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Semitropic Water Storage District May 11, 2022

The Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, May 11, 2022 board of directors meeting at its Wasco headquarters and on GoToMeeting. Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting to order at 12:30 pm and there was a flag salute. A lot of stuff happened in a hurry. There was a public comment period, approval of the agenda, approval of the minutes and it happened in the first two minutes or so. Because when I tuned in they were in the middle of CFO Bobby Salinas’ report. I was only a minute or two late because getting access with GoToMeeting isn’t as easy and quick as Zoom. Fortunately for me there are a lot of farmers on the board. When it comes to reviewing the bills things slow down until everyone is comfortable. That’s the farmer way and it gave me a chance to catch up.

The Meeting

The first, what I call non-housekeeping item also known as an action item since it requires board action, was a resolution 22-03 declaring the district’s well drilling rig and such ancillary and surplus material. I believe it was district engineer Isela Medina who announced all the equipment and material will be sold as one unit and the bidders have 60-days to put their bid in. General Manager Jason Gianquinto said the district can refuse a bid if it’s too low. Waterhouse said to consider advertising in Texas oil regions as it can drill as deep as 5,000 feet. It’s a Tier II CARB compliant machine at this point. The board approved. I asked why sell this and Gianquinto told me it was purchased for a specific project years ago and that project was completed. Semitropic hasn’t drilled a well in a couple of years making this rig a surplus asset for the district.

The next item Medina also presented. She told the board there is a need for a backup pump and they need to put the order in now to be sure they have a unit by the end of the year. Semitropic does a lot of water banking and if you can’t extract water from the bank your partners tend to get persnickety. The board agreed and approved the purchase.

Salinas then told the board the Leonard Avenue Intertie Project needs an authorized execution of an installment purchase plan with Municipal Finance Corporation. There’s $2 million in grants and I think I heard the remaining funding is $4 million being sought here. The board agreed.

Gianquinto said the next resolutions are to fix the GASC and GPSC rates and set a June hearing date. The costs are the same as last year. I didn’t catch what all the initials stand for except G is general and S is service and C is charge. The hearings will be at next month’s board meeting between 1:00 and 1:30pm.

The VAs

Next Gianquinto informed the board of a MOU for the Voluntary Agreements. There was a special meeting when the Kern County Water Agency’s new GM spoke to the board about this. The VAs are a hot potato and Director Jon Reiter asked if before moving from the MOU to a binding agreement if there is an opportunity for the State Water Contractors to insist on addressing predation and waste discharge in the Delta. Gianquinto said yes and he’s heard from Metropolitan WD they are in the same mind. The idea is for the VAs to comply with the 2019 biological opinions. If that doesn’t happen the districts don’t have to go any further. Gianquinto said there is opposition from many agencies from Friant to San Francisco. This MOU is not binding, it won’t cost anything yet and the  K’CWA won’t move forward without its member units’ approval. The word from the recent ACWA is there are still negotiations taking place. Gianquinto said he’s not completely happy with putting more money into this but there is a chance to get some benefit from it. One of the directors said is this a chance to support hanging ourselves with bad science as the rope. Waterhouse said Met is very concerned with oversight of the science and if that doesn’t happen the VA will fall apart. One director said for 27-years they have reduced pumping from the Delta without any beneficial results.

Reiter said he’d like to see something in the MOU about any long-term commitment including science oversight and more member involvement. Gianquinto said that’s possible. He said he expects each State Water Project contractor to have to sign on before this will go anywhere. I asked a question and I didn’t mean for it to be rhetorical but it may have come across that way. I asked if the VAs are taking water rights from the Tributary contractors. I’ve heard that but it wasn’t clear. In all fairness to Semitropic, this is a topic for discussion outside of a board meeting. And they agreed to speak with me because they’re good guys who are willing to talk. Good for them. The board agreed to signing the MOU.

The last action item was about allowing Pacific Ag could transfer contract water from a parcel to an adjacent parcel and that’s pretty common. The board said yes.

