The Westlands Water District held its Tuesday, July 17, 2018 board of directors meeting at its Fresno headquarters. Chairman Don Peracchi called the meeting to order at the civilized time of 1:00 pm, as opposed to the uncivilized times of before 9:00 am in the morning. All nine of the directors were present and the minutes were first; they were passed without comment. Tom Birmingham, General manager introduced a new lady working at WWD whose name I didn’t catch. She used to work at Consolidated Irrigation District and most recently Madera ID before coming to Westlands. Good for her whoever she is.
It was time for Birmingham’s GM report and he had Russ Freeman give the water report. Freeman said water from Yuba County looks good for the month of August. Next Shelly Ostrowski spoke to the board via television from Sacramento. She updated the board on the Cooperative Operational Agreement. There is a meeting this Friday where data will be exchanged for review. Recall COA is the battle between the state and the fed over who gets to pump how much from the Delta. Depending on whether or not one is a State Water Project or a Central Valley Project contractor someone is getting more than their share. Birmingham said the US Bureau of Reclamation and DWR will hold a week long meeting in August, maybe at Lake Tahoe, location to be determined. This is an opportunity to dig in and make some headway on the COA and the biological opinion reconsultation. This is going to be at the same time as the WWD board meeting so that was changed.
Gail Holman sat in for Johnny Amaral who couldn’t be here. She reported on public outreach matters. Staff has been busy at WWD. Op Eds, newsletters, and a film crew to cover the farming activities of Westlands will be here soon documenting the importance of food; I know – but some people just don’t get it. They don’t understand how much water is required to farm. Birmingham said he and attorney Jon Rubin went to Washington DC for 30-meetings over three days to discuss the needs of fish. Amaral was also in DC to talk water supply. Senator John Barraso is introducing a bill to provide a much overdue update on the Endangered Species Act.
Freeman said the San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority has put up $100,000 for studies and WWD will be reimbursed for its share. SLDM has joined the new Temperance Flat JPA’s MOA. It is looking for a new executive officer since they can’t afford Frances Mizuno if they paid her what she’s worth. WWD is considering entering the MOA on its own which will allow it a measure of independence as opposed to entering into a special activities agreement as a member of SLDM.
Jose Gutierrez reported the State Federal Contractors Water Authority will hire a $85,000 consultant for a year and a half to help close this out. There were no reports or updates from the legal affairs or O&M committees.
Things happen fast. Under the Water Policy Committee portion the board considered joining the Temp Flat MOA. Well, Birmingham did tell me they were going to consider it paragraph before last. Perhaps I should get in the habit of reading the agenda all the way through. Freeman said this is a one year agreement and at this point there isn’t much in the way of expenses. All this does is include WWD in the effort to form a new JPA for furthering Temperance Flat. Rubin said this MOA is a bridging entity. Director William Bourdeau asked if a MOA is stronger than a MOU. Rubin said generally a MOA is considered the stronger act. The committee recommended entering the MOA. Birmingham thanked Rubin for his excellent work to get the MOA in shape. The board agreed.
Avengrid Renewables has proposed a solar development located in the north part of the district. It looks like about three sections from the map provided. A couple of neighbors commented with concerns about the unsightliness and concerns about cellphone reception.
Kiti Campbell reported on SGMA. She said there was a GSA workshop yesterday at Harris Ranch, but you knew that already if you read these reports. Director Frank Coelho Jr. said after yesterday’s meeting it wasn’t clear what length of time the rolling average should be. Peracchi said there is a danger of someone getting too far in the hole if there isn’t a cap. Director Larry Enos said should someone use up their five years in one year and then sells out there has to be a liability that goes with the land. Director Jim Anderson said there should be a emphasis on the most subsidence prone areas in the district. Gutierrez said as that data is developed there will be more information to made that determination. Birmingham reminded the board that ultimately the final decision on these matters is up to the WWD board as it sits as the GSA board as well. There was a good deal of concern about neighboring sub basins, specifically the Kings River Sub Basin over pumping and draining Westlands groundwater resources. I believe that will be worked out before 2020; it may not be pretty but inter sub basin disputes will have to be fixed before going forward. Director Ryan Ferguson asked about a SGMA pool to draw from and that’s a good idea. Bourdeau asked about different types so subsidence and Gutierrez said there is some areas of elasticity and inelasticity in the clay layers. It was asked how long until all the wells in the district and the answer was 2024 won’t be soon enough to get that done. Accurate estimates can be determined by power bills; just look at the ads appearing in this report. Enos reiterated a question raised yesterday and that is getting a list of approved metering options out to well owners so they have time to finance this. Director Sarah Woolf spoke for everyone when she suggested keeping this on the agenda so there can public discussion.
The board next considered revising the salary schedules and the board approved this. It also paid the bills and approved the financial reports.
The meeting then went into closed session for what I counted as 30 items.
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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, Ryan Ferguson, Todd Neves & Sarah Woolf with two o’s.
Staff: Tom Birmingham-General Manager, Jon Rubin-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