The Tulare Irrigation District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, November 8, 2022 at its Tulare County headquarters and on Zoom. They muted their microphones before the meeting began and you could see them wandering around the room getting snacks and such. But you couldn’t hear the off the cuff banter which is actually the best part of the meeting. And it’s been raining. I’ve said this many time but farmers are like ducks, they love the rain provided it doesn’t occur during harvest.
Chairman David Bixler called the meeting at 9:03am. The only other member of the public besides me was Johnny Gailey of Delta View Water Association. There was no public comment beyond my rambling thank you for providing some information. The minutes were approved.
Water Master Marco Crenshaw reported storage at Lake Kaweah at 318,000 a/f. General Manager Aaron Fukuda reported TID was able to move about 200 a/f to growers in the Ivanhoe ID who had well failures. Under a normal year TID and IID have an agreement but this was an extraordinary situation. There wasn’t much for Crenshaw to report on at this point of the year.
Fukuda showed a chart of reservoir levels throughout the state. There is hope for a year without a call on Friant supplies, but we’ll see. Director Dave Martin was in a good mood – I told you farmers love the rain. He observed the “Blob” in the middle of the Pacific appears to have cooled and opined whether they use a rectal thermometer or not to measure the temp something changed. He asked Crenshaw if that is water temperature or atmospheric temperature and Crenshaw said, “Yes,” like a true weather prophet.
Last year we had an early storm system and then the rain stopped at the first of the new year. But it was atmospheric rivers and this storm is coming down from the north and there appears to be two more following. This second pattern has led to many solid wet years. Sometimes if it rains a lot before the new year, like last year it’s bad. Sometimes it’s good. You just don’t know until May ultimately what kind of water year we’re going to have.
Superintendent Wayne Fox said crews have been able to disc the cells in the recharge basins so fine silts were broken up and percolation should be ready to go. So sad to hear but there was criminal activity with bad guys stealing a catalytic converter and breaking into two pickups at the TID yard. ACWA JPIA is the insurance agency for water related districts. A good dog would go a long ways to help. I think the best home security system is a dog and a shotgun – I think they have something like that at the Whitehouse and by gosh if it’s good enough for the President it’s good enough for us. I remember an ad for dog training that showed a couple and their children walking down the road with their shepherd. The caption was, “Can your home security system tell the good guys from the bad guys even in the dark?” The reality is when you’re in a rural area help isn’t always down the block but the ACWA folks don’t want dogs. I believe they will not insure loss in that case. Fukuda said they’re looking at a claxon to alert the world if someone breaks in and triggers the alarm.
Bless Kathi Artis, TID Controller. She wasn’t feeling well enough to come into the office but well enough to give her report online. You could hear it in her voice a little but she did a fine job. The board approved paying the bills and the financial statements. The next topic was how to best invest reserve funds. There is a man many of the Friant contractors have used and TID wants to have a talk about safety, liquidity and return. I didn’t catch his name. Many districts use LAIF, the Local Agency Investment Fund controlled by the state. It is known to pay lower, usually much lower than private investments and always there are concerns the legislature will raid it. There are restrictions on public agencies and rightfully so. You don’t want the volunteer fire department getting caught in some kind of Amway pyramid scheme. But at the same time the public agency has a fiduciary duty to not stuff the cash in a mattress and there may be options with a better yield than LAIF.
Somehow or other the cost of mosquito abatement came up and was intertwined with talk about flu shots. I don’t know about the flu but Fukuda reported the mosquito abatement district said it’s cold enough to kill off all the larvae so it won’t have to spray again until next year saving TID tens of dollars.
Fukuda spoke some more about investments. He said he and Artis have been reviewing the district investment policy. He said the Prop 218 election passed allowing some better budget forecasts and he contacted Mark Edleman, financial councilor to the stars – or at least to the water districts. Earlier in the year the economy and inflation and all the other blunders coming out of Washington DC and Sacramento have driven down returns. It looks like after the votes are counted there may be hope.
Fukuda said the review showed TID’s investment policy is more restrictive than state law allows. TID has a maximum one year return. The district can’t put funds in investments that mature after one year. The longer the term usually, the higher the yield. Fukuda said Edleman recommended aligning policy with state law and putting some money in longer term, higher paying yields. See how it works and know you can pull the principal out if needed.
