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San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority September 15, 2022

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By Don A. Wright

The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its board of directors meeting on Thursday, September 15, 2022 on Zoom and I believe the live show was limited to the board, staff and consultants or maybe not, I heard some voices I recognized. Anyway, I chose to avoid the drive and sit at my home office.

The Meeting

Chairman Cannon Michael called the meeting to order at 9:30am and led us in the flag salute. CEO Federico Barajas kicked things off with a roll call. There was no public comment. The consent calendar was next and no items were pulled before it was approved.

Action Items

The first item was an agreement with the Friant Water Authority for Delta smelt science funding. San Luis’ J. Scott Petersen gave the board some details. This program will be $424,722 all told, but by spreading the share around the State Water Contractors will pay $212, 361, Contra Costa Water District will pay $30,000, FWA will pay $34,448, and the SLDMWA will pay $147,913. The board approved.

Next Petersen spoke about a DWR grant of $7.6 million for SGMA use to the Delta Mendota Subbasin. There are 23 GSA’s in the subbasin and they will split the revenues and administrative costs of the grant. There is precedence for this type of cost share on grants and the board approved.

Next Petersen spoke about a DWR grant of $7.6 million for SGMA use to the Delta Mendota Subbasin. There are three management areas in the subbasin and they will split the administrative costs of the grant. There is precedence for this type of cost share on grants and the board approved.

Report Items

Once again Petersen took the floor and told the board about federal matters saying – I swear I heard him say John Podesta – will be administrating the hog trough of the green bill that for some bizarre reason is called the Inflation Reduction Act passed recently. (Hog trough was my term not J. Scott’s). The Biden Administration announced $3.5 billion for reducing farming carbon or increasing clean energy farming and there is a website that charts what amounts of money for what type of action is available.

There is a permitting reform package that – well, it sounds like it might be relaxing regulatory and permitting requirements. These are the rules of how energy, water development and transportation would be advanced by streamlining the process. Director Bill Diedrich said he’d like to see some bullet points on how this can be improved. Not to get partisan but there is one party in Washington DC that doesn’t like this idea. However former congressman and consultant Dennis Cardoza said West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin isn’t in lockstep with the others whose logo, if it were come to life, would go hee-haw. So there is some hope for progress against government red tape.

Consultant Bill Ball said he’s skeptical of any continuing resolution in Washington DC getting finished without foot dragging involved. I think he said he’s seen congress issue a three day CR to get  through the weekend. Does anyone remember the last time Congress passed a budget? I’m almost positive it within living history.

On the state side Petersen said the California Water Commission will be meeting and one of the questions is will the Commission tour the storage projects before taking further action on the projects. The California legislative session ended and bills AB 2449 was signed yesterday dealing with online meetings. As long as a quorum meets in person an entity doesn’t have to provide additional sites for the public to gather. Under the Brown Act if a director wasn’t able to attend a meeting he would have to notice the location where he would call in or in modern days log in from and make that location available to the public.

Consultant Kristin Olsen said almost all the bills in opposition or support with amendments have been successful. She said all in all it was a successful year for legislation, not so much for the budget. Evidently that $90 billion extra dollars didn’t go far enough. She said Petersen, Barajas and herself are setting up tours with elected officials for October. She also said she did a happy dance when he heard the recent court ruling found the State Board was overreaching in trying to curtail pre-1914 water rights. More about that in a future report.

Diedrich asked if SLDMWA sent a response letter in opposition to the proposed slot limit on striped bass. Petersen said the Authority has been working with other agencies and groups in developing such a letter that was sent, I believe. On the federal side there is a Senate bill that could address this through NEPA but it wasn’t clear to me how that would work. But at least the folks who could be impacted the most are paying some attention.

Running On Empty

As brilliant as she is beautiful; Frances Mizuno had a bitter song to sing. The San Luis Transmission Line project is dead. The financing just couldn’t get over the finish line. There are other possibilities, you know Plan B and C, out there and she recommended keeping an eye on this matter. Mizuno was understandably disappointed but she was gracious to the end thanking the Authority for allowing her to work on this project. She said she was grateful for the opportunity to work with such outstanding people. Many of the board members thanked Mizuno for the amazing amount of work and diligence she brought to the project.

