The Tri County Water Authority held its Thursday, September 8, 2022 board meeting at its Corcoran headquarters and on Zoom. Today’s meeting agenda includes something I’ve never seen before. The six man board with four current directors is looking to expand to a five member board. This is going to require a resolution changing the bylaws and an appointment of a new, at large director. After a few years of existence these types of things sort themselves out. Almost all of the water and irrigation districts in the Valley have been around for a long time and have sorted through many of these issues. But GSAs are relatively new and still growing.
The meeting was called to order at 1:03pm by Chair Cory VanderHam and there were no public comments. The consent calendar was passed including holding the meeting on Zoom.
The first action item was the resolution to change the bylaws. The attorney said that takes a majority vote by the board. The resolution will add an at large director with the same obligations as the other directors for the most part. There was a September 8th letter from Director Wade Magden asking to table this matter as he can’t attend the meeting today due to health concerns. If this action is passed he asked to wait to appoint anyone until all candidates be vetted. The legal opinion is the bylaws do allow this action and it is up to the board to decide if it wants to appoint a member today.
General Manager Deanna Jackson said there have been many requests to expand the board as the southeast area of the GSA is underrepresented. This position is for the Tule Subbasin portion of the GSA only. This isn’t going to change the Tri County Water Authority directors. A motion was made and seconded. The board approved.
Next Jackson identified Molly Thurman who wasn’t able to be there in person but sent a letter requesting an appointment. Myron Schotanus was the other candidate and he was in the room. There was some discussion about if the pool of candidates need to be expanded but the two largest growers are represented. VanderHam said he’d like to see the application period be extended but not to wait until the November meeting and hold a special meeting before then. The board set two-weeks from today as the closing date for nominations and two-weeks after that to hold the special meeting to appoint the new director. They haven’t had any applicants in the previous three years so it was decided to wait a little longer.
The attorney, I believe Jason Howard from the Fresno firm McCormick & Barstow said the California Water Code allows for GSAs to assess civil penalties for over pumping. At 1:23pm the public hearing opened for assessing penalties for the second quarter of 2022. No one spoke up so the hearing closed. The board also looked at if there were any violations. Jackson was asked what would happen if someone didn’t pay a penalty or continued pumping beyond their allocation. She said the same thing as every other GSAs in the Valley, they don’t want to be an enforcement agency. That scenario is somewhat a case by case and as the five-year first SGMA quarter comes to a close there are likely to be revisions. The board approved the penalties.
Engineering consultant Amir Hussein of Geosyntec reported DWR’s review of GSPs is still ongoing. However, the GSA managers in the Tulare Lake Subbasin have met and plans are moving forward. There are well mitigation plans still being developed and deadlines are approaching. Hussein said he and Jackson are working together and he expects the portions dealing with domestic wells should be very similar in both the Tulare Lake and Tule Subbasins.
Hussein said there are two DWR grants moving forward; one will deal with groundwater modeling that will end up with a natural yield figure in the Tulare Lake side of the GSA. On the Tule Subbasin side modeling is moving forward there as well. There is a $10 million land repurposing grant on the Tule side and Tri County should get about $1 million of that. He said to make sure all the stakeholders can weigh in on that land fallowing plan.
Hussein said there was nothing surprising on the task orders. It sounded like it was all part two of existing order funding but for one new order for $1,400 if I heard correctly. Maybe it was $14,000 extra for additional GSP update preparation. The board approved.
TCWA has been using Cal Strategies for consulting services as a lobbyist. Cal Strat was helpful in bringing several million dollars to the Allensworth Community. Jackson said it’s costing $8,400 per month and she asked the board about continuing the relationship or changing the direction.
VanderHam asked how the board can tell the landowners they are spending that much money. Director Mike Nordstrom suggested Cal Strat justify its accomplishments. There is also a problem of conflict as Cal Strat is working for the Southwest Kings GSA and that GSA held out on signing off on the GSP that Tri County signed on to. Jackson pointed out Cal Strat did bring in some money for Allensworth but that was billed separately.
Jackson was directed to have Cal Strat prepare a list of accomplishments for the November board meeting. It takes 30-days under the contract to terminate the Cal Strat agreement. Jackson said she wasn’t sure how helpful Cal Strat was in stopping AB 2201, the well permitting bill. She said ACWA was helpful. Someone pointed out there are many NGOs not friendly to ag lobbying hard to change SGMA and it would be good to have somebody on the growers’ side. So, it’s not over yet for Cal Strat.
Someone off camera asked if repurposing of land and fallowing of land is the same thing. He also asked if TCWD is doing anything to prepare for this. Jackson said they are working on a policy to help leverage funds for those purposes. I didn’t hear her explain the differences and the Zoom feed ended as they went into closed session at 2:03pm for two potential cases of litigation. That was that.
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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. Deanna Jackson – Executive Director, Amer Hussain – consulting engineer.