Fukuda said he and Artis searched futilely to find a reason why TID’s investment policy limited terms to one year. No one on the board could remember why. They all agreed while the higher return still didn’t match inflation it came much closer. The board directed Fukuda to come back next month with a policy change recommendation and new investment strategy.
Jeremy Barroll, TID Engineer reported a housing development by Self Help Enterprises worked out well. Self Help agreed to build a bridge over existing pipelines. TID had purchased some 48” pipe but the bridge will preclude the need to use it. Fukuda said this worked out to the district’s advantage as they bought the pipe before the price and availability got out of hand and now have a bit of a backup supply. Of all the NGOs Self Help has the best reputation of working collaboratively. It’s a different corporate culture there; more focused on mission and more willingness to work cooperatively for a win/win.
Barroll showed the board photos from another housing project on the edge of town that also requires piping, but it was 32” so the extra couldn’t be used from the Self Help project. There was yet another urban development project involving homes, apartments and some commercial space.
Derrel’s Mini Storage is a well known name in the Central San Joaquin Valley. They go find developable property and build relatively inexpensive structures so you can put your overflow of crap out of the rain. There’s a new one going in and it’s brushing up against TID right of way.
Fukuda said the Kaweah Subbasin players met and had a chance to compare notes and kick ideas around. Here’s a surprise, neither Greater Kaweah or East Kaweah GSAs want to apply for the SGMA Implementation Round Two Grants. TID is in the Mid Kaweah GSA and would have to apply alone. It would cost $30,000 to apply but the deadline is very close. Gailey asked since this is a grant designed for disadvantaged communities how about buying a drill rig to help their wells? This is a competitive grant and the planets are not aligning.
The Kaweah Subbasin has been using Land IQ’s satellite technology to determine evapotranspiration (ET) rates to determine pumping amounts. There is a dashboard for users to refer to. Invoicing will be based on this data and there have been good discussions with growers and landowners. Fukuda said growers have been able to save 20,000 a/f in ET alone. There has also been savings of water and money as growers use the data to make better informed decisions. The heat came later this year. If you live in the Valley you’ll remember it stayed August hot through the first of October. As Martin pointed out under those conditions the plants are using water to stay alive instead of setting fruit. So while water use was down, crop yield was also down.
TID is part of the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project and Fukuda said the Friant Water Authority will enter into a new contract for SCADA. I wasn’t able to attend Friant last month so I didn’t hear about the $160,000 annual cost of this new contract that will be partially funded by savings of staff time.
Six of the seven South Valley Water Association member districts have signed up for trial membership with FWA. That’s quite an accomplishment. Friant was first formed as the Friant Water Users Authority. It’s a raucous crowd and bifurcated into the FWUA and the FWA. Eventually the FWUA dissolved leaving the today’s FWA. But as I said it’s a raucous crowd and the splintered again forming the Northern Friant Alliance and the South Valley Water Association. There were the usual vows to never again sit at the hearth of the mother organization but after a while the Northern Alliance disbanded and returned to the fold. The South Valley has been more steadfast and may retain its status as a separate organization but its members are reestablishing ties.
The US Bureau of Reclamation has asked Friant districts to supply letters of support for the Bureau to receive funding from the Aging Infrastructure Act for Reserve Works. TID’s representative to FWA Director Rick Borges said it seems strange a government agency such as the Bureau needs letters of support to receive money from the government. Nonetheless TID will send a letter.
Friant’s immediate concern has been correcting Friant Kern Canal subsidence but it has other needs. A systemwide capacity study has been started and it shows another cost of $860 million to fix everything. Reconnaissance, appraisal, feasibility and design is the order of steps needed before any actual shovel work can be done. There’s a great deal of red tape to be hacked through.
The current work on the FKC is amazing. The pace of construction is fast and Fukuda said if the Bureau, the state and the feds want it done it gets done. Also, the need to prepare for flood flows down Deer Creek is a motivator.
Fukuda said he gave Congressman David Valadao’s staff a tour of McKay Point and the Seaborne Reservoir. The staff was interested and asked a lot of good questions. Santa Fe Aggregates is interested in 40 acres on the northeast corner and that’s in discussion.
