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Tri County Water Authority January 27, 2021

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Ger Bennett BannerThe Tri County Water Authority held its Advisory Committee meeting remotely by Zoom on Wednesday, January 27, 2021. General Manager Deanna Jackson started things at 10:00am by saying her son has had the virus and while she didn’t she was working remotely. Engineer Amer Hussain said there is a Prop 68 Grant may be coming to fruition by including some flood control from the White River to the historic Allensworth area. If you’re not familiar with Allensworth it is an interesting story told well by Mark Arax in his book King of California. In fact if you’re involved in water in California and you haven’t read the King of California and Arax’s latest book The Dreamt Land, you are missing out on a valuable history lesson. And much of it is living history. If you haven’t done so, complete your education and read Arax.Bermad irrigation

Grant Moola

The project includes a 40-acre basin for storm water capture and recharge. There are plans according to Hussain to make this into a park for the community for when there aren’t floods, which is most of the time. There will be new canals needed to convey the White River overflow to the basin. He said this is a three phase project and not all the necessary funds were received in this grant go around.

Hussain said round two is a lot more money but it is also open to more basins and will be more competitive. He’ll go into greater detail on the strategy to get some of the loot.

Annual Update

Next Hussain said the annual report for 2020 is being written by Four Creeks Engineering and the Tule Subbasin managers met last week to look this over. Under SGMA each subbasin must submit an annual report to the State Department of Water Resources by April. Last year’s report was truncated as it was the first ever and didn’t follow the calendar with a full year. He’ll keep TCWA informed about the progress of the report. Jackson said the report will include all the data points and some solid implementation of policies.

Rules & Regs

Jackson said she’s preparing a document of rules and regulations that reflect policy. She said the Eastern Tule GSA’s similar efforts provided a good template. She said there is the flexibility for working with the other GSAs worked into the recipe.

Hussain said the board has informed him projects are the priority when it comes to implementation.

Kathy Wood McLaughlin said Pixley ID received a grant for the Lower Deer Creek Watershed Plan. This is a NRCS grant and therefore cultural resources must be taken into account. Some ancient artifacts have been discovered. They have been working with the Santa Rita Rancheria Tribe on this matter and that, while a pleasant surprise to further the knowledge of the area’s history it has slowed the process down a bit.

She also said Carole Combs and Dan Vink have been very helpful in securing funding for a Watershed Coordinator. She is looking for input for the position’s duties and suggestions. A lady from Allensworth said there are plans to develop a trail from the High Speed Rail buffer zone to the local cemetery that could be included in other historical investigations such the archeology at the Indian site. Evidently the HSR reviews determined you don’t want to live near the tracks. Wood McLaughlin said this area with artifacts recently discovered could be a burial ground or tribal village site. She said the tribe’s preference appears to not dig it up but instead preserve it as an upland wildlife area. Sounds good to me. A way to honor our heritage and provide for the ecosphere. Don’t forget we’re all indigenous somewhere. There was some brainstorming about potential Watershed Coordinator candidates and it will be interesting to see who gets that gig.

Implementation

Hussain said there will be a meeting on February 18th at 1:00pm dealing with allocation studies. Jackson said that policy was reviewed by attorneys and the policy was changed. It now takes a qualified parcel of five acres minimum and register to TCWA to get an allocation of sustainable yield. Only irrigated lands will be eligible for pumping tier water. Under the data management system being used by Four Creeks Engineering will allow for increases in sustainable yield from carryover.

Hussain said there is a priority of use that now includes sustainable yield. Other than that there was just some clean up of language here and there for clarification. Stacie Ann Silva asked if this draft is pretty much it and will be the version presented today be the same as the one at the upcoming meeting. Jackson said she expects this version to remain but should there be any changes they will be distributed to interested parties. There is a deadline of 10-days before the meeting to present any changes.

