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Semitropic Water Storage District June 10, 2020

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Ger Bennett BannerThe Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, June 10, 2020 meeting remotely from its Wasco headquarters. Before the meeting began it was postulated not serving lunch has been a drain on attendance. I could see that. They have pretty good lunches at Semitropic. If you go away hungry it’s your fault.Conterra

Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meet to order at 12:34pm. We passed on the flag salute and when to public comment. There weren’t any comments and the minutes were approved. Marsha Payne polled the board for its votes. There were enough directors to have a quorum and the treasurer’s report was approved without any comments. The financial report was a different deal.

SWSD General Manager Jason Gianquinto had Controller Bobby Salinas present the board with the reports. Gianquinto explained some of the decline in cash flow had to do with the timing project payments but the year should end with a million dollars in the bank, if I understood.

Paying the bills was next and all though the slide presented on GoToMeeting was too small to read I think I heard some folks pleasantly surprised by some saving from Article 21 Water. If you can’t get the water at least get the money back. As with almost all things financial at special districts you’d do well to look at the packet and review the official minutes if you need that depth of information. There was a wonderful statement by Waterhouse. He said he was at the finance and budget committee meeting and the CPAs did such a good job of presenting the 2018-2019 audit they didn’t have to give the report to everyone today. The financial report was approved.

Next Gianquinto said the 2020 budget review is going through change as Metropolitan Water District has changed its banking plan. I believe Met is slowing up its recovery enough to impact the budget. There were many other categories he went through. Everything was pretty much as projected but the banking revenue will be lower because of less pumping. There were some activities cut back in response but things are still panning out OK for Semitropic. The board adopted the revised budget.

The next part of the meeting dealt with engineering and construction projects. In house engineer Isela Medina presented the board with responses from bidders for the Cox Canal Pumping Intertie Project. I couldn’t see the name of the winning bid but there was one approved. The next item was a proposal from Concepts In Control for VFDs and SCADA for the Cox Canal Intertie Project. Did you get that? CIC has a proposal for CCI. The board approved. Things moved forward with the occasional interruption of a sound much like you’d expect if you strapped a microphone to a lawnmower.

GEI is very large engineering firm that has made some inroads in the Valley’s special district community. Semitropic seems to like them. GEI has a lot of task orders above and beyond the basic contract. There were three of them on today’s agenda. The first one was for $250,000 for construction management and engineering services for the Cox Canal Intertie Project. The board approved.

The next item was asking the board to consider a GEI Task Order for a System-Wide water analysis tool. This sounded like a modeling tool to help district staff evaluate operations and modification scenarios. This will cost Semitropic $56,000. Gianquinto said since the district’s entire system has been surveyed now’s the time to pull this trigger. Waterhouse said this will help with SGMA implementation creating new operational challenges. The board approved.

The district needs a water quality sampling pump rig. That’s what staff said and they had good reason. Gianquinto said there are dedicated submersible pumps on monitoring wells to pull samples throughout the district. They have to hook up a generator and go through a bunch of steps. Efficiency could be improved by using a portable pump rig. Medina said there are more than 50 monitoring wells and each time a submersible pump is lost it costs $10,000 to fix. One inquiry yielded a $300.000 price tag to develop a rig. That was not considered and staff spread the net to find a better deal. They have found a business that can fabricate a rig for less. This new equipment would be much like the one in use by Kern County. A photo showed a cherry picker with a pump and generator on a trailer. It reminded me of something from Star Wars for some reason. The district is planning on increasing its number of monitoring wells for SGMA so it makes cents to spend money on this new test rig. Also, the existing submersible pumps could be salvaged and repurposed. The board went for it. I didn’t catch the cost.

The next item was another task order for GEI. The district got a $2 million grant for a design for the Leonard Avenue System. For $191,000 GEI design the system and the board approved.

The next item was a scheduled 2:00pm hearing but it was early. It was titled “Public Hearing – Notice of filling preliminary roll, GASC & GPSC and hearing of any objections to roll, and consideration of adopting Resolutions BW 20-03 and PP 20-03 adopting the roll, setting charges, etc.”

