The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, April 16, 2018. It was nice to wake up to a little rain this morning. Thanks to God’s benevolence I’ve managed to avoid turning on the lawn sprinklers this year so far this year. General Manager Dan Vink started things at 9:00 am with a quote from clothing manufacturer Katrina Lake, “When you’re doing something nobody else is doing you’re either the smartest person in the room or a fool.” Chairman, The Real Jim Costa officially started the meeting and Vink showed the reservoir standings throughout the state. As it turns out most stuff is a little above or below normal. By stuff I mean reservoir storage.
Lower Tule River Irrigation District GM Eric Limas has been meeting with the US Bureau of Reclamation about allocations. Recall the SVWA members are Friant Division contractors with the Central Valley Project. Limas said the Bureau is allocating water in blocks as opposed to a full blown uncontrolled season. Vink said pushing the envelope for flood control benefits only a few districts such as LTRID and Pixley ID with a big Class II contracts. Vink was GM of both districts but he said it’d be better to have a distribution that benefits as many as possible. He said the San Joaquin River watershed can send 300,000 a/f at a time to Millerton Lake. That’s doable if it is an even inflow to the Reservoir but it doesn’t work that way. The water can come in a big hurry and that’s the dance – how to avoid a spill. Eric Quinley, GM Delano Earlimart ID said storage upstream from Millerton Lake is operated by power companies. I’m not sure if its PG&E or So Cal Edison. Moses Prieto was at the meeting. Prieto works for the Bureau. Fortunately for him, no one in the room held him responsible for the actions of a federal agency.
Before I realized it Limas was giving the board a financial update and a call for funds. For a mere $243,000 the SVWA can operate for another quarter year. Original version read [The good news was Friant Water Authority owed South Valley $60,000] editor’s note – Wrong! FWA doesn’t owe SVWA $60,000 for over-billing for the NASA Snow flights. SVWA owes it’s members $60,000 for over-billing them for participating with FWA in the NASA Snow flights. Sorry for the confusion, thanks for pointing out the error, DAW.
Vink said he got a chance to speak with the Department of Interior’s Austin Ewell. They spoke about the subsidence issues on the Friant Kern Canal. It’s a very serious problem for districts south of the Tulare County choke point. Vink is concerned about fracturing within the Friant Division about how to pay for this. He’s already heard grumblings from folks upstream about not wanting to having to pay for repairs. The canal is for everyone’s benefit and should be the responsibility of all the contractors.
Quinley spoke about the conditions of the FKC. He was the former engineer in charge operations and maintenance on the canal before going to work at DEID. There is a “hot” spot starting at mile 90 on the canal of subsidence. The flow has been cut from 4,000 cfs to 1,600 cfs. The capacity of the canal is severely reduced and the ability to deliver enough water is impacted. Subsidence is when so much groundwater is pumped from the aquifer the land collapses. Quinley said there are two types of subsidence – elastic and inelastic. Under certain conditions and soils recharging the aquifer can cause the land to rise; that’s elastic. The suspects of causing subsidence is the increase of permanent crops in the white areas without surface deliveries causing over pumping. LTRID Director Tom Barcellos asked about the impact from the CVP Improvement Act on the canal from Friant Dam to the canal’s end at Arvin Edison WSD. Some data has been collected. CVPIA instituted micro irrigation that saved water but doesn’t recharge. He advocated finding out.
Consultant/attorney/lobbyist George Soares joined by telephone and said the November Water Bond’s signature validation is going very well. He said the bond will qualify. A hopeful indicator for the election is the Sierra Club opposes the bond but agreed not to financially support the opposition. Another if is Governor Jerry Brown’s opinion. Soares thinks Brown will wait until it qualifies before saying anything either way. Soares said the campaign for the November Water Bond will need an additional $4 million to get the positive message out to the voters. He said they need some donors, so the campaign doesn’t go back to the same signature gathering donors and ask them to give twice as much as they did before. Preliminary poles show good support for the NWB and in the past 40 plus years only one water bond has not passed. A not so bright spot is the California Water Commission – or more accurately the authors of 2014 Prop One – unintended consequences. The CWC is holding up billions of dollars for surface water. Soares said the Assembly water committee met and was told all 12 applicants for surface storage funding flunked the test written by the legislature. The committee was told while that may reflect the applicants it also reflects on the writers. So, the good news is the NWB doesn’t have the bureaucracy Prop One did.
Next Vink asked Soares to speak on the gubernatorial race. Soares said things chance between now and the June primary but as of today it is his opinion Republican’s will decide who the next governor will be but it won’t be a Republican. He said if Gavin (Whether You Like it or Not) Newsome – D wins in June and John Cox – R wins Newsome will take it in November. Democrat Antonio Villariagosa– D is the more preferable to ag. He said there is now a far-left in California who finds Nancy Pelosi as too moderate. They support Newsome. I asked if the Three State California proposition had legs and Soares said no. Vink said he was in Sacramento when the State of Jefferson folks were walking the halls; some in denims, mullets and wife beater t-shirts. Well.
Limas talked about the Temperance Flat MOU and there are still questions but none answered at this meeting.
Vink talked about wildlife refuge water and he’d discussed this we Ewell. Come to find out the Secretary of the Interior doesn’t have obligation to dedicate San Joaquin River water to the refuge supply. Attorney Alex Peltzer said the CVPIA specifically directs the Secretary to NOT make releases from Millerton Lake to restore flows below Gravely Ford on the SJR as a measure to implement this title. That’s not all. The CVPIA prohibits using restored SJR flows from Millerton Lake for anything not authorized by Congress. The Friant Division pays an extra surcharge in lieu of losing water. So, 30-years into the CVPIA folks were wondering why Friant doesn’t want its water going to the refuges. The CVPIA required the Secretary of Interior to conduct a comprehensive study of the SJR and that was never completed. That begs the question – did the prohibition against using SJR flows for refuge end with the SJR Settlement? No. The settlement requires recirculation for the benefit of Friant Division contracts after they have served the restoration purpose. Vink said US Government lacks the legal right to redirect SJR flows from Millerton to refuges. Westlands WD released a 2016 White Paper to the Bureau that stated “it would be entirely reasonable for Reclamation to determine to release water from Millerton Reservoir to its obligation to deliver Level 2 refuge supplies. . .” The Temperance Flat Project application for Prop One funding stated Temp Flat could provide water to the refuge submitted by the San Joaquin Valley Infrastructure Authority. Peltzer said the Bureau has interpreted things weird and left out exchanges that allow Friant some benefit. That needs at the least to be negotiated. Peltzer and Vink met with the Bureau to talk about this matter as did representatives from the Friant Water Authority. Vink suspects the Bureau will have to take a serious look at this. He thinks if the government wants to take Millerton Lake water to the refuges it’s on shaky ground. Peltzer said the CVPIA takes water from others and money from Friant to serve the refuges. One thing is the west side contractors have been up front about getting some Friant water for the refuges because they need relief from being shorted. Vink said it is very important to have agreements with others but be sure you are negotiating from knowledge.
There were two items in closed session and both had to do with potential litigation.
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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.