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South Valley Water Association June 17, 2019

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The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, June 17, 2019. The pre-meeting mood was friendly. Chairman the real Jim Costa called the meeting to order at 9:00am and the minutes and agenda were approved without comment. Executive Director Dan Vink said the meeting should be short with a long-ish closed session. He showed a slide of a map of the watersheds throughout the United States. I was in Louisiana recently and the University of Louisiana Baton Rouge has the same map on the wall at its Mississippi Delta scale model.

Vink gave an update of the water supply and Lower Tule River Irrigation District General Manager Eric Limas said there is still a 100 percent Class I and uncontrolled Class II for Friant. Vink said south of Delta Central Valley Project allocations have increased to 75 percent and pumping should be good at Jones Plant. Vink said with the weather heating up and cooling off ice has formed and it will melt slower than snow. This should prevent a big spike in runoff and result in a more sustainable runoff. Although Lake Millerton is at flood release mode currently. On Lake Success the spillway was raised with aqua-bladders and sandbags which will increase the storage by 10,000 a/f. There are plans to raise the spillway permanently and that should be completed in the next few years. Vink said there was a dam breaking ceremony in 2003 – he meant to say “ground-breaking” but there were some seismic concerns – they turned out to be without merit and now things are moving on.

The SVWA has never met in July and this year will be no different. The financial committee met before the board meeting and that report was approved.

Bill Luce was present and he had an announcement. Luce was with the US Bureau of Reclamation for 20-years or more. He was the signatory for the long-term renewal Contracts and negotiated the San Joaquin River Settlement. About 10-years ago he went to work for the Friant Water Authority and is now a consultant. He will be moving to North Carolina at the end of August. I’m going to miss Bill. He has always told me the the truth. Luce was asked about the standouts and he listed the 1997 60,000 cfs flood release as a long night. He said the SJR settlement was important and has protected Friant from the State Board’s Delta machinations. He was always impressed with the all the Friant contractors’ willingness to take the high road and misses the day when more work could be done on a handshake. As advise Luce said don’t fear the 2025 SJR settlement deadline. The Natural Resource Defense Council is devious at times but the settlement called for all the river improvements to be in place by 2014 so they don’t have a lot of leverage. Luce has a ton of great stories and I wish I had time in this report to share them.

Limas updated the board on the Temperance Flat situation. The San Joaquin Valley Infrastructure Authority is still existing but no longer has any Temp Flat involvement. The Temp Flat MOU has a dozen members – this is kind of an exploratory group to determine if an entity would like to continue. The Temp Flat JPA is now FWA and the Exchange Contractors. The JPA will be the entity involved in building the dam if and when the time comes. Delano Earlimart ID GM Eric Quinley said the MOU is an important part of making any decisions. The JPA has taken over the Prop One application with the state. After the MOU reports are completed and the entities get a better look at the pro and cons of Temp Flat, should an entity want to participate further it would have to join the JPA. It looks from the presentation wide-spread interest in Temp Flat is waning.

Next Vink talked about the Friant Kern Canal issues. He said the old O&M Cost sharing methods has been outdated for the past several years. Vink was positive about the fairness of this method. Quinley said the repairs on the FKC will include building a parallel canal along-side the impacted portions of the canal. Sharing the cost of repairs has been a contentious item. Districts upstream of the problem don’t want to pay as much as the impacted areas saying they didn’t cause the problem. Downstream districts say they didn’t cause the problem either. If this was a regular or less hydraulic year the combined loss to downstream districts would be in the thousands of acre feet per day. Acquisition of property is going to be a big part of the picture. Vink predicts right of way acquisition could take a long as construction, between three and four years. Attorney Alex Peltzer said there are some ways to help speed up the process and still stay within federal standards.

SB 559 had $400 million to spend on fixing the FKC and it didn’t make it to Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget. Vink said it may make it as a trailer bill but then again it may not. SB1 is the anti Trump bill will roll back environmental regulatory improvements and has passed the senate. There needs to be a disconnect between federal and state regulations. Peltzer said federal law requires the US Government to follow state water law but not state Endangered Species Acts. Federal projects have to follow federal ESA but not state ESA. He said this looks like a cute way for Sacramento to fly the one fingered bird at Trump but won’t survive the courts.

Vink said he went back to Washington DC and met with Congressman TJ Cox and explained his district includes Friant. The meeting then went into closed session.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright

South Valley Water Association – Dan Vink, General Manager. Alex Peltzer, Attorney. Eric Limas & Jarno Mayes 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.