The Tehama Colusa Canal Authority held its board of directors meeting on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 by telephone conference call. Director Jim Jones was acting chair today. General Manager Jeff Sutton called the roll and there was a quorum so things got rolling at 9:00pm. Full disclosure, this is the first TCCA meeting I’ve covered and I’m not familiar with the voices so good luck to me in figuring out who said what to whom. But I can tell you the board and staff must be in possession of higher than average intelligence and I judge that by the fact they laughed at one of my jokes and didn’t just leave me hanging.
There was no public comment and the minutes and financial reports were approved. A gentleman, Rich Robertson gave the USBR reports saying the reservoirs are about half full. It was good to hear the optimism, he could have said they were half empty. Sutton mentioned he spoke with USBR Regional Director Ernest Conant, a name we all know. It sounded like Conant has established a good connection in the Sacramento Valley, good for him. Robertson offered to take calls as questions arise, good for him too. I believe it was Sutton who said the Bureau has been transparent and willing to work with everyone in this challenging year.
Sutton started the report by saying 225 cfs is being diverted from the river and I’m guessing he meant the Sacramento River. He said it would be 800 cfs on a normal year. He said folks are sticking to their schedules which ads cooperation to the mix and that helps a lot.
If I understood the wells are not being stretched yet. And although the wells aren’t being maxed out he said the lower end of the canal is operating more like a pond as the Warren Act pumping isn’t quite doing the trick. There will have to be some application of aquatic weed killer but this will be monitored with as much care as humanly possible. He urged users to be aware and if they see something don’t assume TCCA knows about it, call it in.
Sutton said water supplies could ease up in June or maybe not. His discussion with Conant indicated runoff levels are way below what was expected at Shasta. Sound familiar? The state is dry and the runoff is going into the ground. This happened with the runoff in the San Joaquin River watershed. The devastating Camp Fire was expected to cause greater runoff, but it didn’t.
The call dropped and when I reconnected Sutton was asking almond growers if they had an opinion on if the harvest could be early this year. It was said a great deal depends on the weather between now and then. Someone said water stress could push the date up a little. Sutton said communication from growers to member agencies to TCCA to the Bureau is more important than ever this year.
Just before this report was posted the USBR sent out a notice that North of Delta CVP contractors will have their allocations placed on hold. The notice said, “Agricultural water service contractors north-of-Delta allocation of 5% of their contract supply is not available for delivery until further notice.” Wow, boogers or bummer or maybe something worse you shouldn’t say in Sunday school. If I’m reading it right that means no surface water allocation for the Sacramento Valley growers contracting with the Central Valley Project. Immediately this makes one wonder if there will be impacts to Friant supplies should this lead to the Bureau making a call on the San Joaquin River to meet Exchange Contractor supplies. I guess we’ll find out.
Sutton said meter calibrations, check structure maintenance, painting facilities and slope/erosion maintenance is going well. The forebay was dredged. There’s an overhead line from the forebay to under the bridge to three settling ponds. He said this work hasn’t been done since 1987 and it took three months. He said it needs to be completed every five years or less. So that ought to help. I don’t know which forebay or bridge he was referring to but I’ll look on a map and try to figure out what’s going on.
Sutton said he wants to get the transfer water agreements up and running as soon as possible. Wells will be involved. Without the five percent allotment will transfers still take place? I have a lot to learn but most of the discussion regarding this topic will be in closed session. He did say the TCCA-USBR O&M Transfer agreement is up for renewal. There was a public negotiation session yesterday between the parties. Sutton said the standard clauses caused a little heartburn. Friant Water Authority and San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority were Ok with leaving them in place but someone from the Bureau wanted to reword them. Evidently the Bureau wanted more than just a few changes. Some where acceptable and others were not so much.
