The Triangle T Water District held its Thursday, August 12, 2021, board of directors meeting. The first portion was the Groundwater Sustainability Agency. General Manager? Sarah Woolf welcomed us to the 10:00am start time of the meeting. The minutes were approved and President Lucas Avila invited Brad Samuelson to report on the Prop 68 grant. There were three projects proposed and one is much more complex. The projects include recharge basins and the idea is to try to get the environmental permitting all done at once.
Samuelson reported the Inter-Basin Coordination meeting that includes the Exchange Contractors, the Counties of Merced and Madera, the Chowchilla and the Triangle T area was held. Subsidence is a major concern and a management area has been established. There was a great amount of orchard and dairy development on what had been rangeland. There isn’t much native, untilled land left on the Valley floor. The amount and rapidity of development led to overdraft and subsidence. So what you going to do in the face of SGMA. Just what these guys have done, pull together and work with your neighbors to find solutions.
Samuelson reported on a letter the Madera Irrigation District sent to the Madera County GSA. He said the letter sounded like a shot over the bow for a lawsuit. He said the County expects a lawsuit but none has been filed so far. MID’s position was the GSP allowed too much pumping in the white areas while claiming its pumping is sustainable. Samuelson said he’s spoken with several lawyers and they are perplexed. If this triggers a lawsuit the opinion is MID can’t override the GSP under SGMA but it would challenge the law and the court could find in MID’s favor. This is all speculation at the moment but it could be a big mess for everyone in Madera County. Madera County’s economy isn’t as diversified as other counties in the San Joaquin Valley. And that’s saying a lot since the overwhelming majority of economic activity in the Valley is agriculture. So, irrigation water is a double serious issue.
It was asked who sells Tri TWD water. Chase Hurley said both Madera ID and Chowchilla Water District have sold water to Tri T. Whoever it was who asked warned everyone to be politically careful. Samuelson said there are many landowners who have property in MID and other areas that could end up on both sides of a lawsuit.
The Water District Meeting
At 10:23am the Triangle T WD meeting began and Director Dirk Vlot moved to approve the minutes and they were approved but for some reason Director Molly Thurman wasn’t able to vote. Maybe she was experiencing what I was – the folks at Zoom kept telling me there was no such meetings and I had to call in on my phone.
Hurley gave the board the accounts payable and financial report. He said the members have made good on their dues and the passbook looks better than it has in a while. He then reviewed the budget and the board approved it all. One thing mentioned was having the TTWD pitch in on some of the cost share for project grants if I understood correctly. He said there may be some water to come in this winter from the Exchange Contractors. Hurley said he’s keeping in touch with Ex Con’s GM Chris White on the matter. Hurley used to manage San Luis Canal Company, one of the Ex Con members so he has good connections in that area. Woolf added the Clayton WD is having a special meeting this afternoon to set assessments so they can pay its cash call.
Next Hurley gave the water operations report saying the facilities are ready but there is no water to move. He said they’re keeping an eye on things.
Hurley said TTWD isn’t a signatory of current mitigation agreement but is preparing to join the 2021 agreement. That will cause the TTWD landowners to be covered by the district. He’s working with Ex Con’s hydrogeologist Dr. Ken Schmidt on some alternatives. He said Hancock Ag is moving shallow aquifer water across its property and working with Vlot Farms.
Hurley said Summers Engineering has worked up some figures to help get the folks in TTWD through the rest of this year. The trouble is when three landowners first started pumping they did so from the deep aquifer and that caused the subsidence. The plan now is to limit all deep wells to no more than a half an acre foot per acre. TTWD wanted three-fourths a/f per acre but that’s not going to fly. Someone asked if a water transfer from Ex Con could be included in the new mitigation agreement. Hurley said that would be a reasonable point to bring up in negotiations.
Woolf reported the siphon pipeline easement is cooling its heals in court. This is a matter of the court getting around to it, not a matter of legal wrangling.
Woolf also reported on the Vlot, Hancock and F&S properties annexation efforts. There are two other farms within the TTWD sphere of influence seeking to join. This is all orchards and permanent crops if I understood. It also sounded like the proposed properties have two or more deep wells but they aren’t using them. One of the farmers is a diverter off the Eastside Bypass and is putting in a recharge basin. I believe Woolf said annexing these properties would not harm the district. She’ll need a resolution from the board in order to bring this to the Madera County LAFCo.
Director Thurman asked if any of those annexed lands with diversions have made plans for fish screens. She was concerned about finding out later the cost would be prohibitive. Woolf said there isn’t a clear answer at this time. Some of them are more aware than others. There was other questions about land being worked by the Wine Group. Hurley said the Wine Group is a tenant and has a budget to drill three shallow wells by the landowners. He said he believes that property will eventually become part of TTWD but it might not be until the next phase. Vlot asked how much the proposed annexed lands are using their deep wells. No one knew for sure and the landowners requesting their land be annexed were not on the call or unable to unmute until Clayton Haynes was able to get through. He said he wasn’t sure which well was the deeper one. By the way in this area 300 feet is considered deep. Vlot asked Haynes if he had to forgo the deep well would he be able to get through a year like this. Haynes said yes. Woolf said the other property, the Tally family owns hasn’t been as proactive with recharge as Haynes and its shallow aquifer may not be as healthy. The board approved adding the Haynes and Tally properties to the annexation process. They had to adopt the resolution and did so. Now things can move to LAFCo for final approval.
Woolf said TTWD and Aliso WD sent a letter to the State Board stating it is in opposition to the board wanting the districts to reinvent the wheel on appropriative water rights. The State Board wants the districts to do the research it already has done on the San Joaquin River. I guess it wants to save the cost of a file clerk. There have been calls for audits of the state’s DMV that have been met with foot dragging and conniption fits. It is possible if the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom succeeds there may be more transparency in Sacramento.
The area of TTWD is also known as Red Top, named after original settler Ray Flanagan’s wife Suzi, who had blazing red hair according to author Mark Arax in his well worth reading book The Dreamt Land. There was a meeting of the Red Top landowners outside of TTWD and the district. There will be another meeting next month. Even fallowed lands’ weeds show up as water usage and must be accounted for.
Woolf reminded the board there are three TTWD seats with terms coming up next month. The proper paperwork has been filed with Madera County about reappointing the directors since nobody else wants the job.
The only closed session item was water purchase negotiations so there was no closed session. The meeting ended with Avila wishing everyone a safe harvest and that happened at 11:15am.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide readers and clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete. Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2021 by WaterWrights.net/DAW
Triangle T Water District – http://triangletwaterdistrict.org/
4400 Hays Drive, Chowchilla, CA 93610 There is no staff, email address or phone number listed on the website.
Staff: Sarah Woolf and Chase Hurley
Board – Lucas Avila – President, Dirk Vlot – Vice President, Emmanuel Benjamin, Michael York & Molly Thurman
The Triangle T Water District GSA is in the Chowchilla Sub Basin DWR # 5-022.05