The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, May 17, 2018 board meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. There are always things going on in the world of water. Here’s some background on SLDMWA. A while back Executive Officer Jason Peltier wasn’t at a meeting. If his absence was mentioned I failed to notice. I was curious – these folks are not Soviets airbrushing Trotsky out of the pictures. So, before today’s meeting I asked Chairman Cannon Michael what is going with the district’s leadership. Attorney Jon Rubin has been filling in as interim XO but earlier this week Westlands Water District voted to hire him as its attorney.
Michaels told me Peltier’s leaving was amiable and mutual. He said he and the San Luis Delta Mendota board are happy Peltier has stayed in the game advocating for California ag water. Not everyone’s skill set lends itself to all the facets of managing as large an organization as SLDM.
“Change happens in organizations,” said Michael. “I see a stronger alliance with our members. But these changes won’t hinder our mission to supply water to our unique blend of ag, urban and environmental users.”
With Peltier gone and Rubin moving on what’s next? I’m happy to report nature will not have to abhor a vacuum in this case. Just like when Captain Kirk’s away you have confidence because Spock is on the bridge. To the point; Assistant Manager and engineer Francis Mizuno will be interim XO until a permanent person can be found. That was made official by unanimous board approval.
Mizuno told me, “The core and foundation of the authority is strong. We have dedicated and talented employees and the good work will continue.” She also told me she has no plans of holding this position until she retires. She’s ready and willing to serve but is also ready to support a new XO.
The actual meeting began at 9:30 pm and the first action after the flag salute was the above mentioned appointment of Mizuno to interim XO. The next item was appointing Becka Akroyd to the position of interim attorney. Next the board approved the salaries of these two positions and approved spending money on recruiting qualified folks to sit in these positions permanently. After some discussion it was determined to everyone’s satisfaction there is plenty of funds in the budget to get this together.
Martin Rosch is one of the top strategic plan consultants in the California ag water community. He joined by phone to talk about the district’s Strategic Plan. There were those who wanted to know if this needs to be resolved before hiring new folks and Rosch said this has been coordinated into the plan. He led the board through the expedited timeline that should have a new XO in place by September of this year. Mizuno said as long as everyone follows the schedule the plan is doable. She asked for direction from the board as this isn’t an action item. Director Gary Kremen, Santa Clara Valley Water District asked about the other strategic goals such as regulations and environmental concerns. Michael said that is part of the objective but will be dealt with easier once a new XO is on board. He also said Kremen’s concerns are very valid as it may be beneficial to have to someone with political experience and contacts. As long as the board and the members are OK with the candidate. Steven Stills, GM James ID said he wants to see as fast an appointment as possible. Director Richard Santos, SCVWD said he believes it will be the most beneficial to take as much time as needed to get the right person. Kremen said he agrees to allowing the process to work but he wants to just make sure the most important duty of hiring the right person is achieved. Mizuno said the goals and objectives adopted by the board in the strategic plan will help determine who will best fill the position. Michael said the board hired a good consultant and he wants to see the plan followed. And that is what will happen. Interviews can begin next week with Michael and an ad hoc group will handle this.
Mike Bell of Michael Bell Management Consulting was on hand to update the board on the analysis of the San Luis Transmission Project’s economic viability. Bell has a pretty strong background. He looks a bit like comedian Oswald Patton if Patton were six feet tall and dressed nice. Bell’s presentation was chock full of acronyms unfamiliar to not just me but most folks in the room without energy experience. Ultimately Bell was hired to double check Duke Energy and the US Bureau of Reclamation’s analysis of how much this project will cost and if it will provide value to the users. As this was a power point presentation with estimates based on computer models of power uses it might be far more illuminating to get a copy of the presentation for yourself. The board seemed pleased with Bell’s assessment of the project’s viability.
Rubin gave the board an update on the State Board’s water quality control plan for the Bay Delta. This was more of the same – more water out to sea, same results – unhealthy fish and less farming. Next Rubin talked about some of the goals and how to work best with the Bureau on biological opinions issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Wish & Wildlife long term operations of the CVP.
Mizuno gave an update on the California Water Commissions’ Prop One scoring. She said Temperance Flat didn’t do well. Kremen said there will be a workshop on June 4th to gain additional support for an MOU on the Pacheco Reservoir Enhancement Project. Akroyd said support for the Temp Flat MOU has waned somewhat and individual districts are able to work with Stantec to run some computer models of Temp Flat’s impact on west side operations.
Tom Boardman gave his water report and said the federal Jones Plant was down to one unit for a week to test for predators. There should be three pumps running soon. Storage at Shasta is good, above four million a/f at the end of April. Folsom is doing better as well with the Bureau’s willingness to draw during summer up since the increased snow pack. He expects the pumps will run at capacity in July and he believes the allocation will go up past the current 40 percent. He said the numbers clearly support more than 40 percent. His guess is 45 percent is a slam dunk but it could go to 50-55 percent. The question is will it take political persuasion to get the allocations higher? Director Jim McLeod, Banta Carbona ID said this is totally unacceptable. It’s the same thing mentioned above, less water for farmers and no improvement for the fisheries.
Rubin said the State & Federal Water Contractors Agency still has SLDMWA. SLDM withdrew its withdrawal. Rubin said the SFWCA wind down has slowed and its looking for a new XO. He said he’s more optimistic about assets remaining after the wind down. Since both SLDM and Westlands WD are members of SFWCA there is a chance Rubin could represent both entities.
Mike Wade of the California Farm Water Coalition reported Del Puerto WD won an award during ACWA’s recent conference for its recycled water project. He said press releases have been sent out. Everyone gave DPWD GM Anthea Hansen a hand. Bill Diedrich, San Luis WD congratulated Hansen as well. Diedrich heads the ACWA Ag Committee and said it is the first committee meeting held at the conferences. This was also the first time the Ag Committee met. So, maybe some more about that.
Rubin said the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority JPA will continue but is searching what its role will be now that the CWC’s disappointing Prop One award to Temp Flat is flopping around on the dock gasping for oxygen.
Mizuno said the final alignment of the pump on unit five, I believe, was completed or near completion. There have been three public meetings about SMA and the Delta Mendota GSA. She continued by talking about transfers. The Oakdale ID/Southern San Joaquin ID transfer was a headache imposed by the Bureau and DWR. The Exchange Contractors transfers are clear.
It was reported the Drainage Authority met to talk about the CV Salts.
Rubin gave his XO report saying he was involved in a meeting about Delta science at the Delta Stewardship Council. The DSC is looking to quantify how much has been spent and by who on science in the Delta. He said the close to $1 billion spent has been mostly paid for by ag interests. This money isn’t always given voluntarily. Rubin also went to the IICG. He can’t remember what that stands for but it looks at projects needing evaluation of science to help establish policy. The meeting then went into closed session.
I was able to speak with Rubin briefly after the meeting. “My decision to leave was difficult. I very much cherish the Water Authority and its staff,” he told me. “The work they do is invaluable. My move to Westlands Water District presents unique professional opportunities. I intend to continue to seek opportunities to advance the interests of not just Westlands but all of the agricultural, urban and environmental users of Central Valley Project water.” Best of success to you Jon.
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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. Chairman: Cannon Michael, Executive Director: Jon Rubin (Interim), Attorneys: Jon Rubin and Becka Akroyd.