Sutton said Friant is under the gun with subsidence repairs and San Luis Delta Mendota has pump rewinding pressure. Both wanted to wrap up this matter as soon as possible. He asked Robertson if the Bureau had any comments. He did not. There was a lady named Andrea who said the three party negotiation will continue on Friday. I’m guessing she was an attorney. There wasn’t much turnout from the public at these meetings, whether due to the virus or because these are boring meetings wasn’t determined.
TCCA is a JPA and its members are CVP contractors. They are looking at WIIN Act contract conversions. Andrea spoke again and said the litigation associated with the WIIN Act conversions is on hold until the new administration gets up to speed. Sutton said he has reached out to Conant. He wants to coordinate the efforts. Friant has gone through this as has many other CVP contractors.
In other news Sutton said he wishes the Sites Reservoir had one million a/f in it. He said Met WD has planned ahead and is in pretty good shape. The Sites Reservoir financing is the next big lift. Cash calls from the participants will be discussed at the next meeting. There are water rights to be considered as well as CEQA and NEPA. All the usual items have their boxes needing to be checked. If I understood correctly the estimated cost increase of the dam itself caused grown men and women to assume the fetal position for a while but since they’re grownups they recovered and started adapting. It sounded like for the most part the project still has good momentum and they expect to achieve the 30 percent design milestone. The dryness of this year just highlights the need for more storage. It’s a shame common sense has to be extracted from our society like blood from a turnip. Why a turnip? I always thought a beat would be a better root to squeeze as its juice is at least red.
The agenda has a heading of the Attorney’s Report but the items listed are all in closed session. The agenda included existing litigation dealing with the State Board and the Bay Delta plan, the Pacific Coast Fishermen Federation is suing the feds. So is the CNRA as in CNRA v. Ross over the biops. I’m guessing since the initials were not identified this refers to the California Nevada Racquetball Association or perhaps the California Natural Resource Agency. There is also a suit where TCCA is going after DWR over a CEQA matter. And there was one item dealing with a water transfer/purchase.
The agenda wasn’t bluffing. The meeting went into closed session at 10:00am on the dot. An hour long meeting. Amazing.
I’m trying to fit TCCA into the FWA or SLDMWA mold. They are all JPAs with members who have CVP contracts. Sometimes us Southerners forget the Yankees have to deal with Delta conditions as well. They all have a dependency on the through Delta water transfers and what happens in Lakes Shasta and Folsom. They all have a dam somewhere they’d like built whether Sites, Del Puerto or RIP Temperance Flat. There are a lot of similarities but there are differences. I’m looking forward to learning and sharing more about our brethren to the north. Thanks for reading.
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TEHAMA COLUSA CANAL AUTHORITY: 5513 Highway 162, Willows, CA 95988 Telephone: 530/934-2125 www.tccanal.com
STAFF: General Manager – Jeffrey Sutton, O&M Chief – Jeff Yancy, Administration Lisa Dicharry
DIRECTORS: Chair – Kenneth LaGrande-LaGrande WD, Vice-Chair – Halbert Charter-Colusa CWD, Linda Hayes-Corning WD Glenn Kelley-Cortina WD, Tom Charter-Davis WD, Jonnalee Henderson-Dunnigan WD, Wade Mathis-4M WD, Sandy Denn-Glenn Colusa ID, Joel Mann-Glide WD, Ron Lee-Holthouse WD, Wade Danley-Kanawha WD, Darrin -Kirkwood WD, Jim Jones-Orland Artois WD, Dan Jones-Proberta WD, Bart Fleharty-Thomas Creek WD & Blake Vann-Westside WD.
From the TCCA Website: The Tehama-Colusa Canal Authority (TCCA) is a Joint Powers Authority comprised of 17 Central Valley Project water contractors. The service area spans four counties (Tehama, Glenn, Colusa, and Yolo) along the west side of the Sacramento Valley, providing irrigation water to farmers growing a variety of permanent and annual crops. TCCA operates and maintains the 140 mile Tehama-Colusa and Corning canals irrigation water supply system. The service area is approximately 150,000 acres, producing over $250 million in crops per year, and contributing $1 billion to the regional economy annually.