Waterhouse moved ahead with SGMA and Gianquinto said GSP comments closed June 3rd and at this round there are no mandatory responses or deadline. He suggested getting a committee together to work with staff and GEI on responses. Buena Vista WSD commented and there were comments about Semitropic taking Kings River flood waters. Nothing surprising. Gianquinto said the plan is viable and some of the comments just don’t like the plan but not so much because it doesn’t work but more because it doesn’t do what they want. There are a couple of subsidence points on the California Aqueduct near Lost Hills and west of Mettler that received comments. Surprise, surprise, the California Department of Fish & Sticks, I mean Fish & Wildlife had its nose and nuts in the middle of it. However, this time it had more to do with preserving wetlands habitat than underground ecosystems fifty feet below the surface.

Consultant reports were next and a spokesman for W.M. Lyles, I think Rick Amigh perhaps, said the SWRU plant should be up and running by August. No word for what SWRU stands for. I spend a lot of time decoding abbreviations and acronyms so I’ll throw this out, W=water and U=unit. There are some solar power hookups about to come online and some flow meters are calibrated for recovery. When recharge and reverse flows start up there will be further calibrations.

Larry Rodriguez of GEI gave his report saying many things. I caught that GEI is providing support to the Tulare Lake environmental team. Poso Pond is taking some water in Cell 16. The aforementioned Cox Canal Intertie has GEI’s attention. GEI is helping SGMA facilitation by working on subsidence data on the Aqueduct. They’ve been meeting with DWR and the Kern Groundwater Authority. There is work on groundwater modeling and some more info will be presented to the board.

The agenda next called for Will Boschman. Apparently Boschman’s audio connect wasn’t working but Gianquinto said his report is in the packet. I believe Floyd Wicks reported Aqua Via is going through a fund raising round both here and the UK for its membranes.

Dean Florez gave his political report saying time for bills in Sacramento are coming to a close. He said the COVID-19 situation wiped out a few bad bills opposed by the water community. Florez pointed out Bakersfield attorney Steve Torigiani has been very helpful. Climate change is lurking around trying to get its clammy hooks more firmly placed in regulatory decision making. There are still lawsuits between the state and feds. Florez said the High Speed Rail audit showed it was consultant heavy to the point about a third of them will have to be cut and replaced with state employees. Should we say yeah? Who knows, but it is an attempt by the administration to thwart the movement from being defunded. He said there is a move in the Assembly to reallocate funding to Southern California for a power station – a move he said would kill HSR.

It was 2:00pm and Waterhouse opened the hearing. Torigiani talked about the Buttonwillow and Pond Poso Improvement Districts. He said last month the roll and rates were adopted in draft form – my interpretation of the legalese. This hearing is to set those findings in stone. He posted slides showing all the legal requirements to notice this hearing including public outreach related receipts and mailers. There were five examples shown and they were adopted as exhibits. The public portion opened and there were no comments, oral or written. The board then voted on to approve both the Improvement District rolls and rates. The district will inform the county. Utilities, government entities and Shell Oil and Burlington Northern Railroad are exempt. The hearing was then adjourned.

Next on the agenda were the informational and update reports. First was Gianquinto’s report he said SWSD is still abiding by virus conditions. Water supply and Delta issues were next and Met is still interested in working with Kern County to work together on the California Water Fix. The state and the feds are working on getting a solution together for the biops. Interesting, I’ve heard that. State Water Project allocations increased five percent. That is what made Met cut back on its banking recoveries.

Gianquinto reported Mark Mulkay has stepped down as General Manager of Kern Delta Water District and Steve Taglia formerly with the City of Bakersfield is the new GM. Mulkay will stick around in an advisory capacity I understand. Mulkay left things in very good shape. And that was that. The meeting went into closed session.

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

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

Staff: Jason Gianquinto-General Manager, Bobby SalinasDistrict Controller, Isela MedinaDistrict 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