The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, June 8, 2022 meeting at its Wasco headquarters and on GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting sucks but not as bad as MS Teams. Still you just can’t beat Zoom for ease, features and reliability. Zoom isn’t my client by the way.
Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting at the scheduled 12:30pm time. The flag of our great nation was saluted and I didn’t hear any public comments. There was some change in the agenda and the minutes were approved. Controller Bobby Salinas gave the treasurer’s report and it was accepted. The board reviewed the district’s bills and financial statements then approved paying the bills.
Last year’s audit was next and Director Tom Torretta introduced a CPA whose name I didn’t catch, Jeff King? He said there was one adjustment on the dry year water pool, but that was about it. There were no issues or conflicts. He said Semitropic has excellent communication and transparency with good interaction between the board and staff. He said water accounting is a biggy of course. On a question from Director Jon Reiter General Manager Jason Gianquinto said dry year banking pays better than no banking during a moderate year. If I understood. The value of SWSD’s banked water is $40 million. The board accepted the audit.
The budget was next and Salinas gave the board an update. He said the worst case scenario study indicated the need of a $15 million reserve fund. This year isn’t a worse case scenario budget wise. Salinas’ projection sounded like the district is going to survive another year. The board accepted the budget update.
At 1:04pm the board went into a public hearing for a notice but before that ship could build up a head of steam big enough to leave port it was pointed out the proposed Resolutions BW 21-04 and PP 21-04 should in fact be altered to reflect they are taking place in the year of our Lord 2022. So, the Resolutions will from henceforth be known as Button Willow 22-04 and Pond Poso 22-04. Attorney and all around nice guy Steve Torigiani read some boiler plate, the public comment period opened and the resolutions were presented. These were for filling a preliminary roll, GASC and GPSC for setting charges for the improvement districts. There was no public input or comment. The board passed the resolutions and the meeting went from public hearing back to regular board of directors at 1:13pm. Sometimes these things can get out of hand with testimony after testimony. Once at Santa Clara Valley Water district a man with a mohawk hairdo got up and played some song he wrote about fluoridation in drinking water. He was pretty good too.
The board then voted to apply for a US Bureau of Reclamation Water Smart Grant. District Engineer Isela Medina said this is a 50 percent cost share and the proposal is fairly standard. She said a resolution is needed by the board to submit the application. If I understand this represents millions of dollars, part of which can go to recharging Poso Creek water. That creek can flood under the right conditions, like a lot of rain. The facility isn’t very good for its purpose. The channel was designed to go to a wildlife refuge. The refuge is slightly uphill and the channel isn’t well defined where the creek comes. The trick is to open the gates while the water is flowing and shut them right away when it isn’t or you’ll dewater the refuge. The Army Corps is the only one with authority to do anything to improve this and the good news is after five-years it has almost issued enough permits to start work on fixing things sometime next year.
Gianquinto said there was a good meeting with DWR last week to discuss subsidence along the California Aqueduct and there is now an opportunity to get a little information shared and maybe come up with a plan on how to deal with this issue.
The Kern Groundwater Authority GSA, of which the Semitropic GSA is a member had its GSP deemed incomplete by DWR. Gianquinto spoke with the board about the changes Semitropic is putting forth to get the plan over the line into acceptance.
There are three management areas in Semitropic. Management areas are a feature of GSPs that allow a portion of a GSA to apply special considerations to come to compliance. This includes expanding the definitions of beneficial user categories to four. It sounded like all wells were lumped into the ag category, even ones for wildlife refuges. The water use codes for crop categories have also been refined and are more advanced than before the finalized GSP.
Reiter asked if Semitropic is always bound to the KGAGSA and Gianquinto said since Semitropic GSA is its own entity it could peel away from the KGA and stand alone. Much of what I heard about the update dealt with more detail on some of the changes in management area details. Gianquinto’s presentation was full of maps, graphs and a lot of technical information. This would be something you’d want to read through using the original copy. There will be a special meeting on June 21st for the board to look over all the updates and tweaks and typo fixes. July 27th is the deadline to submit the final draft to DWR. Waterhouse praised staff and consultants for the tremendous amount of work that has gone into this. He said DWR wants a redline version and a clean version of the new draft to compare.
