The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, June 25, 2018. It was an exciting day because the California Farm Water Coalition also met at Lower Tule. The first meeting was the CFWC. Bill Diedrich, chairman called the meeting to order at 11:00 am. Everyone went around the room introducing themselves. Here’s a chance to drop some names; I sat between Paul Kelley, former ACWA president and Eric Quinley, General Manager of Delano Earlimart ID. We were asked to state which crops we grow and I said I’ve got a good crop of cobblestone in the front pasture with the remainder in lawn. I didn’t get as much as a snicker. Quinley, however got a big laugh out of, “I grow profitable farmers.”
The CFWC Executive Officer Mike Wade gave the financial reports. I didn’t have access to the agenda, let alone a board packet but there were no shrieks or groans so I’m guessing the books are balancing. CFWC has memberships representing districts, agribusinesses and individuals.
Someone asked if the new members included any from the subsidence plagued Red Top area and Diedrich said yes. The Triangle T area has been taking flood flows and recharging as much as possible. Subsidence is slowing. Bad news, there is a new ruling from the California Supreme Court on a case called Dynamax. It really crimps the definition of independent contractor and puts draconian limitations on hiring freelance help. A legislation fix may be required. Wade said there is a new reporter at Bloomberg Environmental News in Sacramento he’s been able to make a good connection there. The San Luis Delta Mendota website is almost finished and will be taken over by staff there. There were no action items or closed session matters so the meeting adjourned. But not before Director Gene Lundquest praised Mike Wade for his work. Lundquest said the Coalition is one of the best venues for counter acting the negativity ag water faces in the state. He’s developed unity with other growers from Oregon to the Mexican border. Then the meeting adjourned.
Next Dan Vink, Executive Officer of the SVWA introduced Quinley to give us a primer on subsidence on the Friant Kern Canal. Doug DeFlitch, COO Friant Water Authority was also present. About where the canal crosses Deer Creek in southern Tulare County the land elevation is dropping an inch a month. This has caused the canal to sink with devastating results. There was some subsidence noticed in 2007 but it was the drought that really kicked things into gear. The worst portion of the drop is in a white area. A canal with 4,000 cfs design could soon be reduced to 1,200 cfs by August of 2021. That won’t be enough to keep the permanent crops alive and will require pumping an already low aquifer.
Vink said Kern County has traditionally benefited from San Joaquin River flood flows. With the canal in trouble that will be a thing of the past. He said the big question is why now. Why is the FKC dropping? Quinley said it appears to be an increase of micro-irrigation preventing recharge, permanent crops and far more plantings in the white areas. Taken together that could well be the answer to why now. Diedrich said the November Water Bond still needs more campaign funding. He asked if the bond were successful where would the $750 million go first. DeFlitch said the subsidence area fix would be $150 million range but it will take another $150 million to correct capacity. Diedrich said he has a portion of land in a white area in Madera County. He knows he’s going to have to set aside some of this land for fallowing. He asked how many others know how much they will have to set aside. I believe it was a rhetorical question. But that raised the issue of certain Friant districts not being willing to help pay for fixing the subsidence. Everyone knew Fresno ID has made that position clear. If anyone from FID’s board should read this; it’s not a popular position.
There were other issues discussed like transferring title to the FKC from the US Bureau of Reclamation. SB 623 is the water tax. It’s an effort to get the state off the hook for drinking water quality in DACs, disadvantaged communities. It’s the bill with the fertilizer tax opposed by urban water distributers. There are various opinions such as urban folks don’t like and ag folks do. We took a break for lunch and it was good. Panera sandwiches.
South Valley Water Association
At 1:00 pm Chairman the real Jim Costa called the meeting to order and the minutes passed. Vink spoke about the possibility of moving 7,000 a/f of water from Comanche Reservoir. There is still a lot of moving parts but as Vink said this is an exercise to prime the pump so to speak. Quinley said the Bureau’s allocation of 85 percent holds on the Friant side. He said the San Joaquin watershed has just about given up all it’s going to this year.
LTRID’s Controller Jarno Mayes presented the bills to be paid and updated the budget. Vink said South Valley has the most boring budget of any entity he’s dealt with and he likes it like that. The audit report was prepared by Adair & Evans, Visalia and was given by Mayes. In the spirit of a South Valley meeting he was limited to five minutes. Vink did offer to have one of the CPAs come in at next month’s meeting and give an hour long oral report. No takers and the board approved the audit.
Eric Limas, GM LTRID gave the latest on Temperance Flat. He said the modeling on yield and costs are going on. That will show how to operate the project and how much it and the water will cost. At that point investors will or will not invest. Limas said the JPA is seeing the Prop One application through while the investors MOU will see it through the modeling phase. After that who knows.
Next Vink said he and a small group of growers from SVWA were in Washington DC when they got emmeshed with Senator Diane Feinstein. They had a slow walk down the hall way with her and she was interested to hear more follow up. Vink will be in Washington again this week and will talk with her again. He said as they walked back after being with the senator an armed guard forced him and attorney Alex Peltzer up against the wall. Vink said he was used to but Peltzer was more than a little surprised. As it turned out some dignitary with a phalanx of bodyguards walked by. The guards wouldn’t even allow folks to leave their offices. They couldn’t tell who the guy was but he had the juice. Vink and Peltzer also meet with officials from the Bureau but no one took them for a walk there. In other Bureau news David Murillo made his retirement announcement official and there will be a going away party in September.
Vink thanked everyone for holding a joint meeting with the CFWC. Peltzer said every year Friant contractors have had to get a change order to get recirculation SJR water from Patterson ID. In the meantime the Bureau has been claiming it can take that water and move it where it wants to by re-diversions. The State Board agreed the Bureau cannot send that water just anywhere it wants. The State Board did something that made a Friant contractor happy. Not a sentence you’ll read often but true. Peltzer said the State Board’s statement could not have supported Friant Contractors any better. Vink said Friant attorney and Louisiana native John Bezdek did a great job on this. With that the meeting went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.
South Valley Water Association – Dan Vink, General Manager. Alex Peltzer, Attorney. Eric Limas, Financial Guru. Member agencies: Lower Tule River ID, Pixley ID, Delano Earlimart ID, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID, Tea Pot Dome ID, Shafter Wasco ID, South San Joaquin Municipal UD and Stone Corral ID.