The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, January 22, 2018. There was some frost on the ground this morning but the sun shined bright and folks at this meeting were undaunted by the lack of snow so far this year. If things don’t change there may be cause for them become re-daunted. In fact before the meeting began Executive Director Dan Vink said the National Weather Service tracks snow level and changes daily so they fluctuate at a greater degree than the DWR surveys that conducted monthly. The snow levels for the Central and Southern Sierra Nevada is low. But, Vink said Northern California has good levels and San Luis Reservoir has or will fill on the federal side. He said Orville is being kept low and the main spillway is now serving as the emergency spillway. The SWP contractors he’s spoken with are expecting a 40 percent allocation as of now. The meeting didn’t officially start but Vink continued by showing how the Friant CVP supplies can be calculated by a formula Fergus Morrissey came up with. At this time it looks like 50 percent year. Vink had a chance to speak directly with the US Bureau of Reclamation’s David Murillo there will be an allocation made in February and not just a statement of conditions. He was also told the Bureau will follow the WINN Act. Vink said the Department of Interior under the Trump Administration is operating according to the law. The State’s Department of Fish & Wildlife Director wasn’t happy about this saying the Bureau is telling everyone else what to do. I gather the irony of his statement was lost on him as the fish folks have been pushing everyone around for decades. He also said if you haven’t been exposed to how the other western state’s interactions with the USBR is so simple one would be knocked over by a feather.
Chairman the Real Jim Costa called the meeting to order a little after 9:00 am. Treasurer Eric Limas gave the financial report. Vink said SVWA has set up a deal with Fish Bio that is the same scope of work but billed as a retainer on a monthly basis. He said this was a good bit of cooperation by Fish Bio. They like to study fish more than send out invoices. Limas said the budget was over by three percent. There were three call for funds today: 2017 clean up, FY 2018 and the Temperance Flat MOU. The total call for funds was a bit under $500,000 and the board approved the financials and agreed to pay the bills.
Vink reported the Friant Water Authority isn’t interested in working with SVWA under a MOU. He said to expect FWA to contact the individual districts and ask them to rejoin. Delano Earlimart Irrigation District is being sued by Arvin Edison WSD over a water banking project. DEID General Manager Eric Quinley said Arvin is concerned about the water quality that goes back into the Friant Kern Canal after the banking won’t be as good. Arvin has historically believed the water quality being allowed by the Bureau has been below par. However, the water quality going back to the canal does meet the standards. I believe Arvin’s problem is with the Bureau but DEID got caught in the cross hairs.
PL 190 is the nomenclature of the type of loans made by the USBR to the individual participating contractors in the Friant Division of the CVP to pay for the in-district infrastructure such as canals. Dana Munn, GM of Shafter Wasco ID said his district has long ago paid back this loan but has never received the pink slip. This worked to SWID’s benefit when the High Speed Rail folks come to the district all frothy at the mouth and were told to take it up with the Bureau. However, it appears the Trump administration is ready to remedy the situation and get the title transferred. The Friant Kern Canal has subsidence issues and a pump back program could help with canal operations. Vink urged the design to be as simple as possible.
Getting a new biological opinion on the long term operations of the CVP/SWP is on the calendar. Attorney Alex Peltzer explained salmon and smelt are the main player species. He said there are dangerous and bad things that can happen when you poke this bear but there are also golden opportunities to improve the current system.
- First is to identify the new actions in the Delta that can be analyzed in one year.
- Second, take into account the entire CVP program and addressing other stressors besides ag pumping.
- Third, go CVP wide and be specific. Within three years come up with an environmental analysis.
After all this the biological opinion can be reset. Both Vink and Peltzer said this is complex but is the biggest signal from Washington DC ever that it realizes the system is broken. The water users have been asking for this for years and years and now the WINN Act has opened the door to getting some useful changes. One very bright light being shined on this is predation in the Delta. Vink said the Bureau has been informed of this major portion of the problem. The water community in the San Joaquin Valley has awakened to the gravity of the situation. Groups like Fish Bio and the work of Dr. Scott Hamilton are finally getting heard. You can’t fix the Delta by just running more water through it. Vink said his sense is the Bureau isn’t being held hostage by the fish agencies anymore. Habitat improvements, anti-predation and clean up the Delta discharges are now being looked at. One danger is a revision of Friant operations that could be detrimental to supplies. Peltzer said it is important for us to realize there is a lot of talk about beneficial changes to the system, both short and long term. He also said we’ve got to be careful there isn’t a target on the back of the water users. He does think the right team is in place. Vink said the work having been done over the past few years now has the ability to be incorporated into the fix. I wonder how much of this “Resist” mentality may come to play in this. I trust both the state and feds will do what is in the interests of the state and feds, but not necessarily for the people.
Consultant George Soares spoke by phone and said the signature gathering for the Meral Bond is at more than half a million. They appear to be for the most part quality signatures. About $2 million has been raised for this. There will have to be more millions of dollars raised for the campaign. He said endorsements are coming in nicely from ag and the environmental groups. He expects a good deal of endorsements coming from candidates. The deadline to qualify for the ballot is in June sometime. There is no new significant opposition. The Sierra Club has its panties in a bunch but how much they want to go to war isn’t clear. Same with the Natural Resource Defense Council. Vink asked about Governor Jerry Brown’s support. Soares said a while back Brown said the state has already engaged in a fiscal cap for bonds but that stance has been silent for some time. Soares said as more names endorse this bond it will become more and more difficult for the elect to oppose. Vink asked about the inclusion of a trans Valley canal as part of the $750 million for the FWA to fix the Friant Kern Canal. He wanted to know if a work plan should be developed first. Soares said Friant was going to do so but he hadn’t heard about the progress. Vink said putting out a work plan could lay to rest concerns this portion of the bond being spent on Temperance Flat.
When a bond is passed the beneficiaries still need to get the money from DWR. Soares said the individual projects are (if I understood) not dependent on the other projects. He said he believes everyone in the region will agree repairing the FKC is the first priority. I think he’s correct about that. I believe a case can be made repairing the FKC and restoring its conveyance capacity is critical to the state. Soares said Brown had at one time commented he didn’t want bond money going to the “Oroville’s” of the world and felt the private sector should pay for the repairs. On that subject I though the High Speed Rail bond called for 50 percent private investment, so there is some . . . I don’t know, what’s the word, hypocrisy or inconsistency? Anyway the SVWA agreed to endorse the bond.
Temperance Flat was next and a list of the 27 agencies expressing interest or have joined the MOU was passed out. The consultants will be meeting with the participants next week I believe. Limas said the California Water Commission has scored the 11 Prop One applicants on public benefits. None of them scored a one, a couple scored a point five and Temp Flat and some others scored zero. There was a workshop with the applicants and the CWC to work through this. The San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority JPA that promoted and applied for the Prop One grant is out of money and it needs to transfer matters over to the MOU investor group. Vink said a couple of years ago he was in Sacramento where there was Sites stickers on many elected folks’ doors. The representatives from this area wanted stickers too so the Temp Flat JPA was formed. Vink said this JPA needs to continue, its public profile is high.
Quinley said the problem with the scores was the CWC staff and the others who looked at the Prop One applications had problems with the modeling and it went down hill from there. The state is expected to soon release its findings on the matter. The meeting then went into closed session.
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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.