The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its meeting on Wednesday, April 14, 2021 remotely from its Wasco headquarters on GoToMeeting. Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order at 12:30pm and the flag salute was the first order of business. Under public comment Waterhouse asked General Manager Jason Gianquinto to introduce Jim Thebaut of the Chronicle Group is the producer of “On the Brink” and other documentaries.
Thebaut spoke and told the board thanks for its support in the past. Thebaut’s films have had good, national distribution. His latest production deals with taking care of headwaters in the mountains. He said food security is a national security issue and he’s concerned about the water allocations taking place. He said he was filming east of Fresno up in the mountains last year and it was obvious to anyone the fuel load was extraordinary. Sure enough there were fires, bigger than ever as we all remember. Thebaut said the money spent on fire fighting could be going to a maintaining a healthy forest. He said California’s contribution to the nation and the world’s food supply is critical and he intends to create a film that shows the reality of the situation and will offer solutions that could help with forest help which in turn can actually yield better runoff. This has been talked about for a while now and it’s good to see some attention being paid. . He expects to wrap up the film and postproduction by November, followed by screenings and distribution. He wants to bring San Joaquin Valley growers to Washington DC and have them be a part of getting the word out.
New Just Like the Old
Next Gianquinto told the board, Directors Rick Wegis, Tom Toretta and Phil Portwood were all reinstated to the board. No need for an orientation session. The minutes were approved as was the agenda. There was also a need to reappoint the directors to the officers and committee assignments. The only change was appointing Gianquinto as an alternate for a couple of commissions. Waterhouse’s reign of terror* was extended for another term as chairman as were all the other board officer positions.
Controller Bobby Salinas reported on all things monetary involving SWSD. The board approved his report including the revised budget, the current banking and other statements. This includes those wishing to withdraw from the water bank and those matters are similar to money banking. The bills were listed, reviewed and the board said to pay them. The fun part of this report was the board contributing a nice sum of money to the Chronicles Group. I now have a policy of not listing in my reports the amount of money donated by districts. There are many organizations that rely on contributions to do some very beneficial work for the ag water community. We need to be sensitive to how they live and die by charity. Listing amounts in these reports (although this information is public) could influence other contributors. I will say Semitropic was generous. Good for them.
Each month the board has to extend the emergency declaration to facilitate the immediate replacement of Lateral CE due to the High Speed Rail mowing through the location at the Peterson Road Bridge Overpass.
Gianquinto reported the focus has been on developing evapotranspiration statements to all the landowners more than any GSA work. He expects to hear from landowners soon as these statements have been sent. He said now that the ET statements are complete there is more time to devote to water budgets.
Waterhouse is also the chair of the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA and he said the annual report has been submitted. A new data management system by GEI engineering is coming online soon and it will cover the entire Kern Subbasin. There are grant applications being developed and the native yield study is under way. GEI’s Larry Rodriguez said most of the work has been on the annual report.
Each month the representative from WM Lyles says the material is in the packet so he’ll be brief. Then he talks for awhile about chemicals being used at the water treatment plant and a bunch of other stuff. He said the acid being used is eating at the pumps. He said there was minor work on the water plant. There is also a solar farm on Pond Road that is ready to go but there are some requests from PG&E to stage a shutdown test and that will impact the district’s pumping. So, working it out with PG&E.
The next item on the agenda was a report from GEI. Rodriguez didn’t say he’d be brief and gave the board a brief update of what projects his firm is involved in. SWSD is looking at a 218 Election and GEI will be doing the engineering report to support that attempt to increase assessments. He said the first phase of the district’s groundwater model will be ready by the end of the month or so. He said good progress is being made and the model should be adaptable to many tasks involving banking. Overall Semitropic uses GEI extensively. Gianquinto said the state required Ag Water Management Plan has always been a tough fit due to the district’s diverse operations. He praised Rodriguez for his diligence in helping get this plan written.