Fukuda said there is a Building Resilience In Communities grant that takes three to four years to get funding. Sounds like a good name, BRIC. It may not be worth the effort. He said he’s working with Austin Ewell on developing some promotional materials for the McKay Point project.
Legislation & GM Report
Fukuda said the obvious came true. The state way overestimated revenue and it looks like a deficit is now the word. Amazing how that followed the election cycle. For $500 MKGSA can join the California Groundwater Coalition which lobbies against the dangers of poorly written legislation like AB 2201. The CGC is mainly adjudicated basins in Southern California. Sounds like a good deal.
Directors Mike Thomas and Martin along with Fukuda met with representatives of the City of Tulare. They talked about the history between the two entities, developing future projects and how to handle assessments. The city wants to revise the agreements since there is some good synergy flowing. Fukuda said it makes him both hopeful and a bit queasy. But it sounded like he’s mostly hopeful. That’s nice, municipalities and ag water districts don’t always mix well.
Next a gentleman named Jerry Avalos from Vanir Construction Management was online. Fukuda said he would like Vanir to monitor a proposed pipeline that will run underneath a commercial parking lot. He said he’d much prefer some specialized help in ensuring the construction goes well.
Avalos gave a brief and impressive bio of himself and his company. This is a nationwide firm specializing in construction management. He said Vanir is not a construction company but a partner in management. It can be the eyes and ears for the district.
There is a development being built by BJ Perch Construction and subcontractor American Pipeline, that will build a TID pipeline and have submitted plans not in accordance with actual construction standards. Fukuda said even with Barroll, Crenshaw and Fox checking on construction projects around the district TID doesn’t have resources to protect the district’s interests. Attorney Alex Peltzer advised putting a cost recovery clause in all future projects and if I understood recommended the district develop a relationship with some construction management and inspection firm.
Avalos said after a review of the approved plans and what actually took place in the construction of an engineered trench do not appear to jive. He said the contractor needs to provide reasonable proof. If the contractor can’t provide enough assurance then TID may want to require the developer get their own engineer to stamp the project and guarantee it for 20-years. Fukuda said there has been some friction from the builder pushing him to accept the plans as is and he’s very uncomfortable with this project. Fukuda likes Vanir and Avalos. That means a lot.
When Fukuda first came to work for TID under then GM Paul Hendrix his job was to oversee construction. He said checking plans was taking so much time they had to impose a review fee. It was revealed the pipeline contractor’s crew wasn’t even aware there was a trench detail on the plans. What kind of builder doesn’t understand one of the basics of blueprints? This project is called the Sequoia Gateway. It was interesting that Fukuda said TID can’t tell the contractors what to do or it would be assuming liability. It can only not accept the work and not sign off.
Provost & Pritchard’s Engineer Matt Klinchuch said there is a noon deadline for a public notice on an Okieville Basin project. That spurred the board to approved entering into a contract with Vanir.
Shifting gears at 11:45am the board heard about the Okieville Basin project. There are grant applications and I don’t know who was giving the report but I didn’t understand what was being said. Fukuda said the dirt moved will go to a new overpass by the World Ag Expo. That sounds good because traffic there during the expo is always a mess. Anyway the public notice requesting bids needed to be published today and that deadline was noon. So at 11:49am the board approved.
The next item dealt with Stantec Engineering’s professional services agreement to develop a water marketing strategy. That was supposed to have been completed in October but the virus (that originated in a country on the other side of the ocean whose name can’t be mentioned* least you have to put up with folks who used to condemn labeling others label you) slowed things down. The board agreed to extending the timeline.
The board then went back to the Vanir contract approval leading to the first task order. Which is the Sequoia Gateway pipeline problem. This development started as a children’s hospital but has morphed into offices and there is a Dutch Brothers Coffee or action drink or whatever they are (don’t you wish you owned a DB kiosk?) and the board approved the first task order.
Borges reported on the Kaweah Water Quality Association saying the application for the grant plan is so inappropriate to the organization’s purpose as to require an attorney to help complete it. There were more than 70 growers who received notice that they had failed their nitrate plans. He also said there was a problem with Farmersville’s meter that showed the lowest water usage in years and a leak at Okieville that showed the highest volume ever to run through that system. I believe Okieville gets recharge credits for that.
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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