The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, March 18, 2019. The LTRID conference room is pretty good sized. There’s a sort of round table that sits about 18 highly intelligent water professionals. They sit in comfortable high backed, swivel chairs. For some reason which I wasn’t curious enough to pursue there weren’t enough of these to go around. So, some regular, old stackable were dragged out of the closet and some folks (I’m here to name names) had to sit with their head about the height of their neighbor’s shoulder.
Chairman, the Real Jim Costa called the meeting to order about 9:00am. The minutes and agenda were approved. Executive Director Dan Vink gave a short update on the water supplies saying there is plenty of water. He did show a map of the Sierra Nevada’s snow water content. Unreleased Restoration Flows are about 200,000 a/f if I understood correctly. Vink explained the San Joaquin River Restoration Act was largely drawn up by lawyers who didn’t understand channel capacity. The result is a new classification of water on the San Joaquin River. URF water sales also goes to fund the SJR Restoration program. So, things worked out. There is also the RWA, Recovered Water Account. Thanks to Kole Upton’s negotiation back in the day the SJR settlement now allows taking flood control water or 215 Water for $10 a/f instead of paying Class II prices. So, a perfectly clear explanation of colored water. There was also a NASA Airborne Snow Observatory flight. I am unaware of the data gathered.
The financial reports were next and the committee was OK with things and the board went along. There was a call for funds of $88,200 on the NASA ASO. The board paid and it is hoped future flights will be paid from grants. Dana Munn, General Manager of Shafter Wasco Irrigation District said that is about half of what is spent on cloud seeding on the Kern River. Munn is also Water Master of the Kern. Sounds like a heraldry title. Good for him.
Under directors’ reports Joe Ferrara said he attended the recent Friant Water Authority meeting and thanked FWA Chairman Chris Tantau. Tantau was present and said he will always to the best of his ability keep the FWA meetings and committee meetings open to other Friant agencies. Operations and Management of the Friant Kern Canal is an important issues that all Friant Division Central Valley Project contractors need to share input upon. This Thursday, March 21st at the Wyndham Hotel in Visalia an all day workshop on the FKC situation will keep you informed.
There wasn’t much to say about Temperance Flat. Vink and some others went to Sacramento to visit with the new Mid Pacific Regional Director of the US Bureau of Reclamation Ernest Conant. It was said Conant is like an old coyote laying in the weeds who will never show his hand but he has your back. A bit of a mixed metaphor. One of the SVWA directors who made the trek said it was a very good meeting. Costa said attorney Alex Peltzer was helpful in stating SVWA’s position on matters. Tom Barcellos, LTRID asked Peltzer to explain about some of Conant’s limits. Peltzer said Conant was very involved in the SJR settlement and he’ll have to recuse himself on the parts of the settlement he was involved in. Peltzer said Conant shouldn’t have too many problems with this. He hopes – and said Conant agrees – the relationship between Friant contractors and the Bureau needs to return to a more cooperative basis. Peltzer was asked if there has been any real push back to Conant’s appointment and Peltzer said that hasn’t really surfaced. I’ve sat through countless meetings where Conant was the attorney. He is a decent man. He doesn’t act in a confrontational manner and therefore isn’t a lightening rod to opposition. Munn said he was happy to see Conant up there. Conant has asked to have both the Friant groups, the SVWA and the FWA to meet with him at his office. I usually don’t write about some things that don’t help farmers get water. But these reports are about people. There is and has been some friction between FWA and SVWA. That’s one of the reason Tantau was present and his presence is helping to establish better communication. I can see a day not far from now when this situation eases up.
Peltzer spoke about the meeting with Conant; in particular Friant’s involvement in Voluntary Settlement Agreements the State Board is looking for to apply to through Delta outflows. Friant wants to commit 50,000 a/f of the SJR restoration flows and settle the matter. The Secretary of Interior oversees the USBR and the Bureau believes the Secretary can disallow this and apply water from a different “bucket.” As you can imagine this doesn’t sit well with Friant Contractors. The settlement said the Secretary has to come up with a recirculation of restoration flow plan. This hasn’t happened yet and it’s been more than 10-years. The Bureau wants to give up the 50,000 a/f, include this in the recirculation plan when it’s written in the future. Friant sees this as putting the cart before the horse. Vink said he was in Sacramento three-days last week that included a meeting of the players involved in the Voluntary Settlement Agreements and he noted the state has yet to sign off on any VSAs. State Board staff wants any and all agreements to have to provide the benefits of a 55 percent through Delta flow. One of the biggest criticisms of the State Board is its staff is out of control. I’ve heard this time and again for years. 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.