The Tulare Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. A little earlier in the month than usual due to the ACWA conference next week. The board met at TID headquarters and online with Zoom. As much as I prefer Zoom to all the other online meeting platforms I have to admit it took me a long time to join the meeting. The screen came up but that small blue circle kept spinning for minutes and I missed all the pre-meeting pageantry and small talk.
The meeting began at 8:00 am as the ACWA conference will also shift the calendar for the Mid Kaweah Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which pushed the TID meeting to earlier this morning. Usually Chairman David Bixler calls the meeting to order at 9:00am. There were no public comments and the minutes were approved.
Water Master Marco Crenshaw gave the water operations report saying he only had two pages because it’s been so wet he’s been busy. He said TID has been getting 837 cfs of Kaweah River. The amount of users backed off and now there is some spill. They got a 30cfs cut yesterday. He tried for a 60cfs cut to help absorb rainwater but no dice. He expects usage to go up again soon. The releases from Lake Kaweah are running at 4,000 cfs and there is 30,000 a/f out of a possible 195,000 a/f storage. Millerton Lake is 150,000 a/f storage out of 550,000 a/f storage available. Everyone’s preparing for the big runoff.
General Manager, not Lt. Gen. Manager, Aaron Fukuda said 215 Water from the Friant system used to be the cheap water but if the US Bureau of Reclamation has raised the price to that of Class II water. If you buy Class II then part of the payment goes to capital costs and if it’s the same price as 215 then that’s a clear choice. He said TID hasn’t received its 215 contract back from the Bureau yet. We’ll see.
Shasta is full, San Luis is full; Oroville and Folsom are almost full. Fukuda said not to place your faith in the amount in storage but rather in how these reservoirs are operated. There are some late storms and low temps hanging around. Fukuda said the NOAA predictions show a relatively safe melt, he said the Kern, Tule and Kaweah Rivers are not going to be sending much if any water to the Tulare Lake Bottom. The sleeping giant is the Kings River this year. Pine Flat Reservoir is managing for flood control and the Kings River flows are up. I drove over it on Highway 99 yesterday and it was at its banks.
Crenshaw said CVP supplies are projected to end in July and Kaweah River supplies will end in September, I think he said, they swapped Zoom screens before I could copy the info, but that’s close. The purpose of determining the run and amounts of water that can be delivered and sold, is to determine the district’s budget based on income projections. TID, like all water districts in California, is a government agency. There are rules imposed and the board can’t just say we need X amount of money so charge them growers. The district is expecting almost 300,000 a/f of surface supplies this year. How much does one charge per acre foot?
The directors are farmers who have to pay for water and their job is to represent the taxpayers and the ratepayers. Districts have two basic revenue sources, land based assessments and water sales. There are also grants and other types of income but the two biggest sources are assessments and sales. Today’s cost per acre foot to growers was set at $52 per a/f. I think the idea was to set the average and if the planets align later in the year that could be reduced. The $52 rate will kick in on May 15th.
The Spring 2023 report is ready. Fukuda said not much change from last year but for an increased cone of depression underneath the City of Tulare. There is also a low spot southwest of Tulare. He said so far this year there’s been 150,000 a/f of recharge in the first four months. He wants to conduct a mid-summer survey to see the impacts. One of the faults of the SGMA legislation was its authors’ assumption of available data concerning what’s happening underground. The truth is no one really knows all the variables and so to find more data is a good thing.
South of town there is a water mound from the city’s treated water that is growing. Fukuda suggested during irrigation season that mound can be pumped and the water moved to the second depression southeast of town. Director Dave Martin said go for it, he has been drinking well water his entire life and has yet to birth a blue baby. You go Dave.
Controller Kathi Artis gave a soft spoken report. Bless her, she’s a fellow allergy sufferer. This is the worst year I can recall. Don’t know if it’s a super bloom due to the rains or how much that recently planted olive orchard down the street is impacting things around my place, but it’s kicked my butt this year. While I wrote that gripe against pollen the board worked out a question on some property that will transfer title from private to the City of Tulare. That changes its assessment status since one government agency can’t tax another. School districts don’t pay property taxes for example.
Next one of the fun parts of any ID or WD meeting is the approval of payment of the bills. I really don’t recall ever attending a meeting where a board hurriedly approved the warrants. When this item is up there is usually a quiet time while farmers scan the list. This is followed by questions the staff will answer, which are often greeted with grunts. Eventually the motion is passed, as it was today.
Superintendent Wayne Fox gave his report saying due to retirement attrition the staff level is low by three workers. Yet they are working together and getting things done. The district has pumps and Rain for Rent has a program with the DWR to provide more pumps. The DWR pumps are more powerful. The pumping is strategically placed to maximize recharge into TID reservoirs. It costs about $16 per a/f. Fox has all the numbers.
Fox said he and Crenshaw are interviewing new workers. There are two temporary workers tending ditch and he said they’re doing a good job and will probably be hired full time. There are problems with the supply of pickups available. It appears the big three: Ford, Chevy and Dodge have cut back the production of the less expensive models in favor of the more equipped as they make a lot more money per sale. The board was able to get two Chevys and approved the purchase.
TID is hiring an inhouse engineer so in the meantime Fukuda, who is an engineer, is giving this report. He said there is some good news about funding for culvert running under a train track that needs updating. There is a big development at Paige and “I” Streets that will require four crossings and the district will be having a project inspection. He said the developer has been helpful and cooperative.
