The Tulare Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, March 14, 2023 in person and on Zoom from its offices west of town. It’s raining as this meeting takes place and once again even with the threat of flooding and bloom damage, government mischief and such; farmers, like ducks and frogs, get in a good mood or at least a better mood.
Chairman David Bixler called the meeting to order at 9:00am. General Manager Aaron Fukuda read an email from Paul de Jong requesting the cost of flood release supplies be set at zero and to change the time of the meeting. That was all there was to public comment.
TID’s board members have to appear in person now or have a Brown Act approved excuse. For now the meetings are hybrid but for how long? If I understood the bad news a district can now do as it pleases since the state has determined the Covid Cooties are no longer the danger they once were. As much as I enjoy getting up early and driving to remote locations with the high cost of gas I’m enjoying the ability to report while sitting in my sweats with access to my fridge and scratching where it itches, so to speak.
Water Master Marco Crenshaw had some good news. Storage at Lake Kaweah is at 142,000 a/f out of a possible 195,000 a/f. He said there is a lot of wet snow higher up in the watershed. There was a warm storm on March 10th and one expected tonight. There is the definite possibility of flooding along local creeks and sloughs. Lake Success on the Tule River is full and spilling with releases from both it and the Kaweah, mixed with the big slug of water from the Kings River can put a lot of water in the Tulare Lakebed area. All the districts are moving as much water as possible to recharge opportunities. I expect most of you know there has been an unusual amount of snow at lower elevations and a warm rain can melt it causing a double whammy.
Fukuda said the latest ASO flight shows 600,000 a/f in the Kaweah watershed. There was some question of when the flight could take place due to the weather. Crenshaw said TID is running almost maximum channel capacity with the gates almost wide open.
Director Dave Martin asked about this condition. Fukuda said the problem is the flows coming into the district are uneven. Crenshaw and the staff are trying to keep things safe. He said in a couple of days this will get worked out. But completely filling the system before the coming storm could be a disaster. He also said many TID growers are stepping up and saying to heck with credit if we can get water, let’s flood irrigate. There is also the goal of trying to help the downstream folks like Lake Side Water District that is getting inundated.
Crenshaw said water is going cross country and facilities will be washed out. He said TID Superintendent Wayne Fox and crew did an amazing job on keeping things together. He said the threat of floods has to be the first condition to deal with.
Millerton Lake is having a very high inflow. More than 1 million a/f is expected to come off in May and another 1 million a/f in June from the San Joaquin River watershed. There isn’t the ability for the system to put all of this water to use. The fishy folk need to quit griping about diversions in the Delta, they’ve got plenty more coming. Fukuda said Crenshaw has been working 24/7 and is going above and beyond.
Shasta is not full and not receiving the major benefits of the storm systems. Fukuda said it should make the four million a/f mark and that allows the Friant Division of the federal Central Valley Project to get a 100 percent Class I allocation. He doesn’t expect TID to be able to use its Class II this year. There is 215 Water everywhere but no one is taking any.
Fukuda showed some photos where Tulare County cut a ditch to prevent flooding in Woodlake that flooded the Watchumna system and caused a chain reaction to other connected systems. Martin asked if the county bothered to inform anyone. Fukuda said there were so many emergencies popping up at once there was most likely a communication situation.
Fukuda showed photos of flooding on the Friant Kern Canal at the repairs at Deer Creek. The Friant Water Authority headquarters in Lindsay flooded. He noted the building was built on a raised foundation.
The Army Corps of Engineers is asking TID to take as much water as it can from the Kaweah Reservoir. Fukuda said getting groundwater credit could set up a two tiered scenario. The cost is $0 per a/f for none credited water groundwater recharge or $25 a/f for credited. But, he said this is going to be difficult to measure under the current conditions. He’s coordinating with the Mid Kaweah, Greater Kaweah and East Kaweah GSAs. So, the proposal is free water with credit and 75 percent going to grower and 25 percent to TID. Martin said it sounds like a great deal since nobody can work their fields anyway – free water. When the reservoirs are under control this will be reevaluated. The board agreed. Fukuda said growers are willing to participate and takes away some of the risk from SGMA.
Next Fox reported on some long, hard working days recently. His crew has been helping with flood emergencies and has even been able to get some routine maintenance completed. Not as much as scheduled but in my opinion getting anything routine done is a heavy lift. The cut in the ditch bank was at Antelope Creek. There are three new ditch tenders coming on and hope they’re rested up.
It sounded like Fox’s truck’s fuel pump failed in the middle of this. Fukuda said it has been difficult to get a truck. He said Chevy has a better inventory. He said if you want a Ford F-250 with all the bells and whistles you can get it but you can’t get a F-150 work truck now. Martin said the equipment committee said let Fox and Crenshaw get the trucks they want whether Chevy or Ford.
