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Semitropic Water Storage District October 14, 2020

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Ger Bennett BannerThe Semitropic Water Storage District board of directors held its Wednesday, October 14, 2020 meeting remotely from its Wasco headquarters. The formerly extremely punctual start time was delayed to 12:37pm. Chairman Dan Waterhouse called the meeting a slight seven minutes later than planned. It gave me a chance to get something to eat. I miss the lunch that made driving to SWSD extra special.

Easily the nicest person you’ll ever meet at a water meeting, Marsha Payne, called roll and a quorum was present. The minutes were approved and the financial matters taken care of. If I understand correctly General Manager Jason Gianquinto explained the $402,000 copper wire replacement cost at the reverse flow facility was the aggregate of theft lose over the past five years. Unreal.

There are three seats on the board up for reelection and a notice had to be published and a resolution passed stating so. Next was the budget. Controller Bobby Salinas gave a rundown for what costs are expected for 2021. Salinas used a 60 percent allocation as his base. He went through expected revenue and expected expenses. In the past a five percent delinquency rate on assessments was used. Most folks are able to pay so this amount was reduced to three percent. There was much more to Salinas’ presentation but the board found it to its liking. I’ve heard it stated Christian apologetics is the queen mother of academic disciplines in Western Culture due to the overarching content of subjects it requires a working knowledge of. I think maybe water district manager might be in the same category. You have to know accounting, engineering, law, public relations, hydrology and I’m sure another half a dozen other things minimum to do the job well. Since I strayed into the idea of Western Culture it would be appropriate to mention the term Byzantine nature. Byzantine indicates complexity and just the financial considerations of an annual budget is complex. But evidently not too complex as the board passed a couple more resolutions. Water rates were discussed but there are so many classifications of rates I couldn’t keep up. Had a board packet been available it would have been easier to follow the discussion. Perhaps districts will begin posting packets online as well as agendas as the remote meetings continue.


The board next approved the annual investment and reserve policies. The policies are reviewed each year and use the guidelines from the state. A resolution was adopted by the board to accept the policies. There was also consideration given to amending the wheeling rates for 2021. Unfortunately whoever was giving the report on this time must have dropped her phone in the pool but come to find out it was my internet connection. So I missed part of the meeting, I did hear after the fact SWSD has agreed to help fund the very important San Joaquin Valley Water Blueprint. Good for them.

When I was able to regain a connection to the meeting the board was voting in the positive for item 5(l) and will grant GEI engineering another task order.

District Engineer Isela Medina said Semitropic has been keeping an eye on TCP, a pollutant. Dee Jasper & Associates will do an evaluation for the district for about $100,000. The board approved. The Kern County Water Agency wants to partner with Semitropic for the cost of potential Delta Conveyance Planning and Design costs. Gianquinto said the State Water Contractors will have to pay for these costs. SWSD is a member of the KCWA and that’s the connection to the State Water Project and why SWSD is on the hook for about $2.3 million for its share over the next four years. Semitropic can opt out after the first two years. If the project doesn’t go forward the funds are gone. If the project goes forward but Semitropic doesn’t participate it could be reimbursed for these costs. Waterhouse commented reimbursement doesn’t seem so certain. He said although there is no guarantee if you want a seat at the table you have to join up. Jon Reiter a director on Wheeler Ridge was attending the meeting and said his district is going to have a special meeting on the matter before it agrees. Gianquinto said he’ll have attorney Steve Torigiani look this over and come back to it next month. It is a lot to ask folks to put up money without telling them how much water will be available and what it will cost.

The KCWA wasn’t the only one wanting to partner up with Semitropic. Shafter Wasco Irrigation District wants to share 50/50 costs on for the Leonard Avenue Intertie Project. Gianquinto said he believes this is a good deal for both district’s growers. After grants and such it will cost the district about $500,000 and is within budget and part of the existing plan. The board approved.

Next the board considered an amendment to the Long Term Yuba Water purchase program. Gianquinto said the program ended and can be renewed for four more years. This allows the district to get north of Delta water through the California Aqueduct for somewhat reasonable terms. Depending on the hydrological year wet or dry costs per acre foot not including wheeling is from $95 to $600. The board thought that worthwhile.


Gianquinto said he’s been working with GEI to put together an annual implementation actions reports of the GSP. Larry Rodriguez of GEI said some of the plan began before SGMA like land fallowing and that be included. Waterhouse said some of the work isn’t as apparent but valuable and he’d like to be able to show what has taken place.


Reports from consultants were next and it was said the raw water processing plant is up and treating water going from banking to the Aqueduct. The plant has been updated and it was said the chemical storage is balancing out with usage and there shouldn’t be much left when operations stop before the end of the year.

GEI was slated to give its report next and Rodriguez said there wasn’t much to get excited about. His report was scrolled through on the GoToMeeting screen. What I could see of it GEI does a nice update on the percentage of budget either expended or remaining connected to each project.

The man himself Wil Boschman gave his report saying there was a meeting on water marketing online that attracted folks from all over the northern hemisphere. That prompted a more localized meeting. Aqua Planet took some water samples and it proved beneficial work is being done. Boschman said a State Water Project meeting had estimates of starting the tunnel project in 2025 and wrapping things up in 2045. A report on fires in the state was also given. Boschman also said there has been a delay in funding for further work on Oroville.

Former state senator Dean Florez who recently authored an essay that appeared in Cal Matters advocating the state force private corporations’ seat more minorities on their boards – really – reported the state legislature is on hiatus. He said Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order setting aside 30 percent of California’s land coastal waters for conservation. Florez said it was a confusing and disjointed order dealing with the Gov’s childhood love of otters or some such and appeared to be patterned after an assembly bill that failed earlier this year. The state is licking its lips over the possibility of a new presidential administration after the elections and making tentative plans. The new ag committee chairman Robert Rivas introduced a lot of bills on “environmental justice” and some ag bills. Waterhouse said there was a meeting last night set up by the Farm Bureau to meet Rivas and he was happy Assemblyman Devon Mathis and Vince Fong were also there. Jon Reiter, Patty Poire and Rob Yraceburu were there also. He was pleased to see Rivas was open to the fact that while everyone needs clean water to drink they also need jobs. He said Reiter spoke to Rivas about some of the more recalcitrant enviro groups could maybe use a goose to get working cooperatively. Waterhouse said it was refreshing to see some good feelings between assemblymen of both parties.

Greg Allen gave the REDtrac report saying phase II is moving along well and the grant deadlines should be easily met by December. He said the efforts to get all of the metering calibrated so there is uniformity is going well. He said REDtrac is delivering three reports per month that keep staff up to speed. This project will help SWSD keep accurate records on how much money it is spending on energy.

GM Report

Gianquinto said SWSD is still operating under Big China Virus conditions for 200 days now. Comments on the Delta tunnel EIR are being accepted. He said state water supplies are at a 20 percent and staying low. There’s been no noticeable precipitation since the new water year began.

I didn’t understand how but the State Water Contractors are concerned about loosing water if Shasta Dam is raised and sent a letter to someone to that end. The water year is setting up as a dry with a blob off the coast. Arsenic treatment is proving to yield benefits.

Gianquinto has agreed to participate on a dairy panel regarding SGMA and he seems to be looking forward to offering some examples of successful implementation in SWSD. He said there are landowners with concerns about banking recovery wells running too much. A report was prepared to help assuage those concerns with maps showing where the water levels are and the storage balance amounts. The landowners who don’t want to participate ideally need to see the facts.

The meeting then went into closed session. The agenda stated six ongoing litigations, four anticipated litigations and two property negotiations. That was that.

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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 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