The Triangle T Water District held its Thursday, September 8, 2022 board of directors meeting and the TTWD GSA meeting online with Zoom. Good for them. Triangle T’s meetings usually take place at the same time as San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority’s meetings. Having to choose between the two, San Luis usually gets my attention because of its scope and impact as part of the Central Valley Project. However, Triangle T is an important district to keep an eye on. It may only have a handful of growers but it is ground zero for dealing with subsidence. The old Triangle T Ranch was bought by an institutional investor and converted from rangeland to orchards without a surface water source. For a while pumping went unchecked. That property and surrounding properties belonging to family farms started feeling the impacts of subsidence in a hurry.
With the event of SGMA, landowners in the area were able to come to an agreement, form the Water District and hire competent water managers. They’ve been working closely with the Exchange Contractors to find solutions. TTWD has also filed to receive excess flood flows from the Eastside Bypass, a flood control structure for the San Joaquin River. That triggered some insane response by the government, if I recall correctly, requiring TTWD to research all the riparian rights along the SJR. It may not have seemed insane to those who believe the government doesn’t own its money, the taxpayers do, and I lean towards that. But the government is also there to serve the taxpayer and since it’s supposed to be keeping records of water rights. . . There is a reason we come together to form a military, a highway system, a court system – the things better achieved by an orderly, accountable government. Anyway, that’s part of what makes Triangle T an interesting meeting.
The Groundwater Sustainability Agency meeting was first and called to order by President Lucas Avila at 10:05am. Roll was called by Co-Manager Sarah Woolf and there was a quorum. The first action was public comment and there were none. Holding the meeting by Zoom was approved under the current waiver of the Brown Act. The minutes were also approved.
Consultant Brad Samuelson gave an update on the Chowchilla Subbasin white area group meeting with Madera County’s Stephane Anagnoson and former Chowchilla WD’s GM Doug Welch. The group, I believe had voted down a 218 Election by the county and will instead form their own water district and develop their own GSP, perhaps – it hasn’t happened yet. This could be good news for the other GSAs in the subbasin in as much as this could cause a unified GSP to be submitted and stave off future State Board involvement. Samuelson said this is all tentative and there is a problem with the areas. The white areas are blocks of land to the west of CWD and to the east as well. It isn’t likely Madera County LAFCo would be willing to have an island in the middle.
Director Molly Thurman asked if this isn’t too late. She said all of this paperwork and formation should have been completed. She suggested a meeting between the white area folks with the other areas. Co-Manager Chase Hurley said Thurman is correct. We’re halfway through the first five-year SGMA timeslot. Woolf said there has to be some commitment from the white areas to invest and this situation opens up a door to further tinkering and involvement by Sacramento in what should be a locally managed situation. Samuelson said it should be cheaper for the white areas to implement their own sustainability projects than the County GSA. Carving these areas out as management zones is another option that could limit the damage for the entire area.
The Water District Meeting
At 10:21am the GSA meeting adjourned and the Water District meeting began. There was still a quorum. There was pretty much the same motions and seconds as the GSA meeting to get the housekeeping completed. The minutes were approved and there were no public comments.
Hurley gave a quick financial report discussing the budget and expenditures. Everything sounded in order and the board approved after Hurley’s voice quit sounding like he was speaking underwater and got a better connection. As of today there won’t be a fourth quarter assessment but that could change next month when the actual fourth quarter takes place. There were a couple of big chunks like a $14,000 water rights fee. There is a reserve fund for land annexation. New districts are like volcanic islands, you get to see them grow from lava spill to a habitat. There were also some expensive water purchases as you can imagine. All the accounts receivable are current. Good for them.
Next Hurley spoke about water operations saying all the transfer water was delivered by the end of July. Pumping thresholds will be sent out to landowners next week. Woolf said TTWD put in a bid to purchase 4,000 a/f annually at $1,286 for three-years with a 10-percent increase in a drought year from San Luis Canal Company. TTWD won the bid. The attorney is reviewing and will be speaking with SLCC’s GM John Wiersma. That should be worked out. The water is coming from fallowed land. The board approved.
Ongoing district activities were also reported by Woolf. She said the siphon pipeline easement will be able to come off the agenda as there was a court ruling favorable to TTWD. Engineering firm Quad Knoff has been working on some documents needed to bring an annexation request before LAFCo.
There have been many meeting with State Board staff over the issue of an appropriative water right. Woolf said since the application is from flood flows and not directly off the SJR it looks like the State Board will recognize this is a unique situation. There will be many State Board staff coming down next month to tour the area. There is also Aliso WD and flood control that have to be involved. There is some concern about having to put fish screens in the Bypass, which doesn’t make sense on the surface since the channel is dry 90-percent of the time. Woolf said TTWD will share an expense with Aliso WD of costs from Provost & Pritchard analyzing the CEQA process to put turnouts on the Bypass.
There hasn’t been a Red Top landowner update lately but there may be one before the end of the year. That was that. The meeting adjourned at 10:45am. Good be good to yourselves and each other. Stay cool and safe.
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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