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Semitropic Water Storage District December 14, 2022



By Don A. Wright

The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, December 14, 2022 board of directors meeting at its Wasco headquarters and on GoToMeetings, a non-Zoom platform. The Semi’s have a camera that does a pretty good job of showing the board, if they use it. And they do. You can kind of tell who’s speaking. I’m excited about this meeting. I have a new computer to type on and all the keys work. You don’t know just how often you use the letter “a” until you can’t get it to type.

The Meeting

Chairman Dan Waterhouse, fresh off his stint of chairing the Kern Groundwater Authority GSA meeting earlier this morning is sitting at the head of the table with General Manager Jason Gianquinto. They called the meeting at 12:30pm the first thing was saluting the great symbol of freedom, our flag. A couple of merry Christmas wishes during public comment.

The board approved the minutes. Gianquinto said Board Treasurer Tom Toretta had informed him he was comfortable with recommending the board approve the treasurer’s report. And the board did so. SWSD Controller Bobby Salinas gave his report.  The board then voted to pay its bills after a long pause to review them. These are farmers and they wouldn’t be around very long if they didn’t take care of their money. Good for them.Conterra

Public Comment

Waterhouse asked to reopen public comment and son of a gun if Ralph Pistoresi didn’t show up to talk about what happened in Madera County recently. Pistoresi farms in Madera and Semitropic. He gave a basic – a very basic – explanation of what White Lands and GSAs are and how SGMA works. He said some things I think were well, certainly not backed by the facts. He claims Madera County’s Stephanie Anagnoson sent out a 218 Election notice disguised as junk mail. Not so. He made other statements such as the 218 election was rigged but defeated. He said the Madera County Board of Supervisors haven’t got any farming experience. That’s not so. He hired an attorney and the $246 per acre fee was stayed. Good for them. But they weren’t paying attention to SGMA until the bill came do and it angered them. Fair enough.Technoflo

Much of what Pistoresi said was very spot on. But where was he when SGMA was being formed and the countless hours Anagnoson spent working with growers before the GSAs and the GSP were developed? Pistoresi has formed United California Water Coalition. That’s great and the lawsuit has got them some traction or at least publicity. But it would be much more helpful for them to join with other groups who have been fighting the fight from the start and have an understanding of the problem.

Another gentleman, Bob Bischell spoke saying too much water is being used to flush water out to sea for quality purposes. He spoke about the blue algae outbreaks taking place throughout the state due to sewage. He said if you don’t fix the sewage problem they’ll keep flushing water out to sea. He pointed out those releases also reduces stored water that could be used for hydropower and of course irrigation. Again, this is true but only a part of the problem. There’s the problem with non-native species eating juvenile salmon, stagnation of flows in the South Delta and antiquated fish screens.

I hope the United California Water Coalition will quickly educate themselves and are serious about partnering with others. Some of their members have said negative things about other groups working towards the same goals for much longer and not getting enough done. That makes it all the more difficult to achieve the changes needed. Their zeal and cause are righteous, and I hope they aren’t just another gadfly buzzing around diluting efforts and slowing positive change.

Action Items

Gianquinto next spoke about wheeling charges. The current charge is $29 per acre foot and it will be pertinent later in the agenda. High Speed Rail’s contractor wants 50 acre feet. This led to a discussion about the cost of construction water. The price of $1,500 per a/f was motioned and seconded. Waterhouse said they should have asked for more. It passed. The California Resource Corporation was seeking two acre feet of water for a gas well. That also passed at $1,500 per a/f.

Semitropic is a State Water Project contractor, but it is eligible for federal 215 water. The district has to make a formal request annually with a resolution to back it up. The board agreed and passed the resolution.

Next GEI ran a couple of task order expenses not to exceed $100,000 past the board. Gianquinto explained these are routine and annual, so this isn’t a last-minute surprise. One of the tasks is responding to comments on Semitropic’s SGMA filings.


GEI’s Larry Rodrigues said there hasn’t been a great deal of SGMA related activity. Gianquinto said GEI is helping to put evapotranspiration figures matched with water users and that work should be completed by the end of next month I believe he said.

Waterhouse said the SGMA Second Round Grant is here. Gianquinto said there were projects that weren’t covered under Round One and they are at the top of the list for Round Two, like subsidence monitoring and extending the monitoring well network. Gianquinto said setting the potentiometers are the expensive part of monitoring subsidence. There is some question about just how much oil pumping is at fault for the saggy parts of the California Aqueduct and not just ag water.Redtrac

A lady with Clean Water Action asked if there is any reassessment on the GSP for the small community water supplies in Lost Hills. Gianquinto said the GSA is in talks about the matter with representatives from Lost Hills.

Consultant Reports

Gianquinto said Lyles Construction’s Rick Amy wasn’t able to participate but his report was in the packet. Rodriguez gave the GEI report. District Engineer Isela Medina said there is a project within the Pozo Creek system. It is a very muddy creek and this could help with some of the turbidity that limits diversions.

Dean Florez gave the political report and started with congratulation on the Wasco or Shafter High School’s football team, the Generals, going to state finals. I wasn’t sure which was which. Florez gave his lobbying and outreach review. He said there are changes and the new session starts in two days. There may be a recount in State Senator Melissa Hurtado as at this count she won by a historical 20 points. Oh my. Bless her.