DWR has a flood reduction program meant to reduce the pressure on the Tulare Lake Bottom. This program will pay for everything; pumps, fuel, etc. There are four recharge opportunities identified. One of them is some idle farmland and there will be a month to month lease. Rain for Rent is working with DWR on this program and so far things have been running very smoothly. Fukuda said he’s working to get the paperwork setup as soon as possible. There will be a resolution to approve participation later in the meeting. The City of Tulare is ready to take as much water from TID for recharge as it can get through existing connections.
Fukuda said the Mid Kaweah GSA is working hard to get the GSP rewritten to the State Board’s satisfaction. There are now three teams working on this and there is a meeting today with the State Board. Revised invoices have been sent out. There is some new password verification and I didn’t understand it any better than one of the directors but it’ll work out.
Fukuda said the Mid Kaweah committee and board positions are starting to fill and he thanked staff or their work to help bring that about. Staff is working on updating the rules and regulations in conjunction with growers who have been attending the Coffee Shop Committee, leading growers in the district.
As of April 27th Delano Earlimart and Shafter Wasco IDs have rejoined the Friant Water Authority. Friant is working with the USBR and others to increase the ASO flights. There was a UFO spotted in the Tulare area and it turns out to be a geomagnetic survey being paid for by DWR. Fukuda said he called the Hanford airport and asked what was going on. He was told if he finds out what’s going on to call back. It was a twin engine that flew so low it was under the radar.
Friant will receive a $1.3 million refund from the audit process and TID will get a nice $100,000 of that. The Friant Kern Canal repairs are recovering from the flooding at Deer Creek.
Fukuda said the draft reclamation plan is being finalized for the McKay Point Reservoir. So is the Environmental Impact Report and he expects it to be up for public comment in July. That will last for 45-60 days.
Under legislation Fukuda said the anti-pre 1914water rights bills are picking up steam. ACWA and many other groups are opposed to these lefty smelling bills. TID has pre-1914 rights and these bills would place them under the State Board.
Fukuda testified at the Congressional Natural Resources Committee. He said he worked with Congressman Doug LaMalfa on the High Speed Rail fight and LaMalfa remembered him.
He also spoke before the California Water Commission on recharge benefits that came from the emergency order. And this guy, he’s involved in the Collaborative Action Plan and giving presentations on allocations and groundwater pumping cutbacks. Fukuda has also been involved in changing the way Cal Poly SLO conducts courses on the semester system. He said Cal Poly’s enrollment is staying high but in general the California State University system applications are lower than usual. He’s also been invited to speak at Stanford University on ag technology and the League of Women Voters on a water panel moderated by the Maddy Institute. I don’t know when or where that will take place but I’d like to see it.
Matt Klinchuch of Provost & Pritchard Engineers was brought on to talk about the canal siphon designs for the district’s Main Intake Canal. There needs to be a good deal of work on the preliminary investigation so they know elevations and property lines and such. Klinchuch has been to the site and is working to get everything ready to pull the trigger when funding comes available.
Fukuda said there will be funds available from the USBR. There are a lot of oak trees in the area and they will require a separate environmental review of some type. He said consultant Austin Ewell has been working on the Seaborne Project and has high hope for funding of both projects. Fukuda said this year’s high flows illustrate the need for these projects. They are located near each other and could work in tandem or separately. P&P is asking for $280,000 to complete this and the board approved.
Next the resolution to engage DWR and Rain for Rent for pumps was presented with all the legal language needed. It was passed no problem.
The last action item was about hiring a search firm for TID’s new engineer. The past efforts were not achieved by the current headhunters. They kept sending applicants that wanted to work from home. The Shepherd Firm out of Florida specializes in recruiting in-house engineering professionals. Fukuda said the former firm isn’t charging the district and has been gracious. Shepherd will charge the district 30 percent of the first year salary. The board agreed.
Board Member Reports
Each of the directors also serve on other boards representing TID. This is where things often fall apart for me. They report on what happened but I can’t always tell which entity they are reporting on. But here goes.
Director Rick Borges said the Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association met and there are now 20-paying members. All the surface water monitoring for the past two months have been completed and the program was finally approved by the state. The Kaweah Water Foundation met and discussed upcoming events to bring awareness of nitrates in groundwater. He reported on closed session matters but he mumbled on purpose so I couldn’t understand him.
Martin reported on the April MKGSA saying staff did a fantastic job or running the show and the meeting was shorter than when Fukuda runs it. There was good reporting on grants and legislation.
Bixler reported on something but it must have been all closed session because all I heard him say was, “. . . it expired two years ago and it was coming in from the other side.” I believe he was talking about the Watchumna Water Company. I heard Fukuda say the Antelope Creek got cut and that released 500 or more cfs into all kinds of places. It was meant to protect the town of Woodlake I think but it flooded some homes instead. They don’t know who cut the ditch but it overwhelmed the WWC system. Unfortunately the cut was just downstream of the measuring stations so it didn’t show up right away. Tulare County took responsibility and hopefully someone will call TID and let them know in the future.
The meeting went into closed session for a brief time to look at lawsuits, labor and real estate issues, as it can do under the Brown Act. That was that.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide 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 Waterwrights 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 2023 by WaterWrights.net/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 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