The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, November 20, 2017. It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and Executive Officer Dan Vink started things at 9:00 am. There were no public comments and the SVWA minutes were approved. Chairman Jim Costa (the real Jim) had Vink show the reservoir conditions in California. Statewide there is 19 million a/f available with 11 million a/f currently in storage. Vink said we’re in good shape as of today. He said the federal share of San Luis Reservoir there is 750,000 a/f and only 250,000 a/f away from being full. “We’re in much better shape this year,” said Vink. He sees no threat from the Exchange Contractors this year and even expects better west side allocations earlier than usual. He’s been speaking with Congressman Kevin McCarthy’s office and reminded them the US Bureau of Reclamation is obligated to make an allocation announcement no later than February. During drought years that’s a tricky deadline but with a year like this he sees no problem of the Bureau meetings its deadline especially with the help of the congressman’s office.
Vink said both the state and federal share of SLR is 1 million a/f but the carryover is different for each category. Only 150,000 a/f of the federal side can be used as carryover. It looks like it will fill so everyone is trying to pull as much out as possible to prevent losing it in what I call a “paper” spill. Millerton Lake has 250,000 a/f and it won’t take a lot of early storms to fill it to its 500,000 a/f capacity triggering flood releases. In Vink’s experience wet falls lead to dry winters. I’ve heard this many times. He said he’d just as soon see a dry fall. He also said the Bureau has moved its operations from risk aversion to complete risk avoidance. The Bureau will piddle away great opportunities rather than expose itself to any risk whatsoever. Farmers on the other hand live with risk management daily, every day. There is a plan in the works to send some CVP water to the Tulare Lake area in exchange for its east side supplies on the Tule, Kaweah and Kings Rivers supplies.
Vink is big on work plans and budgets. That is his area of detailed expertise. He has divided the work plan into spheres of influence. I’m curious if he is familiar with the work of Professor Dale Tackett out of Colorado. Vink said the water portion of ag needs to work with the commodity portion of ag and he’s seen progress in working with organizations such as California Citrus Mutual. Attorney Alex Peltzer said there has been a “black box” on the federal side of the California Water Fix. He said there is a potential benefit but the cost isn’t known. He’s talking with the Friant Water Authority about modeling the Cal Water Fiz, excuse me, Fix. No one knows how to get an appropriate model because the uncertainty created by further regulations clouds the future. He said So Valley looks at the Cal Fix as an opportunity and a defensive warning.
Vink said he’d like to see four joint-collaboration meetings with FWA and this needs to happen at the directors’ level; not a bunch of managers/attorneys and engineers. FWA wasn’t nearly as accepting of this and one sticking point was Friant’s attorney put up some legal reasoning that doesn’t hold up in his opinion. He said one of the problems with FWA is the philosophy of allowing staff and consultants to set policy. The SVWA members were urged to open up communications with FWA members. He showed some figures on the board but I couldn’t read it from where I was sitting. But I think the communication budget for next year is $134,000.
The meeting switched gears to hear from Sacramento consultant George Soares (I so hope I spelled his name correctly this time.) Soares reported about half the money of the $2.1 million goal to help get the Jerry Meral Water Bond measure on the ballot. The signature collection is on track. There is an attempt to get as many gubernatorial candidates to sign on and so far Antonia Villariagosa has done so. There is opposition from the Sierra Club and Natural Resource Defense Council of course but how much and how hard is yet to be determined. Governor Jerry Brown isn’t on board right now and has expressed his opinion there is too much money being placed on the ballot. Some of the legislators are butt hurt because no one asked them first. Vink asked how much impact the enviro opposition will temper the support of the candidates. Soares said there is a chance this could cool the far-left candidate like Gavin Whether You Like it or Not Newsome. But Villariagosa was absolutely impressed with the coalition assembled in support of this bill. Soares said he also won’t rule out some support from other enviro groups. Also he said it will costs in the millions, plural to run a viable campaign. He said he’s waiting for a chance to meet with Governor Brown and harbors some hope there. The criticism for this bond is many interests get money from it but that is also its strength as almost every part of the state receives some help. The state’s infrastructure is aging and needs help. If the money to fix Oroville Dam runs out this bond will help complete the necessary repairs.
Controller Eric Limas gave the board a budget comparison and said far and away the spending and income is right on target. One of the things I do like Vink’s philosophy is his view of budgets. Coming in under can be a sign of poor planning and or performance. Coming in over may be a sign needing to reallocate resources. A perfect budget is nice but not the end all. However, this budget was pretty tight. The NASA snow survey costs came in cheaper due to contributions by DWR, but that triggered Dana Munn, GM Shafter Wasco ID and Kern River Water Master to repeat his statements. Munn said cloud seeding on the Kern River watershed will be the cheapest water investment available and increase yield by more than 10 percent.
