The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, November 10, 2022 at its Los Banos headquarters in person and on Zoom. At 9:30am Vice Chair William Bourdeau called the meeting to order and everyone joined him with a flag salute in honor of the Marine Corps birthday. Bourdeau served and we thank him for that.
The first action item was the consent calendar and it passed without comment by roll call. The other action item was a big, fat $841 million request for a slice of the federal legislation marked for aging infrastructure. COO Pablo Arroyave explained this money will go to fixing the subsidence problems on the Delta Mendota Canal and upgrading the controls at the Jones Pumping Plant. There is small chance SLDM will receive enough of the available money to fix everything but the US Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner makes the final decision on ladling how much into which project. The cost of applying for the money is small. Director Gary Kremen spoke up saying he was in favor of this but would like to see a review of how the payback is divided between members.
Tom Birmingham, General Manager of Westlands Water District asked if there is a requirement for participating entities to provide a statement they are willing to commit to paying back the funds.
J. Scott Petersen reported on legislation and government matters. The feds announced $210 million for western state’s water projects and if I heard right he said the BF Sisk Dam raise will get $25 million for San Luis Reservoir. He said to expect a vigorous lame duck session. The House flipped but the Senate is still up for grabs. The budgeting for next year’s Farm Bill has begun. There may well be a conflict from some folks trying to load the farm bill with climate change.
Dennis Cardoza said this week’s election results will have a profound impact on SLDM. He said the Republicans will have the speakership and that will increase oversight by that party into what folks at USBR are up to. Bill Ball spoke saying there will be a significant effort next year to increase oversight on the infrastructure bill’s $4 billion in spending. Cardoza used to be a congressman and of his former staffers, Wiley Coyote, I didn’t catch his last name was elected to congress from North Carolina.
Petersen said Governor Gavin Newsom is changing chief of staffs again and the new lady is very experienced in politics. He also said there were tours of SLDM infrastructure for staff and elected officials from Sacramento. He said it went well.
Kristin Olsen spoke about state matters and thanked the member agencies who helped put the tour together. She also said it was very successful. She said the balance of power in the assembly and state senate did not change enough to ultimately move policy but there are strategies that could impact Democratic leadership. There are three or four Dem Assemblymember seats on the line. How that turns out will impact the speaker of the assembly battle. Olsen said she believes an incumbency will help the current speaker retain his position. Senator Melissa Hurtado has been a water in the Valley champion and possessed a few intersectional assets: Hispanic, woman, Democrat, her opponent doesn’t have. Her seat was challenged by Republican David Shepard, a farmer from Hanford has a good lead at this time. Olsen said State Senator Anna Caballero may take up the water champion baton and run with it.
Ex Director Report
SLDM Executive Director Federico Barajas introduced our old friend USBR’s Duane Stroup to further address the aging infrastructure funding available. Stroup said the Bureau’s regulatory guidelines require an application from the entities who pay for the extraordinary maintenance to request funding. The Bureau sent out solicitation letters to the member agencies. Things got way out in the accounting weeds at this point of the discussion. Far enough that a workshop will be held next week to provide more information to those who will be signing any repayment checks. It’s water, it’s in California and the feds are involved so you can bet it’s complicated.
Barajas said the Bureau is encouraging entities to take advantage of this opportunity. Stroup said this is a unique opportunity and the terms are good for the entities who sign up now. He did say the Bureau isn’t going to give 45-year terms for $1 million payback but that could be the term for a larger amount. There are four projects listed on the letter sent out by the Bureau: the Trinity River Transformer replacements, 750 cfs outlet at Shasta, the Folsom Pumping Plant and the Gianelli Pumping Plant. Stroup said the deadline to apply is December 1st at midnight, and that includes emails.
Next Barajas said there will be a December 14th budget workshop and invites should go out soon. He said the next year’s calendar meeting schedule will be out next month but the January 2023 board meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 12th.
Arroyave said there is concern about an increase in hyacinth showing up at the Jones fish screens and SLDM has staff available to help the Bureau with that chore. He said staff is developing three water supply scenarios and asked members to review and make suggestions.
Tom Boardman said there is water flowing into Lake Shasta for the first time in, well, in a while. The recent storms have been helpful. Shasta is predominantly rain fed. Folsom got some rain but it is predominately snow fed. Delta inflows came up 1,500 cfs due to the storms and while that’s not a lot it allowed the Jones Plant to go from one to two units of operations. He said without any further precipitation the two pump operations won’t last long and that means less water at San Luis Reservoir. Mid-December is when the fish issues start up and that can hinder capturing storm event flows in the Delta. This could easily be fixed with an upgrade of the 60-year old fish screens. There is an environmentally friendly design that would not only prevent the entrainment of any fish or other aquatic live but improve the habitat. It’s known as the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley.
Mitch Partovi asked if Boardman has a good guess on Shasta inflow reaching the magic four million a/f mark and it’s just too early to make that call.
Brandon Souza with the Farm Water Coalition reported the one year anniversary of the Museum of Science in Sacramento. He said post cooties attendance is improving and school children are seeing the farm water exhibition. He said the Wall Street Journal ad campaign also supported by the Family Farm Alliance has run its one year course. He also reported on social media outreach.
Director John Varela reported on ACWA and said the next conference will be at Indian Wells and should be a good event. This is a Diversity Inclusion Foundation being formed by ACWA. Director Bill Diedrich said on November 30th at 10am ACWA will have guests from Israel and the Netherlands speaking about saltwater barriers at the conference.
Petersen reported the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley met with Newsom’s Antonio Villagairosa to discuss water needs. There will be a Blueprint board meeting this month.
It was also mentioned John Bennet has retired from the, I think Panoche Water District Board, I’m not sure who said that. Someone else, I’m not sure who said James and Tranquillity ID’s have had good success with spraying for hyacinth and welcomed other districts to join them. Good for them.
The meeting then went into closed session at 10:46am for a lengthy list of litigation. And that was that. Go be good to each other and yourselves.
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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, Director of Water Policy: J. Scott Pedersen
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 209/826-9696
P.O. Box 2157 Los Banos, CA. 93635