GSA

Gianquinto said the amount of freeboard on the California Aqueduct has been varying and that’s being looked into. The Semitropic GSA is looking at an amended management area plan GSP and that will be introduced into the next meeting.

You may have heard Arvin Edison WSD, Wheeler Ridge WSD and Tejon Castaic WD are breaking away from the KGA and forming the South Kern GSA since their assets and challenges are much more similar than the other parts of Kern County’s portion of the Valley floor.

The Kern Groundwater Authority GSA has developed an acknowledgement form in response to the Gov’s disastrous Executive Order N-7-22. The Semitropic GSA has modified this form by including an APN as opposed to a final well permit number since the permit is secondary to the GSA review. Gianquinto said this is only in force for as long the exec order remains in force. There will be more later in the meeting about AB2201. The board approved.

Somewhere, for some reason, Waterhouse was given a giant check by someone. I missed the details but he said his acceptance speech wasn’t his finest. Reiter said he videoed it on his phone. Maybe someday I’ll be able to share with you what that was all about. Also Gianquinto went through the SGSA GSP’s management action plan. This is a lot in this document and he wants the board to look the document over and GEI Engineering will help put it together. I think it was GEI’s Larry Rodriguez who also spoke on the plan but I don’t think he was at the table because it was very difficult to make out what he was saying. Also it sounded like someone was shuffling paper into the microphone. I did hear Gianquinto say he’s going to lock Rodriguez into a room and get him writing. They’re engineers, they like that kind of stuff.

Ngodood (I think, it was difficult to understand her and I sincerely apologize if I got your name incorrect) from Clean Water Action asked from the internet about a DAC in Lost Hills and the attorneys are dealing with it.

Consultant Reports

Next Rodriguez gave the first consultant report but I couldn’t hear him any better this time. The W.M. Lyles consultant was unable to give a report today for some reason or other.

Dean Florez of BPR was asked to speak but couldn’t unmute or something.

REDTrac consultant Greg Allen was then asked to speak but before he could start Florez was able to get his mic working. Florez said AB 2201 is out of committee but may not make it out of appropriations. It has been changed but not in relation to the permitting question. This is the bill Governor Gavin Newsom lifted a little language from for his Executive Order that caused such well permitting havoc. Florez said the Gov’s budget revise in May has some water conservation and innovation money increases to it. Florez said, and the news today included a lot of talk about how the average Californian isn’t paying attention to the drought. At least not if judged by their water conservation.

In the meantime Allen’s mic went on the fritz and Gianquinto gave a brief update from Allen he’d received by text or Vulcan mind meld. Allen asked for everyone to avoid pumping from 5-8pm, if I understood. Waterhouse announced former Kern River Water Master Mr. Chuck passed away. He was a local icon and in his 90s.

GM Report

Gianquinto said the amount of pumping into the Aqueduct is about to stop for the season and transfers will be made to the banking partners. He said he spoke with Assemblyman Steve Bennett about AB2201 and Met WD about VAs. He went to ACWA with Waterhouse.

The Kings River appropriation is still being decided at the Administrative Hearing Office at the State Out of Control Board. The Kern River hearing took place last week.

Gianquinto said the KGA has been jumping on the creating of the new south county GSA and the impact that will have on its GSP.

Medina reported staff has been coordinating on work involving High on Speed Rail. Gianquinto said the Leonard Intertie could serve for most any water source from Friant to SWP and will allow Semitropic to bank for itself in greater quantity by allowing more access to the needed conveyance.

Closed Session

The meeting went to closed session at1:52pm. That was a short meeting by Semitropic standards. There are 14 closed session items on the agenda. That was that. Go be good to each other and yourselves.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2022 by Waterwrights/Don A. Wright.

SEMITROPIC WATER STORAGE DISTRICT 

1101 Central Avenue, Wasco, CA 93280-0877 • 661-758-5113 • mail@semitropic.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 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 www.semitropic.com

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