The Tulare Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at its headquarters nestled west of Tulare. Director David Martin has a broken hydraulic line he needs repaired by tomorrow morning, so he was pretty motivated to get the meeting going. The minutes were approved and somewhere in there Chairman David Bixler called the meeting to order around 9:00 am. New General Manager Aaron Fukuda introduced a man who needs no introduction in this room, Jason Phillips, CEO of Friant Water Authority was visiting.
Well, the board moved Phillips to the beginning of the meeting. Phillips gave a report on the recent annual meeting as well as the impact of SGMA on the Friant service area. He spoke about the November Water Bond’s financial help in restoring the Friant Kern Canal’s capacity lost to subsidence. He’s got the Friant team looking at how to improve forest management. Overgrowth has caused not only fire risk but depletes water supplies. If the bond doesn’t pass there are other difficult choices. The Prop One bond appears to have generated very little results but the November Water Bond’s $750 million for the FKC is already assigned to the project. That sounds almost fool proof. It would take a dedicated effort from the most voracious special interest groups banding together to put the pressure on to influence legislators, bureaucrats and the courts to screw it up – my words, not Phillips. There is some money from the US Bureau of Reclamation to help with the canal should the bond not pass. Phillips said FWA is working as though the bond will pass and making contingency plans should it not.
Phillips said the current water conditions should keep the Bureau from calling on Friant supplies for the Exchange Contractors. A big problem is the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service wants a 2.5 million a/f cold pool in Lake Shasta. That won’t work. As it is right now the Bureau isn’t allowed to declare an allocation without NMFS’ approval. That’s crazy. San Luis Reservoir is almost ready to “spill” on the federal side and there is still a lot of space on the state side. There are negotiations going on to allow the feds to store water in the state’s space. Phillips is concerned that the deadline for plants implemented to prevent land retirement and fallowing will be 2020.
Another big topic for Friant members is the transfer of ownership of the FKC from the Bureau to FWA. In the past title transfers have dragged on for a decade and new legislation is working to speed things up. The Friant canal has been paid for by the contractors. In the past the Bureau would get a $500 million allocation to fix the subsidence because it’s the Bureau’s baby. Friant contractors would still have to play the government back for the repairs. However, the Bureau can’t get that kind of money anymore. Martin asked if some of the more expensive parts of repairing such as prevailing wage would go away if FWA owns the canal. Yes, in many cases. An issue I haven’t considered is water quality in the canal. I think most Friant districts are willing to come together and work out an agreement rather than asking the fed’s to step in and solve it for them. Director Rick Borges asked if Senator Diane Feinstein and her staff are aware and supportive of the title transfer. Phillips is going back to DC soon to talk with Feinstein and staff about this and other matters such as the reconsultation of the biops impacting the Delta. Phillips is also going to be advocating for legislation to give the districts and GSAs the ability to move water with less red tape. That could really help an area avoid the worst of SGMA. As for the Prop One money Phillips said Temperance Flat and Sites are not popular with the California Water Commission and the state folks. He does expect Temp Flat to get a much better score, not a great one but better. He also sees a lot of strings attached. Come to find out there is a cap on the November Water Bond for state administrative costs. The state agencies can only charge a maximum of five percent on this bond.
Water Master Marco Crenshaw gave his report and said the last rain storm only yielded a 10th of an inch on the Valley floor but was warm and washed away a good deal of snow. Terminus Dam is holding 112,000 a/f currently. Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River is 89 percent full and looking at a flood release. There’s 80,000 a/f of carryover in jeopardy. TID didn’t opt for carryover this year. There is 3,800 a/f of Unreleased Restoration Flows belonging to TID that it has to use by the end of this month. There are Class II releases predicted and the possibility of a good swap opportunity with another district. More about that in closed session. There is also a very good chance of a 218 condition for an uncontrolled season. Right now the Bureau is allocating a 100 percent Class I but that could change after this release. It’s confusing under best conditions. TID could get 25,000 a/f of cheaper costing water between here and the middle of May. If Crenshaw orders the water tomorrow the district will start getting it Friday and begin deliveries next Monday. TID is getting all 30,000 a/f of CVP Class I water it contracted for this year. Crenshaw is estimating between Friant and the Kaweah River supplies TID will have 51,000 a/f this season. The TID summer rate will be $43 per a/f this summer.
Superintendent Wayne Fox reported he went through many safety meetings with staff. Mowing is finished even though there was a month of wet runs in February. He said there was an unprecedented amount of old tire that had to be fished out of the canals. Martin asked if any of them fit the district’s vehicles and unfortunately the answer was no. The Squirrel Terminator struck nine locations and put an effective dent in the number of ditch bank collapses. It was time to get rid of an old bull dozer and Fox sold it to National Equipment in Madera. He also got a new, or like new, spray truck.
Controller Kathi Artis gave her report and the board approved the financial statements and paying the district’s bills. It’s nice to know there is rarely any reason to report on the work done by controllers for water districts. I know there’s been scandals in the past but they don’t happen often. This is another reason I’ve come to respect the special districts for the most part. They are one of the last bastions of functional government in California.
