The South Valley Water Association met at the Lower Tule River Irrigation District headquarters on Monday, April 22, 2019. The meeting began with Executive Director Dan Vink showing a slide he got from Cannon Michael showing the population density of California compared to the rest of the nation. You would have to divide the rest of the county into at least seven sections to equal California’s population. So, one out of seven Americans live in California and 19 out of 20 Californians live within 50 miles of the beach. Probably the greatest concentration of wealth in history runs down our coastline.
SVWA Chairman, The Real Jim Costa called the meeting at 9:00am. The minutes and the agenda were approved. Vink showed another slide showing the initial and final allocations. It was based on storage and until 1992 and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act slammed that into a wall. This year is a bounty year for water and the west side is getting 65 percent allocation. Delano Earlimart General Manager Erick Quinley reported there are several different colors of water behind Friant Dam. He said the Friant supply is now being prorated. There is Class One and Two, Unreleased Restoration Flows and uncontrolled season or 215 flows. Quinley said the US Bureau of Reclamation is incentivized to sell the URF water because it helps to fund the San Joaquin River Restoration Program. Vink said the URF program started in 2014 and 2016 was the first year of the flows. By the end of this year there has been a million acre feet of URF water brought back into the Friant system. Sometimes it very cheap and sometimes not but it is a source of income for the SJR restoration the Bureau will want to tap into as much as possible. Quinley said as temperatures spike up into the 90s this week there should be a greater demand and the prorating will be happening.
Next Vink said the SVWA finance committee met this morning and Jarno Mayes gave the report. The spending seems to be right on track with the budget. Mayes said Mastro will be the accounting firm to perform the audit and they will be here sometime this week to do the field work. The board was OK with the reports and approved them. There is a Second Quarter call for funds of about a quarter of a million bucks and that also was approved.
Quinley reported on the repairs to the Friant Kern Canal. There is a project for the short term to help ease some of the capacity problems taking place due to subsidence in Southern Tulare County. They are coating the bottom of the bridges with some waterproofing material to allow a 300 cubic feet per second increased flow. Quinley said FWA is looking at two options. For between $195 million to $400 million a parallel canal will be built. Chris Tantau, President of FWA was attending this meeting and said the parallel canal is the preferred option. He said it keeps the canal in operation with the least interruption of service. Tom Barcellos said a true visionary told him last week it would be cheaper to pump uninterrupted downstream of the subsidence until the southern portion comes back in line. Funding is a big concern with Fresno ID leading the way on protesting paying for problems they didn’t create. Orange Cove and Lindmore IDs were mentioned as also expressing reservations. Tantau said getting local support is key to getting state and federal funds. There is SB 559, a bill that would grant $400 million to fixing the FKC that is reportedly getting some push back from State Water Project growers in Kern County. Short sighted? Well yes, but Friant is being very proactive and will work with anyone. I asked Quinley if there is a smoking gun of who caused the majority of the subsidence and he said there were several contributing pumpers; a mix of small farms to institutional investors. There is reason to believe the safe yield for that area will be very small so SGMA will knock out pumping in the long run.
Vink announced Bill Lyons is working for Governor Gavin Newsom and is speaking with growers around the state. He’s going to be in the Valley next month to learn more about ag issues. Lyons may become the new California Secretary of Ag one day. On May 13th he’ll be at the Lower Tule River ID headquarters. Tantau said Lyons has toured the FKC and he asked to keep the topic fresh. There will be a Washington DC trip in May or June. No takers for that yet.
Vink talked about SB 1. This is an anti-President Trump legislation that will set the state standards to whatever the federal standards were on President Obama’s last day. This is nonsense and political theater. This includes freezing the CVP. Attorney Alex Peltzer explained this boils down to the difference between the federal and the state Endangered Species Act. If the state has standards that would restrict federal pumping the feds don’t have to abide. SB 1 attempts to make the state ESA a water rights law forcing the feds to comply. Peltzer said he doesn’t think that will fly in the courts but there will be a butt load of enviros screaming for it happen. Vink said SB1 will most likely pass the senate and be negotiated by the Assembly. Metropolitan Water District is a big back of SB 1 because – I guess – if they can’t get regulatory relief no one else should either. That’s regular San Jose Mercury News editorial attitude. Vink told Tantau he’s been speaking with FWA’s Alex Biering to insure continuity.
There will be a spring Delta tour on April 25th – this Thursday. They’ll fly out of Visalia in the morning and tour all around. Vink invited Tantau but Thursday is the FWA meeting. Kind of tempting.
Peltzer next spoke about the COA – Cooperative Operating Agreement – between the state and feds on how to operate Delta pumping. The biological opinion is also being reviewed. He said the Friant Division is excluded from the BO. Comments are due by April 26th and Peltzer said he doesn’t anticipate any comments by South Valley. The BO draft is very technical and not worth getting involved in. He said the benefits will almost completely accrue to Westlands WD and other westside south of Delta contractors in wet years. Federal Fish & Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service will sing off on the final by June 17th. This is part of what the Trump memo initiated. Vink and Peltzer said it is in the interests continue to ensure no new connections of Friant to the Delta. This BO will no doubt trigger a butt load of lawsuits. The restoration flows are not to be sued for outflow. This was never the plan but the Voluntary Settlement Agreements could try to make a water grab by modeling them into play.
Vink reported there was a sit with FWA to work out the Bureau’s operation plan for the Friant Division of CVP. There is some discrepancy between South Valley and Friant’s desires but Vink and Tantau both stated they were encouraged by the cooperation.
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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