Waterhouse told the board the construction report by Rick Amigh of W.M. Lyles is in the packet since Amigh wasn’t available today. Larry Rodriguez of GEI Engineering gave a report but I couldn’t hear him.
Dean Florez gave a report on political matters. He gave a report on yesterday’s primary. He said a guy named Robert Rivas has walked into the current Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon office with enough votes to take over the speakership. The good news is Rivas has a rural and ag background which could mean better news when chairmen of committees are appointed. AB 2201 is big bill and it has garnered a tremendous amount of opposition but also a butt load of attention. It’s the one by Assemblyman Steve Bennett of Santa Barbara trying to codify the gov’s executive order to change well permitting by requiring GSAs input before counties or other permit granters grant or approve a new permit. Bennett told me in an email the bill’s purpose is to make sure the counties and GSAs are working together. That isn’t the message being communicated, however. The LA Times is backing the bill but there are some against it.
Florez said folks are not paying attention to the Governor’s pleas to conserve water. No one wants to pass any legislation restricting water use during an election year drought or not. He said the Republicans did pretty good yesterday all things considered. I’ve heard but not confirmed the San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin will be recalled. Florez said there are more personal meetings taking place in Sacramento now that masks are not required. Gianquinto asked about State Senator Melissa Hurtado’s bill to reorganize the State Board. For some reason Gianquinto said he doesn’t like that bill. Perhaps Semitropic’s appeal on Kings River appropriations before the State Board contributes to this position?
Florez said the tech sector did very well during the Sino Cooties lockdown. That is why there is a $90 billion tax surplus in California. He said when he held office it was budget cuts not surpluses and the entire state budget was $90 billion. He said it will be very difficult for the Democrats who rule Sacramento to save any money for a rainy day. The lockdown is over and having such a windfall year anytime soon is not likely. He said it’s like when Gov. Grey Davis gave back DMV fees then ended up recalled when there wasn’t any money in the budget the next year. I think the foolish way Davis governed has as much as anything to do with his recall. Instead of lowering the vehicle registration he took the extra expense of sending refund checks out.* You may recall during the 9/11 attack he stationed California National Guardsmen on the Golden Gate Bridge but in an effort to ease the tender emotions of Bay Area gun controllers he announced to the world including terrorist the Guardsmen wouldn’t have live ammo in their weapons. He had to go, but that was back in a time in California when magical thinking wasn’t the standard or even required for leadership.
Greg Allen gave the Red-Trac report and said he noticed the price of a gallon of gas in Los Angeles is higher than the minimum wage hourly rate. He reported the batteries have been replaced as needed. A short report.
Gianquinto said the State Water Project allocation is holding. The State Board has made more curtailments on the water rights holders along the San Joaquin River tributaries. I believe he said the State Board has gone past pre-1914 water rights back to 1861 water rights. This ties into part of the discussion taking place during the Florez presentation about talk of the state buying out senior water rights. I do hope folks realize the difference between rights and privileges. Citizens have rights. They are not a gift from the government. Privileges on the other hand are given by government. Wasn’t there a guy named Esau who sold his birthright? How’d that work out?
Medina said staff has been showing off the district’s drilling rig that’s up for sale. She hopes to present the board with a winning bid at the special meeting later this month. She said the district does have enough material for now to continue with construction projects. Most of the rest of her report was routine.
I counted 13 closed session items and the meeting went to closed session at 2:48pm according to my precise chronometer. It was a little long for Semitropic meeting but it’s not every day they go over GSP rewrites.
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*Does that sound familiar? The good ol’ boys in Sacramento don’t want to cut gas taxes, they want to mail out refund checks. Will they never learn? I wish I had the money it costs the government to send out checks. I suspect just the postage alone would be enough to split with you and we both retire.
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SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT
1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • email@example.com
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 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 www.semitropic.com