The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, May 21, 2018. Chairman The Real Jim Costa called the meeting to order at 9:00 am. Executive Officer Dan Vink thanked everyone for showing up and said we’re in for a treat. Rufino Gonzalez, Chief of Water Operations for the Friant Division, US Bureau of Reclamation will be giving us an excellent and educational presentation on Friant Division operations. Treasurer and LTRID General Manager Eric Limas gave the SVWA financial reports. They were approved and someone said boringly in balance.
Gonzalez gave his presentation saying there is 1,600 square miles of watershed on the San Joaquin River. The average runoff is 1.8 million a/f. From February through May the Department of Water Resources conducts snow surveys. There at least six major reservoirs above Friant Dam known as the Big Creek Project for Southern California Edison. Pacific Gas & Electric has a large upstream storage as well. Shaver Lake, Edison Lake, Huntington Lake, Florence Lake and Mammoth Pool combined hold more water than Millerton Lake. The Central Valley Project started in 1938 and the Exchange Contract was signed in 1939. Hidden Dam and Buchanan Dam are part of the CVP as well.
Friant Dam was built in 1942. It took just four-years to build. Millerton Lake’s capacity is more than 500,000 a/f which is a bit more than one-fourth of the SJR average runoff. There are 32 long-term contractors with 800,000 a/f of Class I and 1.4 million a/f of Class II. There is also Section 215 Water, Uncontrolled Season Class II and Unreleased Restoration Flows. The contract amounts were based on many factors such as soil type and other data. Not all districts have Class I & II contracts. Class I is higher priority, more expensive and includes storage. There were districts that opted out and land without a district that didn’t want to deal with the government.
Gonzalez next spoke about the 2018 water conditions. The season looked like a bust until March. There was 400 times as much rain in March of this year than last. Snow sensors don’t exist above 10,000 feet elevation. The NASA Airborne Snow Observatory flights are going to be filling this data gap. The higher altitudes are still freezing overnight. This May has been cooler than usual. Gonzalez said the Bureau’s prediction last year was 11,000 a/f off. Not bad I guess but the NASA ASO should be much more accurate. Vink said having the NASA and other tools are important. With accurate estimates allocations can be made earlier which helps the entire ag industry. Bankers, seed sellers and irrigation supplies; everyone benefits by knowing what demands and expectations can be used to budget and make other predictions. The Army Corps of Engineers have a predetermined operations guide. On a perfect year Millerton lake starts draining in October to make way for flood control. At the first of the year the lake level rises. This is tempered by snowmelt runoff. Eventually by the end of August the lake should be full again. In order for water to be considered stored it has to sit in the lake for at least 30-days. Thankfully a printed version of Gonzalez’s 31-page report was handed out. There was a good deal of interesting facts such as; in January 1977 Inflow as more than 400,000 a/f in seven days. Millerton Lake filled in a week. That’s a lot of water. Flood control is also a function of Friant Dam. That’s probably the largest stakeholder group and it doesn’t always agree with itself. It was a very good report. There are many moving parts from the fall of a snowflake or raindrop and the farmer’s field.
Vink reported on a recent tour of the Delta where Delta Water Master Michael George was present. George reports directly to the State Board, not staff or any other layer. Vink said George does what a water master does. He said it was a pleasure to have George along to answer questions. One comment many on the trip repeated was, “There’s a lot of water here.” Fish Bio provided smoked salmon for the trip. I’ve said this many times so I was happy to hear Vink agree George should tour districts in the SJ Valley and tell his tale.
Eric Quinley, GM Delano Earlimart ID reported the Friant Water Authority is going out with an RFQ for fixing the collapsed portion of the canal.
Limas reported a $170 million will the best Temperance Flat can hope for from the Prop One grants. The project is going to cost a minimum of $3.8 billion. Vink asked if the modeling for Temp Flat could be modified for other things and Quinley said yes. He also said the growers need to know what Temp Flat will cost with or without state grants.
Vink said there have been good talks with Friant about transferring title of the Friant Kern Canal to the contractors. He was in Washington DC that went well and ACWA turnout should be higher at the next event in San Diego.
Dale Brogan, DEID next spoke about water quality in the Friant Kern Canal. There are guidelines in place but they are about to be updated. He said this is a complex issue with a long history. It involves allowing non Friant water in the canal. His goal was to inform the board. FKC guidelines from 2008 relies on State Title 22 drinking water quality standards. This doesn’t include salts or turbidity as primary standards. There have been at least five attempts to review the water quality standards but they have gone nowhere. Brogan said all the changes had Arvin Edison’s fingerprints on them. And he said since DEID was the one being challenged it got to be a show. There are also pump pack programs most of which allowed water from the south to be sent north.
Delta Lands 770 Warren Act Contract was a deal from 2017 that allows Boswell Farms to pump water into the FKC to avoid flooding its Tulare Lake holdings. Turbidity and TDS standards were added to the deal. Turbidity can cause recharge to slow down. Brogan’s position is anyone wanting to move non-project water can do so provided the water quality is scientifically established. There have been studies; 2004 and 2012 – and there is an ongoing study currently being conducted by Stantec. Brogan said this study has been well conducted. Dana Munn, GM Shafter Wasco ID agreed. The Fresno USBR office has some stake in this study. Why now? Asked Brogan rhetorically, “Why now?” DEID is being sued by Arin Edison WSD over this matter. Brogan said it’s been difficult to get to a scientific approach. He wants boards and directors to be involved in this. He was asked why Arvin doesn’t want to pursue the science. He said they have programs in place for decades that they don’t want stirred up. Munn said AEWSD has an accumulation of salts on its west sides due to some low spots. Growers in SWID have used pristine Friant water to blend with groundwater. Brogan summed up his points by saying the goal should be to open up opportunities for all Friant Districts to have input. He asked SVWA to take a position and insist its voice be heard. It must insist the water quality guidelines are scientific and inclusive of consideration from all Friant contractors. Vink and Brogan said this is ultimately a contractor level and they like the Stantec Engineering study on the reverse flow of the canal. And they want it all by the end of the year. Because, goals without deadlines are just wishes. The board approved these recommendations.
The meeting then went into closed session.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval systefm, 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.