CEO & Birthday Report

Barajas said next month is the 30th anniversary of SLDMWA and there will be a party after next month’s board meeting. There will also be a meeting next week with facilitators to develop infrastructure priorities and that will take place at the O’Neal Forebay pumping facilities.

COO Pablo Arroyave said the contractor for the transformer project has rescinded its bid due to “irreconcilable differences” but it sounded very much to me like the contractor couldn’t handle the technical challenge. He said they are dipping into the US Bureau of Reclamation’s technical pool for help.

Arroyave said the third pump rewind at the Jones Plant is about to wrap up, pun intended, and that will be the last of the five motors at the location. There is a plan to treat hyacinth by spraying with a helicopter. This weed has taken over huge swaths of Delta waterways.

Water Operations

            Rocket Surgeon Tom Boardman said Shasta has 1.55 million a/f in storage with 1.5 million a/f of carryover possible. He said while this is low it is still 400,000 a/f higher than last year at this time. Shasta could refill up to four million a/f next year or much, much less depending on the hydrology. The third consecutive La Nina could mean another dry year. He said it’s too soon to speculate. His big concern is a critical dry year at Shasta. Remember most of the SLDM water comes down the Sacramento River, to the Delta and from there to San Luis Reservoir. That’s why Shasta is so important to what’s happening in Bakersfield. Because if there isn’t enough water in San Luis the Bureau will take water from Millerton Lake to fulfill it’s Exchange Contractors supply obligations. That’s water that doesn’t flow down the Friant Kern Canal to Kern County or anywhere else along that conveyance.

At midnight last night Folsom had 1.4 million in storage. Releases there should decrease as fall comes along. The Delta outflow requirement caused a slow down at the Jones Plant but that has gone back to a two or three pump operation, especially with any fall storms. The Cooperative Operating Agreement between DWR and feds for who gets how much Delta water has the state owing the federal project some water that may not be paid back until later this winter. Michael asked for some additional analysis on possible Shasta operations with permission from Boardman’s employer Westlands Water District and WWD General Manager Tom Birmingham said go for it.

Committee & Outside Agency Reports

Next was committee reports and there were not any. There big news from outside agencies is Diedrich no longer sits on the ACWA state board but is on the Region Six and Seven Boards. Attorney Becca Akroyd has a very short report and Birmingham had a question for her. Unfortunately the audio was not happening, quality unintelligible, sorry don’t know what was said. That’s a shame too, because Akroyd has good reports.

Petersen said there will be a Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley meeting next week and a big group meeting in Madera in October. That was it for the committee reports.

Next was board member reports but literally no one spoke up but for Director William Bourdeau who said he was driving down to the Orange County Water Summit being held this week. I guess that inspired Director John Varela to give a brief ACWA report. And that was that. The meeting went into closed session at 10:32am.

I remember when SLDMWA meetings could last all morning. But in general meetings are shorter from now until the end of the year. They follow nature’s cycle although I’m not trying to make a claim there is anything natural about California’s legislative process. But the state assembly and senate end their meetings about now and there will be no more legislation to fight or support or propose until next year. The harvest is underway for many of the Valley’s crops and  the water year is almost over. It used to be and still can be sometimes – fall in the Valley was a marked change from any other time. The blasting heat gives way to Indian summer and the fog hasn’t moved in yet. Harvest wraps up and the pace slows down for a while. The days get shorter and it’s time to hunt pheasants and enjoy the anticipation of the holidays. Go be good to yourselves and each other.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete.  Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2022 by WaterWrights.net/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.

Board – Chairman: Cannon Michael,

Staff – Executive Director: Federico Barajas, COO: Pablo Arroyave, Attorney: Becca Ackroyd, Director of Water Policy: J. Scott Pedersen

Email: youtellus@sldmwa.org 209/826-9696
P.O. Box 2157 Los Banos, CA. 93635


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