The Tri County Water Authority held its board of directors meeting at its Corcoran headquarters and online with Zoom. The talk before the meeting was about the recent storms. This is the first serious precipitation we’ve had for a long while. The meeting started a bit late at 1:09pm. Chairman Cory VanderHam wasn’t present so Carlo Wilcox chaired the meeting.
There was no public comment, conflicts of interest and the consent calendar was passed. That included the treasurer’s report, paying bills and approving the minutes.
The first action item was Resolution No. 22-10 in support of the Tulare Lake Subbasin recharge projects grants. Executive Director Deana Jackson said this grant is very competitive. Engineer Amer Hussain explained more details on how the grant can help pay to get more accurate meter readings.
Jackson spoke about the difficulty of developing water trades between GSAs and ensuring they are apples to apples and fair to all. This is a challenge. Each Subbasins and certainly each GSA has different concerns. This may start at the way evapotranspiration is calculated. Soil types, of course plants and varieties and many other considerations must be weighed. 4 Creeks Engineering has offered Tri County a year long contract for its Basin Safe program and the board approved.
David Armanasco from California Strategies, a consulting group said Cal Strat had reached out to Wade Crowfoot the Natural Resources Secretary. In an event they were able to bring some big shots from DWR to the Allensworth Historic Site and present them with the situation on the ground. It was a good tour with a lasting impact on those attending. Armanasco said they’ve been providing Tri County with legislative updates and help with securing more than $2 million in grants, thanks in a large part to the work of Cal Strat’s Claire Van Zuiden, a grant specialist. He also said Cal Strat’s Rusty Areias kept Crowfoot’s attention on Allensworth.
Areias said the GSA was created as a result of a state program and much of what will happen will be dictated by the state for better or worse. He said it’s trying times with subsidence and other problems. He said he speaks and texts with Governor Gavin Newsom weekly to keep him appraised of what’s happening in the subbasin.
Jackson said originally Tri County and Southwest Kings GSA was paying for the more than $10,000 per month for Cal Strat’s services. Tri County will no longer manage Southwest Kings GSA so the question is, does the board want to continue on a $8,400 per month to month basis? Jackson said Cal Strat was very helpful with the grant funding and Allensworth. She credited Areais for the latter. There is likely to be more legislative danger on the order of AB 2201 and Cal Strat’s legislative work has been very helpful. Areais said Tri County has been a pleasure to work with. He said the regulations, the lawsuits and the economy and the battle to control this vital resource isn’t going away.
Armanasco said Cal Strat has 32 SGMA related accounts throughout the state, so there is that expanding perspective. Areais said Cal Strat is 30-years old and while he’s a democrat he’s known Armanasco as a Republican since he was 19 years old. Wilcox said without the full board present he wants to table a decision until next month. Director Michael Norstrom said he spoke with some high level folks about the Governor’s executive ordinance, excuse me, order concerning well permitting. He pressed to find out who is pushing this. Is it coming from the Governor’s office? He found out it’s coming from DWR. He also found out High Speed Rail is looking for SGMA exemptions on the wells it claims to need. This jumping ahead of the GSAs is hurting SGMA’s sustainability and is a disaster. Armanasco said he’s spoken with Cal Trans about the issue and that was a surprise to some.
I asked if there is a way to keep the NGOs and coastal elite legislators from trying to interject their mistaken will on the Valley. Areais said agriculture has been playing defensive for 30-years and is getting tired. He said he used to be on the Coastal Commission and talk about far left enviros. He said to keep fighting. Jackson said to swamp the authors with common sense amendments would be on way to keep it from coming down to a battle over legislation.
Jackson said there are a couple of landowners who want to fallow some orchards next year but not take out the trees. She said it is important not to penalize a grower for an orchard that isn’t being irrigated. She spoke with the attorneys and an affidavit of non-irrigation has been drawn up. This will give the growers some ability to keep their water credits. The trees will only be using what water it has their root systems and not any irrigated water. They’ll die of course. Wilcox said he was shocked to learn it was permanent crops being fallowed. There are some very difficult decisions being made. I asked if leaving the trees to die and not removing or chipping them could lead to any greater chance of disease or other problems. Jackson said that is a question that needs to be answered and she believes this would be an issue the land repurposing programs need to be addressing. The board approved the affidavit program.
The board was asked to approve a response letter to DWR for comments received on Tri County’s revisions on the Tule Subbasin side of the GSP. Hussain said the minimum thresholds were set above the Corcoran Clay layer and at least 90 percent of the domestic wells are protected. He said DWR was concerned about better coordination between neighboring GSPs and that was addressed. Hussain said he doesn’t believe the GSP needs further revisions and has expressed the Subbasin’s willingness to work closely with DWR. He said the issue of subsidence is a regional challenge and needs to be addressed regionally as well as locally. The board approved sending a letter.
Hussain said there was a meeting of the advisory committee recently and a well mitigation program was agreed to. Now the job of fleshing out who is eligible, what outreach needs to take place and how to fund it needs to take place. A draft will be submitted by the next advisory committee this month on the 7th or maybe December 7th. Jackson said the goal is to have it up and running by the first of the year. Hussain said there is fewer than a dozen domestic wells that could be impacted. Jackson said there will also be a discussion with Tulare County on domestic wells. She said the GSA wants to handle domestic well owners with a soft touch since this is people’s homes we’re talking about.
Jackson also said since DWR didn’t accept the GSP the subbasin is technically under the thumb of the State Board. The State Board said they aren’t taking any action until a further DWR review takes place. Hussain said the State Board told them to keep implementing the plan in the meantime and the situation won’t hinder grant application eligibility.
Attorney Jason Howard gave his report saying AB 2449 adds another wrinkle to the Brown Act and will go into effect at the first of the year and run for two years. The new rules require a majority of the board to attend meeting within the jurisdiction and places further onus on the board members wanting to meet remotely to prove the need to do so, sickness or vacation or what not.
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TRI-COUNTY WATER AUTHORITY
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, Wade Magden, Carlo Wilcox, Michael Nordstrom and Myron Schotanus. Deanna Jackson – Executive Director, Amer Hussain – consulting engineer.