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Tri County Water Authority October 28, 2020

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Ger Bennett BannerThe Tri County Water Authority held its Advisory Committee on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 remotely from its Corcoran headquarters on Microsoft Teams. Amer Hussain of Geosyntec and General Manager Deanna Jackson were co-chairing the meeting sort of. Stacy Ann Silva was attending by computer and she sweetly notified the committee I was trying to send a message that my microphone wasn’t working but I was attending. Thank you Stacy. I wouldn’t want to write about a meeting when folks didn’t know I was there.

Updates

Hussain pointed out the next advisory committee meeting would be the day after Thanksgiving and that may not be well attended. If I understood there won’t be a meeting of the board in November. Jackson said there is a discussion about where the pumping causing the subsidence impacting the Friant Kern Canal is taking place. It looks like the  problem is along the FKC and not as far away as the Aqua Logic report showed. Attendee Geoff Vanden Heuvel asked if the Aqua Logic report was a bust or what? Jackson responded as hard as it tried the report just couldn’t point the finger as far to the west as Tri County. The Aqua Logic report doesn’t appear to have slowed the train holding Eastern Tule GSA area responsible. Vanden Heuvel said ETGSA has placed a pumping limit and it looks like the Friant Water Authority is getting closer to an agreement with the GSA for compensation to fix the canal. Jackson said most of those discussions have been behind closed doors and Tri County doesn’t believe it holds anymore than a very insignificant responsibility if any at all. Hussain commented that hydrogeologist Tom Harder is working on an updated model of the Tule Sub Basin groundwater.

Hussain reported Geosyntec and Four Creeks engineering have been measuring water levels in wells to further develop a good monitoring network for Tri County. Some data has been collected on the Tule Lake side to ease some of the data gaps.

Jackson said she is currently working with Four Creeks to develop a data management system by early next year. That will help incorporate the rules and regulations drafts into real life. Hussain said the feedback from the committee has been helpful.

Jackson said there are ongoing talks with representatives in the Allensworth area about how to bring in a more diverse economy should ag’s footprint be reduced due to SGMA. She said keeping Allensworth in the loop and help with their projects is a priority. Hussain said the Prop 68 implementation grant is coming up as early as November but since it’s a DWR deal it might be a little later. Only one application can be submitted per sub basin but this could bring $5 million into play. It’s very important for all the GSAs in the sub basin to coordinate with each other. There’s a matching fund requirement unless there are enough “underrepresented rural communities.”

A Plethora of Watershed Coordinators

Next the talk turned to Watershed Coordinators and there have been 26 applications. The State only allocated $1.5 million to this program and as Vanden Heuvel said there needs to be more allocations. He suggested all 26 GSAs get together and ask for more. It is a very valuable position. Jackson said she agrees and is work on this. She said the entire watersheds need to be coordinated. Vanden Heuvel pointed out Tri County has hired the California Strategies consulting firm and they should be able to get some traction on this. An attendee named Carole Combs said the costs of China Virus and wildfires may threaten the funding of the state but ACWA might be able to help. Jackson said she’ll be after ACWA, Cal Strategies and DWR to help. Carole suggested keeping this a permanent agenda item and Hussain agreed.

Hussain said the allocation study is creating a desire to see it. He said the document is finished and should be released tomorrow as an update to the existing document. He said Deana Jackson and committee member Steve Jackson will look it over then it will be released into the wild.

Groundwater Allocations

A presentation appaired on the screen. The Tulare Lake Sub Basin has a sustainable yield of .56 a/f which could be a Tri County yield of 26,241 a/f. On the Tule Sub Basin side Tri County will 21,000 a/f for or .34 per acre for a total of 47,500 a/f. Hussain spoke about transitional pumping and there will be a five year step down as opposed to a linear cutoff. This ramp down will extend to 2040. But this pumping will only be allotted to lands in production between 2015 to 2020. Land removed from production after 2020 could lose its transitional pumping credits. The carryover credits have to be addressed. Recommendations included preparing the landowner registry with formal decisions on eligibility. Prepare allocation formulas and calculate allocation for each landowner. Based on input, prioritize other outstanding items (i.e. upper/lower aquifer, boundary flows, etc.) It believe a man named Bob Anderson who may also work for Geosyntec said once the board adopts these recommendations further steps to implement them can then be taken. Silva asked about taking canal loss from Tulare Lake’s figures. She said that almost always happens and in her experience the allocation may be high. She also stumped them by asking if fallowing harms transitional water credits. Jackson said on consideration she wouldn’t want to disincentivize someone from saving water so she would want the TP credits wouldn’t be harmed. The committee agreed with her and said as much flexibility as possible should be the goal. There was also agreement a five year lookback is reasonable. Should there be a rolling average for carryover and Hussain said that could be considered.

Someone from Cal Strategy must have been on the call or else they have a big fan who claimed that firm has unprecedented skills at securing grant funding. He tried to sell it pretty hard.

Priorities  

Next Hussain said today’s comments will be taken back to the desk for inclusion. He said Jackson has asked for Geosyntec’s views on engineering support for next year. He asked the committee what it believed this should be. There aren’t a lot of things in a GSA that don’t have some reliance on engineering. He wanted to know what the preferred priorities might be. Silva suggested that the lower and upper aquifer dealings need more data before that becomes a priority. That was a good point. Anderson pointed keeping an eye on neighboring GSAs and Sub Basins will help develop the existing gaps in data. Jackson said as this information grows the ability to choose projects. Steve Jackson said Tri County can’t be an island. He said the Tule, Kaweah and Tulare Sub Basins are under different levels of pressure. Mark Grewal said there is no one sub basin to decide the problem. True.

Someone, I’m thinking Dan Vink* said there may be a consolation prize in Pixley where 500 acres may be used near the Pixley Wildlife refuge for upland habitat that can contribute to better water allocations but there are “many needles that need to be threaded” over the next 20-years for this to playout.

Combs asked if flooding might be a priority and Jackson said that is more of a regional matter than a GSA matter. Grewal said if global warming is true there will be less storage in the form or snowpack.

Hussain said the only one to attend next month’s scheduled meeting would be Silva as it falls on the day before Thanksgiving. So, the date of November 18th at 10:00am was chosen. It was also definitively decided this is the Advisory Committee and not the Technical Advisory Committee. And that was that. A recording of this meeting will be posted on a website, I’m guessing the Tri County website.

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*I recognized the smile in his voice.

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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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