Fukuda said Fox’s crew got a head start on patching the Kaweah Siphon. He said they got in there and drained it, applied some epoxy type material on the pipe and sealed the pipe. They installed a snorkel to divert trapped air from the box culvert. Air would get trapped and the force of the water would compress it causing a tremendous amount of pressure stressing the pipes and the entire siphon structure. Pretty clever.
The lovely Kathi Artis, TID Controller reported all’s fine with the bookkeeping and the board agreed.
TID Engineer Jeremy Barroll will be moving to Colorado to attend a Masters Program. This is his last TID report. Good for him, but kind of sad too. He and I and some friends attended the Fresno Fair together, he’s a good guy. He reminds me a little of Fred Armisen from Saturday Nigh Live and Portlandia. Barroll has made a good fit at TID and the district is going to have to step it up to replace him.
As for the engineering report, each project is its own story. Much of the work has to do with urban incursions into TID turf and or infrastructure. There are housing developments and industrial developments. One was expanding a gas station complex at Paige and I Street, an industrial area off of Highway 99 that is already a traffic nightmare.
Fukuda said DWR gave the Mid Kaweah GSA notice its GSP was deemed inadequate at 10:00am and held a press conference by noon the same day. He said much of the press drew false stories from DWR’s announcements, like Politico said something to effect that DWR determined the GSAs can’t manage groundwater.
DWR didn’t state who made the determination, the staff report didn’t identify if the staff had 25-years of experience or 25-hours. The entire subbasin was judged not on its implementation but solely on the way the document was worded. Subsidence is a very difficult criteria to judge. If I heard correctly the Paso Robles Subbasin just marked subsidence as a non-problem. They passed. Hmm?
Fukuda said either DWR didn’t understand or just didn’t like the GSP’s portion on chronic lowering of groundwater levels. One problem was the word draft was accidently left on one page of the GSP and instead of calling and asking if this was a typo it deemed it incomplete. Interconnected surface water was declared by DWR’s Paul Gosselin as beyond the ability to determine and don’t worry about that for now.
Fukuda said he expected anger from the GSA participants but the impact was disappointment. It kicked the air out of all the dedicated people who worked so hard.
Moving forward there will be meetings with the State Board Friday and Fukuda reminded everyone this is round one of a long process. He’s hearing the State Board does not want a subbasin to go into probation. It would open a hornet’s nest of major proportions. The implementation of the GSP wasn’t questioned so the GSA will continue working to bring the area into compliance.
Mid Kaweah GSA reported the ET system used for billing has been very successful. Out of hundreds of bills only five were questioned. Martin said not completely, he still owes $.40 and Fukuda said he’ll be sent to collections. Director Mike Thomas suggested Martin (who sits on the MKGSA board) take 40 pennies to the next meeting and just toss them on the floor one at a time.
Fukuda said the San Joaquin River has a million acre feet of yield this year and there just isn’t the storage to benefit from this. In response the FWA is looking to initiate a study by Stantec Engineering to figure out the cost to fix every problem along the Friant Kern Canal. There will be an annual FWA meeting next month and that will be a lot of fun.
Fukuda said funding for the McKay Point/Seaborne Reservoir is a compelling story. All the Senators and Congressmen in the area have been alerted they need a little less than $1 million for a feasibility study. He sure seemed optimistic and is hoping for a kickoff celebration at the Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner’s office on La Spina Boulevard across the street from the World Ag Expo’s International Ag Center.
Two bad pieces of legislation: AB 1563, AB 429 are very similar to bill AB 2201 defeated last year requiring draconian well permitting and author, Ventura Assemblyman Steve Bennett is once again displaying his lack of foresight regarding SGMA. The board heartily stated it will oppose these bills. AB 560, also by Bennett would require a court to submit judgments to the State Board to determine if the ruling would harm groundwater sustainability. Wow, that’s a bit arrogant.
Fukuda asked to move the May meeting to the 2nd to accommodate his schedule. He also attended the California Irrigation Institute conference and was on a panel with Gosselin and gave a presentation on MKGSA’s implementation plans. Then he found out on the way home about the GSPs. Also, two interns are lined up to work with TID this summer. Good for them.
Director Rick Borges reported John Kirkpatrick passed away. Mr. Kirkpatrick was very well respected. I’ve mentioned before you can find out about Kirkpatrick in Mark Arax’s book The Dreamt Land. The meeting then went into closed session for a few lawsuit items and some employee evaluations. That was that for TID at 11:28am. Go fight the good fight.
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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, Jeremy Barroll-Engineer, Kathi Artis–District Controller, Wayne Fox–Superintendent, Marco Crenshaw–District Watermaster & 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 DWR#-5-022.11