Fukuda next told the board there are requests for a total of 480 acres into the district. These were denied in the past due to lack of water. However, things have changed. A parcel could possibly be brought into the district and pay assessments but be in the back of the line for water. One grower offered to set up a recharge program on his property. This sounds good on the surface but staff is concerned about the unknown cost and time to annex and what happens to SGMA and the GSA boundaries? Dr. Jesse Mali Jr. was present, and he has like 300 acres he wants in. He said districts will gain strength by the number of acres to fight back undesirable SGMA blowback. If I understood him correctly. Fukuda said he appreciates the opinion of a bigger footprint for a district but the GSAs are going to have some heartburn with this. Martin commented that growers want to put in recharge basins are great but there has to be water to fill the hole. He said he sees an overarching organization like the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District were the ultimate GSA power will reside. Dr. Jesse Mali Sr. was also present, and he said part of his land is in TID, receives TID water and is surrounded by TID. He said he has a great location for taking water for recharge. He said other things. Fukuda said the annexation process is lengthy and expensive and in the best case won’t happen by 2020. He said the Mali’s will have to go get the OK from the GSAs impacted. Borges said it would be good to take a look at developing a policy for moving water off the district without annexation. Ultimately the decision to not decide today was the decision made today. Staff will review.
Fukuda reported the district engineer search received several applicants. (Fukuda was the district engineer before moving to the GM slot.) There were no water engineers. The applicants come from a background of managing large staffs. Fukuda said it may be best to hire from Cal Poly or Fresno State. The good thing is getting an engineer trained for TID’s needs but a just graduated student needs to be licensed. This requires a candidate to work for two years under an engineer. But, four engineers have to sign off. There are not four engineers at TID so the candidate would have to work for TID three days a week and a firm like Salem Engineering for two days a week. Something like that.
TID has bids out for a measuring station on a ditch. Fukuda asked to award the contract to Phase One Construction for $151,000. He said San Luis Canal Company uses Phase One quite a bit and the firm has experience with this type of measuring flume. He also said there’s a Doppler monitor that will eventually establish enough data that should it break the measuring can be determined by water elevation. The board was good with Phase One.
Fukuda asked the board to review and approve a new policy for procurement of goods and services. For instance; if TID wants to buy something over $150,000 a bid must go out. Artis would be the purchasing agent. If the cost is $10,000 it will require additional authorization. Attorney Jim Koontz reviewed this policy and felt it was in order. This will also help when applying to grants. The board approved.
Next Fukuda brought up the repayment agreement 3,000 a/f for restoration flows for both spring and fall at $150 a/f. He said there would be more discussion in closed session but the open session portion was approved.
The last item dealt with a culvert under an Union Pacific railroad crossing that was damaged by a disk. It needs repairs and the railroad said TID has no right of way. Fukuda said he’s never had better cooperation with a railroad. The railroad said present it with a design plan and they’ll include an easement. He went through the tunnel and found bad news. It’s got a bend in it so sharp a lining won’t work. It’s part corrugated metal, part cement. There’s an AT&T optic fiber cable running down part of it. Provost & Pritchard bid $190,000 to design and manage the job. Everyone with any juice in the room felt that was high.
The meeting then went into closed session for discussions about water transfers, claims against the district, legal cases and personnel matters.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of DAW.
TULARE IRRIGATION DISTRICT
6826 Ave 240, Tulare, CA 93274 Office: 559/686-3425
Board: David G. Bixler- President, Richard S. Borges, Jr.-Vice President, Scott Rogers, Dave Martin & Michael Thomas
Staff: Aaron Fukuda-General Manager, Kathi Artis–District Controller, Wayne Fox–Superintendent, Marco Crenshaw–District Water Master & Alex Peltzer-Attorney.
About: The Tulare Irrigation District was organized September 21, 1889. The original proposal for the formation of an irrigation district covering 219,000 acres, extending from the Sierra Nevada foothills to Tulare Lake, was eventually reduced to 32,500 acres. The District continued in this status until January of 1948 when the so-called Kaweah Lands” (approximately 11,000 acres) were annexed. In October of 1948, approximately 31,000 acres, compromising the area served by the Packwood Canal Company were annexed to the District. A U.S. Bureau of Reclamation contract was signed in 1950 providing an annual supply of 30,000 acre-feet of Class 1 water, and up to 141,000 acre-feet of Class 2 water from the Friant-Kern Canal. The District and the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District have coordinated efforts to enhance the recharge of groundwater within the Kaweah Basin. During high flow times KDWCD may use the recharge basins with the District for recharge purposes. Further, KDWCD has historically provided for a financial incentive program through which the District sustains the level of groundwater recharge from supply sources into the District. This historical program was recently reinstated by both districts in lieu of the District’s plans to concrete-line this canal to conserve the surface water. TID is a member of the Mid Kaweah GSA.