The Westlands Water District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at its Fresno headquarters. There are two issues I’m interested to hear about today; the Shasta Dam raising and the allocations from the US Bureau of Reclamation. Or not. Depends on what is being said. Chairman Don Peracchi called the meeting to order at 1pm. There were no additions or corrections to the agenda and the minutes were approved.
Russ Fineman and Tom Boardman gave the water report. Boardman said Shasta and Folsom are both very full and doing well for fall operations. The X2 line under the current biop is at 1,200 kilometers and takes a good slug of water – more than 900 cfs to keep the salt from coming upstream. The Bureau isn’t of the opinion it needs to be that stringent if I understood correctly. San Luis Reservoir operations tracked against earlier projects show 400,000 a/f more storage than the Bureau came up with in April. Boardman believes this is due to overestimating demands and can prove to be a tool in next year’s allocations.
WWD attorney Jon Rubin spoke about situations involving the voluntary agreements. WWD GM Tom Birmingham said he expects to see the biological opinions should be out by October and be a good aid to the VAs. Birmingham then introduced USBR area chief Michael Jackson who has been working with CVP contract negotiations. He said he believes by tomorrow afternoon there will be a new contract that will provide WWD with a permanent water supply pending a 60-day review and comment period. It will then be brought back to the board for ratification. This will require a good sized upfront payment on WWD’s part but it looks like they saved enough to make it happen.
The ROC on LTD, the biological opinions, was reported with facetime by Shelly Ostrowski from Sacramento. She said this should be wrapped up by the end of the year.
Next Birmingham spoke about SB 1 and the damage it could do if passed as written. He said Governor Gavin Newsom is very aware of the problem. A very broad coalition of organizations have banded together to oppose the bill as written. It is widely considered a toxic mix of political theater and greedy, corporate environmentalism. Diana Giraldo, WWD Public Affairs Rep spoke about outreach to westside children programs. There was no report from legal affairs.
Director Dan Errotabere presented the board with more information about the Valley Blueprint. The VBp is a regional effort to bring together organizations from every region of the San Joaquin Valley to speak in a unified voice about the water situation. There are a variety of studies taking place and WWD was asked to kick in $15,000. The board agreed this is a worthwhile effort and will pony up.
Errotabere reported the Water Policy Committee recommends the board adopt a draft policy about transferring water out of the district for groundwater banking and water exchanges. The policy won’t allow the water to be used for irrigation and will in fact set a very narrow framework for the water to be used. One point is whoever takes the water has to return it within 10-years. Birmingham said it will be up to the water users to prove to the district’s satisfaction the water is being used in accordance with the parameters. Staff will be given limited authority to rule on this matter. Staff will report this to the board monthly. Grower Jon Reiter pointed out paying for banking in advance may be problematic because many of the banks don’t charge upfront preferring to conduct the accounting after deliveries. He also asked if there is an early low allocation and a grower pumps but a higher allocation later makes surface water available would that grower be eligible for banking water and under the proposed policy that grower would be eligible. However, should a grower continue pumping when there is groundwater available they got some ‘splaning to do. Another grower wanted to know if these matters will be private and Birmingham said the state constitution provides for privacy in this case and it will be WWD’s objective to retain that privacy unless other circumstances required disclosure. The policy was approved and adopted.
The next item dealt with the board directing staff to continue with the capital improvement program prioritized projects. WWD COO Jose Gutierrez reported district land sales will finance these projects. The projects were infrastructure additions and improvements that will increase water supplies and flexibility. Director William Bourdeau asked if the estimated costs include the voluntary agreement results should complications ensue. If I understood correctly the answer is yes. A have dozen or so projects were discussed.
Kitty Campbell reported on SGMA saying the Westside Basin GSP is expected to be released next month. WWD has budgeted more than $2 million towards SGMA since 2016. The GSP expense is estimated at $579,000 annually. The board looked favorably but would like a little more info.
Bobbie Ormonde gave the finance and administration report. Some salary schedules were adjusted. The budget transfers were approved as was the accounts payable report. The other financial reports were also approved and WWD’s August 2019 finance reports were put to bed.
Public comment and adjournment to closed session were next. There was no public comment.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2019 by Don A. Wright
Westlands Water District
Board: Don Peracchi-President, Dan Errotabere – Vice President, Jim Anderson, William Bourdeau, Frank Coelho Jr., Larry Enos, Ryan Ferguson, Stan Nunn & Todd Neves.
Staff: Tom Birmingham-General Manager, Jon Rubin-Attorney, Jose Gutierrez-COO, Russ Freeman-Deputy GM Resources, Diana Giraldo-Public Affairs Representative, Shelly Ostrowski-Associate GM Water Policy, Kitty Campbell-Supervisor of Resources, Bobbie Ormonde-VP of Finance & Administrative Affairs
About: Without irrigation, farming in the Westlands area of California would be limited and ineffectual. The history of Westlands is one of continual adaptation, careful water stewardship and advanced technology. By maintaining a fierce commitment to sustainability, the Westlands’ comprehensive water supply system continues to adapt, educate, and surpass conservation goals. Throughout its history, Westlands Water District has demonstrated a lasting dedication to water conservation and recognized that the long-term survival of its farms depends on the effective management of California’s precious water resources. From www.wwd.ca.gov