rubin reported SLDM received six strong applications for the position of science manager. He wanted to take the board’s temperature about proceeding with interviews and hire someone or wait for the strategic plan to be wrapped up. Rubin added Westlands WD has taken a look at the same situation. Birmingham said his board thought since both Westlands and Santa Clara Valley have excellent biologists on staff. He suggested in the interim SLDM to use the services of those to organization’s scientists. Director Sarah Wolff, Westlands said her board would like to wait for SLDM to hire a science manager but she did want the entire board’s opinion to be taken into account. Hall gave Santa Clara’s version and said he’d like to see someone to coordinate with SLDM until the science manager can be hired but doesn’t want to over tax his biologist’s work load. Rubin felt this would be a good short-term solution. Birmingham said having a biologist also act as an advocate would be a strain on their credibility. He said policy informed by science would come from the board. Rubin said he believes the position will be on hold. Director Bill Diedrich, San Luis WD said he doesn’t see a strategic plan that doesn’t include a science manager position being filled. Birmingham said he disagreed. He didn’t think the science manager is needed. Wolff asked him why he thought this. Birmingham said he didn’t have a particular vision. He said there isn’t any question about the need for CVP contractors to engage in science but the genesis of the strategic plan was to examine what the SLDM should be doing. He said perhaps the SLDM goes back to its original purpose of supporting the Delta Mendota Canal and hiring a science manager would be premature. Director Richard Santos, SCVWD suggested hiring a consultant for a year to see if the position is warranted. Rubin said there is a challenge to having a consultant overseeing the science program. Birmingham said a science manager won’t be in the filed conducting experiments; rather evaluating proposals and developing policy to take to Rubin and back to the board. Director Gary Kremen, SCVWD asked what the timeline is and Michael said he hopes to have a draft strategic plan by next month for all the members to consider. Steve Stadler, GM James ID suggested continuing this discussion in committee. Rubin said if they wait too long the strong candidates could be lost and if the authority hires someone and fires them in six month because it realizes that position isn’t needed – that could be a black mark on the authority. If I understood correctly this will be taken up in the Water Policy Committee.
The biops consultation for long-term operations of the CVP and State Water Project is coming up soon. Rubin expressed the need for a consultant to keep track of this and now the board knows this request could come before it.
Next a letter to the State Board regarding its desire to increase more regulations by making emergency drought regulations permanent expressing SLDM’s opinion. Attorney Becka Akroyd said SLDM does not believe the State Board has the power to do this and the letter stated so along with the reasons behind this belief. Rubin said the type of waste and unreasonable use the State Board is looking at is narrow but it’s a great danger of setting precedent for further water control. Rubin said he knows no other water attorney who believes the State Board has the legal authority to do this. As Birmingham (also and attorney) said this could pave the way to the state prohibiting the planting of crops. Kremen said SCVWA his board sent a similar letter to the State Board. Not so sure it’s a good time to relax against the government but it sounds like this attempt to expand its turf may not pan out for the State Board. Governor Jerry Brown (whose idea this expansion came from) is entering into his short-term phase and his clout will begin to wane. That’s just how it is in the political jungle.
Rubin gave an update on SLDM’s comments submitted to the Bureau on the Los Vaqueros Project. It was supportive.
Tom Boardman gave his water operations report and said when things began to dry up last month the restraint on pumping was due to the X2 line, how far upstream salty water can go. More flow out to sea pushes the salt water out. There were a couple of salmon found at the pumps and the ichthyologist are determining if they are winter run or not. If they are winter run that could cause the state pumps to cut back a further 500 cfs. He said when April hits the inflow/outflow ration on the SJR could cut the fed pumps back to one unit. The latest Shasta inflow estimates by the Bureau is in the 3 million a/f range. The state estimates showed a critical year for Shasta but with the new storms it’s now right on the fence at Shasta. The snow pack above Folsom has improved a good deal but these was only 17 percent of April 1st normal charted so even a doubling still doesn’t reach 40 percent. The fed side of the San Luis Reservoir is 150,000 a/f short of full which opens up the availability of more rescheduled water. However, the Bureau did warn this will be the first water to go if the SLR starts filling up. One of the big problems of cutting back the pumps is the wear on them. They were designed to run and throttling them up and down/on and off is tough. Lake Shasta will start stratifying in April and the cold layers will form. When will this inform the Bureau enough to raise the allocation from the Bureau? Early April to late May. Varela asked about the introduction of a large water rodent named nutria in SLR. Well, they do eat them in Louisiana but here they are an invasive species. Anthea Hansen, GM Del Puerto WD asked who makes the call on as to when Lake Shasta stratifies. Boardman and Rubin both said this is a weekly profile and the amount of storage doesn’t really impact the water temperature – it’s how cold the water was when it flowed into the lake.
Rubin reported SLDM gave notice to withdraw from the State & Federal Water Contractors as of April. He is trying to protect the smooth transition of the science studies and get SLDM’s assets back and not any more liability than it owes. It appears SFWC is coming undone with the members feeling it was a great organization but the overhead was too much.
Diedrich reported the new ACWA Agriculture Committee is meeting tomorrow to work out policy. He warned about a bill (SB623?) a water tax; opposed by urban water interests and ACWA that ag should support as a gesture of good will. He was in Washington DC recently and the feds would like local ag to help bring pressure on a governor who said there never will be an expansion of Shasta Dam. What is the matter with our state government? Too much recreational drug use in the 1960s?
Staff reports were next and unfortunately Francis Mizuno wasn’t present. Rubin invited the board to read the O&M report and the transmission project update. Staffer Andrew Garcia reported the Integrated Regional Water Management Program was designed to help secure grant money on a regional basis. It was said the IRWMP group is updating its plan as to be eligible of future grant money in the millions of dollars. In order to update the plan an RFP went out to consultants and it had specific criteria and a timeline attached. The contract should be awarded in the next few days and whoever gets the contract will have to work at least one butt check off to meet the deadlines between now and the end of the year. Garcia also gave a quick SGMA update saying there are six GSPs in the works. He said much of the preliminary work has been completed under the IRWMP. Outreach is going well and the full grant amount of $2.7 million for disadvantaged communities and GSP prep were awarded to the area.
Rubin gave his XO report and said he’s cut back the amount of Water Fix coverage he’s forwarding. The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.
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: Jon Rubin (Interim), Attorneys: Diane Rathmann and Jon Rubin.