The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, August 21, 2017. The main topic before the meeting was the eclipse. Executive Director Dan Vink said we might get one of the wielding helmets out of the shop and view it. I don’t know why one views eclipses and just watches other stuff. Also, the A/C was out in the boardroom so Vink told everyone considering that and the fact it’s harvest time he kicked things in gear at 9:00am. The housekeeping items went quick. Chairman Jim Costa ran through the minutes, approval of the agenda and such with all approved.
Vink spoke about the 25 action items SVWA set as goals. Vink has a good method for developing and following a budget by keeping reviews on the front burner. He said Congressman Jim Costa has been holding quarterly meetings in Los Banos that brings many of the satraps of government regulation to talk things over. Vink spoke fast saying some good things have come from this improvement in communication. The storage and supply are lining up for a scenario where next season’s Friant supplies should be safe. A marginally wet or even a normal year would still yield enough supplies for the US Bureau of Reclamation to keep the Exchange Contractors supplied. This past year was the first for the WIIN Act and it will be interesting to see how this worked out. As for Friant the Bureau is limiting Friant carryover to five percent of Class I. Michael LeBarre from the Bureau was on the phone and said the upcoming water supply meeting would be a good place to view the crystal ball. Eric Limas Assistant General Manager Lower Tule River ID he’s heard the Bureau will allow carryover at Friant but the spill threat is on the districts. Vink said keeping good tabs on how much carryover could appear after the season can help avoiding spill.
Limas gave the financial report saying most of the big bills have started to flat line and the fixed monthly costs are holding steady. Vink doesn’t expect to go over budget by much and doesn’t see any cause at this time to increase the call for funds. The cost of the popular but expensive NASA snow surveys has yet to be determined because NASA and DWR were having difficulty agreeing on contract language. Two really big outfits tripping over each other evidently. Limas asked the board to pay about $90,000 worth of bills. For an additional $2,500 per year the ACWA JPIA will cover the E&O insurance needs of the Association. The board approved the financial reports and paying its bills.
The next part is where it gets a little weird. Many people from many areas and perspectives have been trying to write a sentence. Consultant George Soares called in to talk about the Friant Kern Canal capacity issue. At the last meeting the SVWA voted to make this a top issue and support funding opportunities to get these repairs finished. One goal is to make the Meral Bond initiative’s $750 million for FKC repairs be carved in stone. Soares said the way the language was written it didn’t prioritize rather included the FKC repairs. He said Jerry Meral has made today the last day for changing the wording of the initiative. The way this could very well work out is DWR gets a proposal and sets its priority and while a FKC repair is a priority today, the next governor could easily move the money elsewhere unless the language is very specific. There are other proposed water bonds competing for space on the ballot and California’s water bond history including a lot of bond but no water. Vink brought up the paragraph as the Friant Water Authority and Soares pointed out the language doesn’t specifically set the money intended for the canal repair in a quantitative way. Attorney Alex Peltzer said the way this is currently written brings in the considerable concerns the language could be interpreted by DWR to require a disadvantaged community provision to get anywhere. Why didn’t the language come together to everyone’s satisfaction? Soares suggested there is tension between the Friant Water Authority and SVWA that may have impeded the more specific language. He said since it is what it is everyone needs to be emphasizing FKC repairs. Grower Tom Barcellos asked about the word “then” being inserted in a way that appears to prioritize the canal repairs. The version that contained the word “then” was on the screen in the board room but Soares said the entire sentence was eliminated. Vink was asked if SVWA was in the room when this was discussed. The answer is there was no room – it was all metaphorical, shuttle diplomacy. SVWA has been providing feedback. Soares said placing a period about in this removed sentence would also serve the purpose of prioritizing the canal repairs. Vink was concerned about the bond referring the $750 million going to FWA as named, instead of a more general term would give ammo to the enviros to raise a stink. There are still hours before the stone carvers put this language to bed and Soares said he can’t over stress the need to write this as tight as it can be written. Delano Earlimart ID GM Eric Quinley asked if there is a break down on how much of the money would go to the FKC and how much to the Madera Canal. Soares said he didn’t know. LeBarre said the Bureau is working on a new O&M agreement with the Madera Canal that will make the operating entity the Madera Canal Power Authority. If I understood correctly. Madera ID and Chowchilla WD are the Friant Division contractors on the Madera Canal and they are now both members of the Friant North Authority and the FWA.
A comparison of the current language and SVWA desired language was put up on the screen. Vink pointed out FWA has changed three times in the past decade or so. It was the Friant Water Users Authority, then the Friant Water Authority working in a bifurcated manner with the FWUA and those groups folded back together as the FWA. That was one of his concerns about not calling Friant a non-federal entity. Soares said it is apparent to him there is much work to do on the relationship between SVWA and FWA. If it doesn’t improve there will be more problems in the future and it will be more and more difficult to make things work. Vink said the canal fix could be a good rallying point. Soares said Governor Jerry Brown isn’t known for signing on to big money unless it’s his idea; i.e. high speed rail, so don’t expect his help. He also said in effect this is still better than anything the state is likely to come up with. Vink said he’s spoken with Soares more this past week than his wife so that was the end of that.
In summary Vink said there are also other bonds dealing with water. He said there has been good cooperation with the federal elected representatives in the area so a complementary federal effort could materialize. He said there are ways to spend a smaller amount of funds, perhaps from some portion of the San Joaquin River restoration program, for upfront, short term fixes on the FKC like pumps and telling the story of the canal fix. Vink also spoke about enlarging Success Reservoir on the Tule River. He showed us a video for the $35 million proposed spillway that could add more than 100,000 a/f of storage. I think the video was produced by Four Creeks Communication; closely related to Dave DeGroot’s Four Creeks Engineering. I liked music and wonder who wrote it. There were a couple technical glitches but we all blamed it on the eclipse. A grower at the meeting had to leave and he spoke up saying it vitally important for the people of this Valley that the Friant Division find unity.
Vink said expect a Washington DC trip for this coming October. He’s working on a Delta tour in the fall and the new State Board member Joaquin Esquival has been invited. Vink said he lives in DC and commutes to Sacramento for the meetings and is really drinking from a garden hose. Vink said the Temperance Flat Dam Prop One grant application has been filed. But so has several other dams and this is an example of why language must be nailed down.
Barcellos announced Kent Stephens, FWA Chairman has offered what he called an olive branch to Lower Tule River ID. He said Friant would like Barcellos to represent LTRID as a trial member who while not voting could sit in closed session. He said he couldn’t disclose what happens at closed session with the SVWA but he could with LTRID. Barcellos said he understands Vink and Limas’ concerns have to be considered in this but he wanted this board to know there is an opportunity to start working together. Barcellos wasn’t the only one who was made this offer; Teapot Dome ID received the same thing. Director John Fisher, South San Joaquin MUD thanked Barcellos for bringing this forward. He encouraged Barcellos to consider a different path and wanted to discuss this further in closed session.
The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 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.