Former state senator Dean Florez owns BPR and was scheduled to give the gooberment update. He said Sacramento is in full swing and there is a host of bills to monitor. The “hard” hearings are starting soon and the lesser bills will follow on the heals of. There has been changes to some of the bills SWSD opposes and that’s good to hear. He said the legislative committee may need to meet again to reevaluate positions. He said Governor Gavin Newsom’s delay in declaring a drought emergency has no good answers. He said there was a good conversation with Congressman David Valadao and he sees some momentum on the WIIN Act extension. Waterhouse said Valadao needs some good press in Kern County and he’s a hard worker who should stay in office. Senate Pro temp Toni Atkins and her assistant Kip Lipper** are targeted to receive project requests. The state doesn’t have earmarks but the goal is to get some immediate funding for ready to roll drought projects.
Gianquinto and Waterhouse said there is an effort to get Newsom to declare the drought emergency before it’s too late. Florez indicated there are California Congressmen from both parties also applying pressure on the Guv to get off his butt and act like there are things more important than posing as the most woke.
Greg Allen of REDTrac gave his report saying there is a great deal of confidentiality and security in gathering data from PG&E. There is a not overly time consuming process to give permission to PG&E to allow the gathering of data. He said REDTrac will help landowners in getting this taken care with a release to PG&E. Allen said it’s often easier to delete the unneeded accounts than add the needed ones. Gianquinto said it is very important to get this data collected and Semitropic has attempted to get PG&E staff to help but has yet to get a response. Allen said it is a needlessly confusing internet process but he’s willing to walk all the landowners through it.
Water supply was next and Gianquinto said the State Water Project allocation of five percent is tough to justify. That was a 2014 number and that was a much drier year. Runoff may be underestimated by the state. He said Semitropic itself will be OK, there is enough pumping in place to take care of its growers. He said the kink is in San Luis Reservoir and the state’s side of storage there. It can impact deliveries to banking partners on the northern end of the spectrum. Partners like poor old Santa Clara Valley Water District. May the Pacheco Reservoir expansion continue.
Gianquinto said the CV Salts’ safer water movement is drawing attention throughout the Valley as it has to do with drinking water for DACs.
Gianquinto said the Kern County Water Agency has a lady replacement director who comes from a farming background. I’m sorry I did not catch her name.
SWSD engineer Isla Medina gave her report saying the district is continuing improving the ET data with the help of Land IQ.
Gianquinto said there was an emergency last month when a DWR gate opened on its own which delivered 250 cfs to the district’s Aqueduct tie-in with no where to take the water. It was an all hands on deck and he said the district’s staff and growers worked well together to prevent what could have been a tremendous disaster to the district. It did cause some delays to charge the system and keep the wheeling going but things are getting put in order.
Waterhouse said one of the employees lost a wife recently and he asked for prayers for that family.
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*As terror goes it’s been a pretty mild and gentle reign.
** I spoke with Lipper once over some bill or other, SB1 I think, and I didn’t know who he was. Come to find out he’s a pretty powerful guy and usually reserves his time for much larger news gathering operations than WaterWrights.net so good for him. If you read this, feel free to call me anytime Kip.
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SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT
1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Board: Dan Waterhouse – President, Rick Wegis – Vice President, Tom Toretta – Treasurer, Todd Tracy – Secretary, Philip W. Portwood, Jeff Fabbri, Tim Thomson
Staff: Jason Gianquinto-General Manager, Bobby Salinas–District Controller, Isela Medina–District Engineer, Executive Secretary-Marsha Payne, Consultant-Will Boschman, Superintendent-John Lynch & Attorney
About: Semitropic Water Storage District is one of eight water storage districts in California and is the largest in Kern County. The District delivers water to nearly 300 customers for the irrigation of approximately 140,000 acres for agricultural uses. Semitropic also supplies energy to a variety of users and provides groundwater banking and storage services. Established in 1958, Semitropic Water Storage District covers an area of more than 220,000 acres. It began as an irrigation district for the purpose of securing State Water Project supplies to reduce groundwater overdraft. From www.semitropic.com