The Westlands Water District held its board meeting at its Fresno headquarters on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. Chairman Don Peracchi called the meeting to order at 1:00 pm. This was the first meeting for the new Director Ryan Ferguson from the Lemoore and Huron area. General Manager Tom Birmingham welcomed him. The first item was approval of the minutes. Russ Freeman gave a water operations report reported pumping from the Delta has been good so far this month. San Luis Reservoir storage has increased but not as fast as expected due to higher demands. The demands could be due to the US Bureau of Reclamation’s proposed storage cap. Districts don’t want to lose their carryover water. Rain in the north part of the state is lower than average. The same holds true for most of the state. He expects 45 percent allocation. Director William Bourdeau asked if there is a way to track improvements due to the WINN Act and the answer is not yet. Birmingham explained it takes a storm to allow the increased pumping authorized under the WINN Act and other hydrologic conditions have yet occur to kick in other portions of the WINN Act. He said last year allowed some comparison. There was an extra 160,000 a/f pumped due to WINN Act. Consultant Eric Johnson said he’d listened to the Cal Fed Ops where he heard any inflow to Shasta during November has to be spilled in December. He heard him say this is due to the biop reading this as a wet year. Birmingham said Westlands will be able to reschedule 100,000 a/f for use between March and sustained drawdown of Lake Shasta. If I heard correctly. There are many variables in Shasta operations such as biops and precipitation with flood releases and such.
Staffers reported there will be a technical COA meeting and a further meeting in January. Asst GM Johnny Ameral reported there was a successful launch of the Westlands Charitable Fund. He said on social media and advertising there were a huge amount of internet traffic for Westlands. The recent ACWA conference was also successful outreach. There is a Washington DC trip in February for WWD and its neighbors to talk about among other things drainage. Peracchi, Birmingham and Amaral did visit DC and found out Sen. Diane Feinstein isn’t supporting the current drainage legislation. Sen. Kamala Harris was more open to a fix. Her water staffer is Kevin Chang and he wants to wrap it up by the deadline. Birmingham said Feinstein has heartburn that there has been no hearings in the senate. Her earlier legislative efforts included oversight by the Regional Board and other agencies. But she was amenable to further changes. Mendota farmer Will Coit said Feinstein’s probably upset her husband can’t make money on this.
Director Dan Errotabere said the Bureau’s Mid Pacific Conference will be in Reno. Director Larry Enos reported on the personnel committee saying WWD salary and benefit categories for executive, senior and management groups were approved as recommended. There is a CalPERS audit that spurred this forward. The board approved the committee recommendation by resolution. Other salary schedules were likewise approved by the board as was the district’s health reimbursement agreement plan. Birmingham said CalPERs requires the tables the figures were based on be acknowledged by the board. This caused some reshuffling of the job titles and minimum salaries. There was a good deal of discussion on the value of the caretaker position at Bollibokka, some land the district owns on the McCloud River that flows into Lake Shasta. Birmingham said he’ll see staff will review this and bring things back to the board.
Freeman told the board about a solar project known as Aquamarine Solar that will help WWD meet its renewable energy portfolio standards under PURPA. Freeman went into much detail about the PURPA requirements and the costs. This is in reference to the Westlands Solar Park – to be very sure – WWD doesn’t own Westlands Solar Park. This is a private operation but since it takes place within WWD, WWD has to deal with it. And it helps the district’s energy needs. PURPA is negotiating with the developers.
The next item was a SGMA update. Jose Gutierrez gave the board an update saying if the district could receive 75 percent of its allocation consistently there will be enough recharge to meet the district’s needs. Birmingham explained the people of California own the water, surface or groundwater. It can claim an overlying right or an appropriate right. If the appropriate right were to be perfected WWD could sell that water within the limits allowed by a public agency. Ferguson asked about the differences between shallow and below Corcoran clay. They are individually measured if I understood correctly. Director Todd Neves asked about lawsuits relating to SGMA and attorney Phil Williams said – I paraphrase based on my experience as a barnyard litigator – the fireworks won’t start until someone is told they can’t pump. Then the lawsuits will begin.
Dan Pope reported WWD elections have had a low turnout in recent history. Special districts can hold elections on odd numbered years. The board moved to hold the elections on even years to coincide with state and national elections. This will not only save the district money but will give certain directors an extra year in their term. Grower Jon Rieter expressed an opinion that the voters were electing directors for a set term and if anything the terms should be shortened. Williams said his recommendation to staff was to lengthen the terms because that is was recent State Supreme Court ruled as lawful and most of the special districts impact have chosen this method.* Financial staff Bobbi Ormande presented the board with a resolution authorizing the use of special funds. This included funds for the Bollibokka dining hall. This is a fishing club. The board approved as it did the accounts payable and investment reports.
Under public comment Rieter said he’d like to see more of the available supplies banked to protect the district against the Bureau’s cap on carryover. Coit urged the board to find more ways to save water and gather solar for the benefit of farming.
The meeting then went into closed session for 17 items. That’s getting into Kern County Water Agency territory.
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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2017 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. *As always I invite folks to point out my errors; errors more common when trying to keep track of legal, fudiciary and engineering matters.
Westlands Water District
3130 N. Fresno Street, Fresno CA 93703 Phone:559/224-1523
Board: Don Peracchi-President, Dan Errotabere – Vice President, Jim Anderson, William Bourdeau, Frank Coelho Jr., Larry Enos, Gary Esajian, Todd Neves & Sarah Woolf with two o’s.
Staff: Tom Birmingham-General Manager, Phil Williams-Attorney, Dan Pope-COO
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