Delano Earlimart ID GM Eric Quinley reported on the subsidence along the Friant Kern Canal and there has another six-inch drop in elevation, if I heard correctly. Vink said the congress has been after the Bureau to spend some money on the problem. There is a chance the Bureau might take some money from the San Joaquin River restoration to apply to the subsidence issue. The amount mentioned was $5 million. This could impact the “Part Three Groundwater Funding.” Not sure what that is but I understand SWID could be receiving a smaller grant from that pot of money.
Friant Water Authority has been offering $100,000 seats on a MOU to work out how to invest in Temperance Flat. Vink said South Valley isn’t interested in purchasing a seat but is happy to help its members coordinate getting involved. Entities can join together to buy a seat. A seat is a voice on the steering committee and helps guide future modeling efforts. Staff recommended two seats divided thus: Seat One – South San Joaquin MUD, SWID and DEID. Seat Two – Lower Tule River ID, Pixley ID, Teapot Dome ID, Exeter ID, Ivanhoe ID and Stone Corral ID. The division was based on the most prevailing similarities shared by the partnering entities. Vink reported the districts are very happy to join up and will coordinate through South Valley. The board voted to send this to the home boards for approval and my bet is So Val just spent $200,000 for two seats. There will be a meeting at two o’clock this afternoon at the Visalia Convention Center about the MOU.
There is an ACWA conference coming up next week and there are a few meetings. One matter tying up the Bureau is the west side drainage lawsuit settlement. Part of the Central Valley Project was a drain on the west side of the Valley. It was partially completed. It was going to be a “brine line” from the Valley to the Carquinez Straights but work stopped at the Kesterson Wildlife Refuge. This created a enviro nightmare. The courts have charged the Bureau with fixing this and the Bureau is trying to work out a deal with the westside growers or it’s in contempt of court.
The SJR restoration program’s goal is to send a minimum 500 salmon back to the foot of Friant Dam each year. I’ve been told a 10’x10’ trench with trees for shade to keep the water cold would more than do the job. SVWA has an excellent biology consultant firm from Chico I believe. The data shows the amount of predation between the spawning ground and the ocean for the juvenile salmon is killing off the species. Striped bass are the main culprit and are non-native. To get 10 percent of the outgoing fish to return is more than usually happens. Ninety percent of the salmon making it back to the spawning grounds are the hatchery fish dumped into the ocean. Peltzer said it is mathematically impossible to have a self-sustaining fishery based on these numbers. Vink said while back in Washington DC there was a tremendous turnout by congressional staff for a presentation regarding the predation taking place. Vink sees a possible congressional field hearing in the Delta. So far the environmental community has turned a blind eye to this. The California Sport Fishing Alliance (alliance?) has mustered troops to oppose any attempt to deal with the bass. They have a large influence. Another debunking of the “Just Add Water” mentality is the greater flows create more algae that harms the fish. A list of the largest population of fish in the Delta has 11 non-native species before a native fish makes the list.
On a side note – there are so many things that happen at all the meetings I go to. I can’t write about them because I want to be welcomed back and it wouldn’t be fair in the first place. But at today’s meeting someone was saying how he’s experienced, we’ll say 15-years, of wedded bliss. One of his neighbors pointed out he’d been married 20-years.
The WIIN Act caused a meeting in Washington DC which was a good thing. There was some questions about its benefits and hopefully the meeting provided some much needed truth on the subject of Delta pump operations. HR 23 is a bill important to Valley growers and water users. Its future in the senate is unsure at this time of tax and health care law reform. However, Vink said he’s never seen Washington DC as dysfunctional as it is right now. Someone pointed out just as fast as the swamp drains at one end it fills up at the other.
Vink said So Val is now getting in touch with its Sacramento side when it comes to water policy will be a part of the work plan. Also, the Bureau has been getting a little lose with some of its interpretation of its duties and obligations. However, during one of the meetings with an Office of Budget and Management staff the question was asked by the government employee, “Why should the feds pay to fix the Friant Kern Canal when you haven’t fixed the problem causing the damage?” The guy knew a lot about what was happening and it took the delegation by surprise.
Lastly Peltzer spoke on CSAMP and CAMT. These stand for something having to do with the technical dialog involved in the re-consultation of the biological opinions dealing with salmon and smelt in the Delta and the X2 line as well. This is going to be a big deal pretty soon. 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.