Florez said 2023 goals are legislative advocacy, developing political relationships and bringing home the bacon. He said both legislative bodies in Sacramento are 80 percent Democrat. The turnover this election is the largest one in recent history. That’s a lot of folks who don’t know what is going on. The state budget went from $90 billion surplus to a $25 billion deficit. Florez said this is the first budget hole since Jerry Brown started his second term as governor. So that’s a new challenge for this class of legislators. About half the assembly and a fourth of the state senate turned over. All the statewide offices are Democrats. Most of the races were Democrat against Democrat. The new dems at the Assembly are known as business democrats as opposed to the previous class’s labor supported candidates. That really mixes things up. While the super majority is still dem it is a different kind of philosophy. It may be more or even much more probusiness than the recent past class of elected officials.

Florez said few of the Assembly seats were opened due to term limits, it was mostly voluntary retirement. There are four new Assembly members from the San Joaquin Valley he strongly suggested need a tour of Semitropic. There are also 12 new members with districts in the Metropolitan WD and they need courting and wooing and such. The new Speaker Robert Rivas is considered more favorable and better to work with.

On the State Senate side there are 14 new members with four or five who could friend or foe. Florez suggested getting them to the Semitropic bunk house for a tour. Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins is termed out in 2024.

Committee positions have yet to be named and until then there are questions. Who will make these decisions? A team or a sole power broker?

Governor Gavin Newsom is looking at desalination as the major focus to make do with water. The gov’s real approach appears to be fallowing farmland to save seven-million-acre feet by 2040. Storage above or below ground is a part but a small part. Florez said it will be interesting to see how Newsom gets there. I have a different word for it than interesting. Florez said Newsom hasn’t changed. He’s still spun up on climate change and it doesn’t sound like Newsom is really backing ag.

Florez gave a break down of the bills Semitropic was concerned with at 23 bills opposed, 47 supported and 54 on a watch position. Overall Semitropic’s positions were more in line with actual results. Of the 23 bills opposed 17 of them didn’t make it. Florez pointed to six particularly horrendous examples that stopped short of becoming law.

Florez said Semitropic’s working with Scott Hamilton and the Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley was one of the highlights of playing offense. That was heartening to hear. You may not be able to tell but I’m a big fan of the Blueprint. Florez pointed to Newsom, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Senator Alex Padilla and Antonia Villaraigosa as key relationships. Florez’s plan for 2023 is to increase tours, meeting with leadership, legislative day at the capitol and continue the Southern California/Valley connection. He said there are changes in leadership at Met WD to consider. That was about it. A very interesting presentation.

Florez also said in general new Assembly and Senate members don’t introduce as much legislation as the older boys and girls. Also, as a rule the longer a legislator serves the more complex their language becomes, the bigger the consequences. He also said when Newsom introduced Villaraigosa it was in a water context and he made a lot of noise about reducing red tape. How much CEQA on water projects is reined in remains to be seen. Florez said many of the new Assemblymembers are Chamber of Commerce Dems. Earlier in his report Florez said something that sparked a question from me. I raised my online hand. I don’t like to interrupt to ask questions so at the end of the report Waterhouse invited me to ask my question. Truth is I forgot what it was and also forgot to lower my electronic hand. I do recall it was an insightful and probing question of great importance. Something to do with the $90 billion surplus before the election and the $26 billion after.

Greg Allen of Red Trac was there and he said the survey of electrical panels is down to locks and dogs making it difficult to read. But that is small portion of what’s left overall. He asked management when irrigation will start to help him schedule his tasks. Waterhouse helpfully asked him when and how much snow and rain to expect in the coming months. Allen told the board California energy electrical costs has more than tripled recently. He also said natural gas costs have had unprecedented increases and these costs increases are almost all on the West Coast.

GM Report

Gianquinto said there was more water allocated in the State Water Project for health and safety water than all the Table A Water together. There is going to be a discussion with the Kern County Water Authority about what looks to be subsidies for municipal water users. KCWA represents about a quarter of the State Water Project.

So far the early weather looks good and of course we hope that trend continues. November banking recovery was very good and Gianquinto said the 2022 recovery will end by the end of the year. That will give the crew time to do maintenance. Everything points to 2023 being a recovery year as well.

Two years ago this June, or really a year and a half ago, the State Board’s Office of Administrative Hearings started working on the Kings River allocation filing initiated by Semitropic. It appears the Kern River filing has upstaged or at least taken precedence in Sacramento at this time.

Gianquinto said the Water Association of Kern County held its annual dinner recently where he was able to present the Water Award of the year to Waterhouse. Good for both of them.

Medina said High on Speed Rail is ramping up work and there is a conflict with some non-agreed work, stuff not in the contract. HSR was noticed and had to issue a stop work order until this conflict is resolved. Don’t forget at current costs, if they were to move the Merced station two and a half miles south and the Bakersfield station two and a half miles north they’d save enough to fix the subsidence on the Friant Kern and Delta Mendota Canals as well as the California Aqueduct.

Closed Session

Waterhouse called it at 2:32pm and the meeting went into closed session after a brief break. The board had nine existing cases and three potential cases and a couple of real estate items to wade through before they could home. Waterhouse wished everyone Merry Christmas and that was that for Semitropic in 2022.

DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide its 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 Waterwrights 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 A. Wright.


1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 •

Board: Dan Waterhouse – President, Rick Wegis – Vice President, Tom Toretta – Treasurer, Todd Tracy – Secretary, Philip W. Portwood, Jeff Fabbri and Tim Thomson

Staff: Jason Gianquinto-General Manager, Bobby SalinasDistrict Controller, Isela MedinaDistrict Engineer, Executive Secretary-Marsha Payne, Consultant-Will Boschman, Superintendent-John Lynch & Attorney Steve Torigiani.

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



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