The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, September 14, 2017 board of directors meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. I go to meetings spread out all over the Valley so I drive a lot and sometimes see interesting things. This morning I passed a three-wheel motorcycle pulling a trailer. It was tricked out with blue metal flake paint and chrome everywhere. The trailer was designed to look like the trunk of a Mercedes SL450, it even had the wounded turkey track logo. A lady was driving or riding or whatever, she was in control of it. She was following what looked like another three-wheeler towing a trailer but it turned out to be a regular motorcycle towing a trailer but it also had a side car. And it was all tricked out like the other one but the side car was in the shape of a small Volkswagen Beetle. I wanted to take a photo of it but with the tomato trucks and such I didn’t want to take a chance of causing a wreck.
Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at 9:30am. The meeting began with self-introductions. There were two empty chairs at the start of the meeting, very unusual but that didn’t last long. Then in defiance of the NFL we saluted our flag. The same flag that symbolizes the ideals of our better nature. There were no comments from the public and the consent calendar was approved.
SLDMWA Assistant General Manager Frances Mizuno wasn’t able to attend so Executive Officer Jason Peltier told the board about a MOU with Duke American Transmission Company for some power lines. The board approved.
Attorney Jon Rubin told the board about a new position – Deputy General Counsel. Rubin said he recommends tabling the action until after closed session. He said the workload is growing and he needs help to keep up with everything. He said the State Water Board activities keep things hoping and with additional in-house counsel those matters and the biops and so much more. Also, attorney Diane Rathmann is slowing down her practice. (At first I wrote Rathmann is slowing down. Not a good sentence.) Rubin listed many other tasks that could be accomplished in-house with the extra help. As a good lawyer he made a good case for the extra help. Overall the new legal help will save money. The board decided to table the matter until after closed session.
Peltier next reported the smelt biops requires moving the X2 line downstream a couple of miles. This is currently being met but come October considering Oroville’s condition and uncertainty with the water temperatures coming from Shasta could change things around. He said there have been some discussion about the need to move X2 line. The X2 line is a moving place in the Delta to where salinity levels are measured. Sending more water through the Delta pushes the X2 further west toward the San Francisco Bay. At the center of this is the biological opinions regarding smelt. It also impacts water users up in the Carquinez Straights.
The California Water Fix was next. Peltier said the State Board is moving along on the change petition for points of use on this water. Some districts are not willing to meet the opt in/out deadline at this time. It is difficult to invest millions of dollars without knowing how much water one will get and how much it will cost. Rubin said there are many court cases pending on the Twin Tunnels.
SLR Dam Named After Deceased Politician Who Knew?
There has been a study of the San Luis Reservoir’s B.F. Sisk Dam. Tom Boardman gave a presentation saying the US Bureau of Reclamation found a fault near the dam. The Bureau came up with some good ideas to protect the dam. Using nonstructural means came up with four alternatives such as: do nothing or quit putting water in the lake. The idea is cut in half the amount of storage and groundwater bank one million a/f to make up for it. Structurally the Bureau came up with some other ideas such as reinforcing the dam by beefing up the water-side toe of the dam so it won’t slide in an earthquake. It was a little tough following Tom because he was giving the report on power-point and he was standing in front of the screen in such a way about half of us couldn’t see what was on the screen. But the board could so all was well. This could cost $700 million if I heard correctly. And a half a million a/f of storage could be lost under many of the alternatives. There is a plan for a Los Banos Grande Reservoir, although it isn’t as yet being taken seriously by the Bureau. The location of this reservoir would be south of the SLR. San Luis is an off-stream storage facility. Boardman said raising Sisk Dam isn’t feasible because the current pumps can push the water any higher. Santa Clara Valley Water District Director Gary Kremen asked why the upfront costs were lower than most other projects. I wasn’t sure what the answer was.
Keeping Boardman on board, sorry, the Operations report was next. Boardman said the state plants were pumping at capacity until this month when they had to cut back for the X2 line. The state said they have to cut back the federal pumps have to cut back. However, state supplies have encroached on the federal share of SLR storage by more than 30,000a/f and calmer heads prevailed. The fed pumping can continue. Shasta, Folsom and Millerton storage levels are all better than average and tracking to turn out optimally. I think that’s what he said. He sees full federal storage at SLR by the next season, so even if next year is dry the season starts out well. (How much water can be pumped and when are very important questions. The massive pumps at the federal Jones Plant and the state’s Banks Plant were not designed to be turned on and off.) San Luis WD Director Bill Diedrich asked how this is impacting the Cooperative Operations Agreement. Broadman said COA isn’t applicable at this time because of the amount of water available exceeds the levels.
Peltier gave the water resources committee meeting report and Tranquillity ID Director Bill Pucheu gave the finance committee report and Central California ID GM Chris White gave the technical committee report. None of these committees had anything to report.
Peltier next reported the State & Federal Contractors Water Agency’s new Executive Officer is doing well. Diedrich reported the Association of California Water Agencies membership is ready to vote for the 13th standing committee – Ag water. He said this will require more engagement from ag to ACWA than in the past. He said there is hope this will happen as it gives agriculture a bigger position in an influential organization. Palmer McCoy, Henry Miller Reclamation District said he’s heard from the get go ACWA has forgotten ag. SCVWD Director John Valera is running for the ACWA District Five seat and I think he’ll do a great job. His district is the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley where agriculture is still strong. There is an interesting dichotomy at SCVWD as it represents Silicon Valley as a robust ag sector.
Michael reported there was a tour of Delta Mendota System and the Central Valley Project with highly placed contacts from the state side of the coin. He thanked staff and said the feedback was very positive.
Without Ms. Mizuno in attendance the O&M report was presented by Paul Stearns. Peltier said there may be a lot of power-point slides but it should be a short presentation. Stearns agreed saying, “Barring interruptions.” You know, it was an interesting report because a lot of rehab has been going on at the pump plant. Shafts and bearings and such being replaced. But, Stearns stood in front of the screen. The board could see and a half a dozen folks stood against the east wall to watch. I’m not going to drag my computer over there and try to stand and type. So we’ll use our imagination and summarize the report; “Everything needing operations is operating and everything needing maintenance is being maintained.” Also without Ms. Mizuno other things like transfers and SGMA were skimmed over. She’s pretty important.
Ara Azhderian was also absent this morning so the water policy report was incomplete without him. Peltier said attorney David Cory wrote a very good, concise paper on the regulatory challenges of nitrates in groundwater. Peltier and Rubin agreed now that it is in the state’s regulatory cross hairs all manner of soul sucking hell could break lose. Not their words. Peltier said there is a report from the new science intern. I didn’t get the guy’s name but it was said he could almost drink from a firehose considering the amount of material the poor guy was subjected too. I relate. That brought up a question from Westlands WD Director Don Peracchi as to how soon a full-time science guy can be hired. That is on the staff’s to do list.
Finally Peltier gave his report. He said the Temperance Flat Dam application was submitted in a sprint and the rest of it should be a marathon. While describing that event Peltier held his hands about six inches apart indicating the thickness of the application. And that was that. The meeting went into closed session.
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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. Executive Director: Jason Peltier. Attorneys: Diane Rathmann and John Rubin.