Geoff Vanden Heuvel asked about transfers. He said one way to deal with this would be to include language that sets criteria that must be met upfront. Mark Grewal said it is important to be sure the incentive is in place. You don’t want someone pumping and selling water elsewhere. Jackson said transfers within the GSA is fairly straightforward but transfers out of the area need to be established if they are to happen. Grewal said there should be a policy requiring any water transferred out of the area to be replaced on a fairly prompt timeline. Director Steve Jackson said there needs to be opportunities to bank out of the area and account for that. He’s been keeping an eye on the situation in Lower Tule River ID.

Clark Evers of John Hancock Ag Investments asked about how the monies raised from extraction fees will be spent and Grewal and Jackson both said the focus will be to invest in projects that will help the local steak holders. Hussain said tier one can only transfer to tier one lands. There won’t be any expansion of plantings expected. He said to submit written or verbal comments about the policy by no later than February 8th to meet the open meeting deadline.

Priorities

Hussain said prioritization of projects is at the top of the list. He said projects do not have to be originated by the GSA. They can be private projects the GSA can partner with. He said the Advisory Committee’s focus in the future will be more and more oriented to looking at projects.

Hussain said the Round II Prop 68 Grant requires any project applied for has to be listed in the GSP. Currently the TCWA GSP doesn’t have many projects. There is a process approved by DWR to amend the GSP to include eligible projects. He’s checking with DWR to see what the public review requirements will be. He said there are no guarantees to get a share of the $70 million grant but for sure there will be no money without some viable projects in the application.

Grewal said there are improvements in conveyance to assist with recharge. If I understand correctly there isn’t much good land for recharge in the old Tulare Lake lakebed which makes sense. If it was good recharge there might not have been a lake formed. Grewal said the Liberty Project is the highest priority project. It could store 12,000 a/f in the short term. There is a Liberty II being looked at to capture short term high flows and Angiola ID would be able to manage this supply. It only requires an additional levy to the eastside. He believes both of these projects could be completed in 2021. The Liberty Project has the potential of holding 120,000 a/f when built out. He said partnering with Sandridge Farms would be a part of this project. That’s John Vidovich’s outfit. Grewal also said Poso Creek could be an artery to go to the south and that would open up more flexible water trading and that would help the white areas also.

Hussain there’s the White River, the Liberty Project and the Liberty II or Liberty North as he likes to call it, as potential projects to use to get the grant money. The Poso Creek projects could open up some opportunities with Semitropic WSD. Jackson said to be sure to get these projects on paper if they’re going to be included. She said fallowing isn’t popular but it could be available for conversion to wildlife habitat and if landowners want that in the policy they need to include it now. Hussain said it will take multiple projects to bring water into the area. He also said the Liberty project would have to include flood flows from the Kings River to be fully functional. He said projects must be put forth immediately to be included in these next round of grant funding. Grewal pointed out Rusty Areias of California Strategies could be helpful in bringing his contacts to bear. Areias said to call him if you need help with the state government. He said there is a chance of bringing in the NAACP to help with Allensworth projects. He said this could very much be a winning strategy and he’s glad to lend any relationships or expertise he can.

Hussain reminded everyone February 18th at 1:00pm is the meeting with a February 8th deadline for submissions. Jackson reiterated to everyone the urgency of submitting projects. That was pretty much it.

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TRI-COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY

www.tcwater.org

944 Whitely Ave. Ste. E, Corcoran, CA 93212   Phone: 559/762-7240 DWR# 5-022.12

Tri-County Water Authority is a collaboration of Public Agencies, Water Suppliers, Communities, Cities, County, Environmental Groups, Government Representatives, and a variety of other interested parties. The goal is to identify and implement water management solutions on a regional scale that increase regional self-reliance, reduce conflict, and manage water to concurrently achieve social, environmental, and economic objectives.

Directors & Staff: Cory VanderHam – Chairman, Mark Grewal – Vice Chair, Steve Jackson, Wade Magden. Deanna Jackson – Executive Director, Amer Hussain – consulting engineer.

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