The Westlands Water District held its Tuesday, March 20, 2018 meeting at its Five Point offices. At 9:30 am Water Policy Committee Chairman Dan Errotabere called order and the minutes were approved. The first item was for the committee to consider submitting requests to convert Water Service Contracts, pursuant to section 4011 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. I’m not up to speed on the WIIN Act but this is a multi-million dollar deal. WWD has seven such contracts. I believe these are 9D contracts. General Manager Tom Birmingham said he’d like to see a financial expert to look this over. Westlands would most likely convert the contracts by paying them off with borrowed money. There is a deadline for any district to make this change. Whether the source of those funds are bonds or assessments I don’t know, but it didn’t sound to me like the district was going to cut a check from mega-petty cash. The committee recommended sending this to the board. OK, got off to a good start.
Pumping Plant 7-1 needs some low flow improvements that required some environmental review to adopt a negative declaration. This was an informational item. Mark Rhodes gave the water supply and use wrap up. He said Shasta and Folsom are both above normal. San Luis Reservoir has started filling again. Come April the Exchange Contractors will begin drawing the reservoir down and he doesn’t see it filling again this year. He expects the final allocations to not be greater than 35 percent. This storm hitting the state today doesn’t quite make it a miracle March but it has improved things a good deal. Birmingham said he’d like the US Bureau of Reclamation to implement section 4003 of the WIIN Act to allow more pumping. But the barrier has been the State’s Fish & Wildlife – if it is happening under the Trump Administration it is automatically bad no matter the facts. If the state doesn’t concur the Bureau can go forward. Rhodes said rain totals have come up to at least half of the average in the region. The 14-day outlook is below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation.
Later today engineer Bill Swanson and Friant Water Authority’s Jeff Payne will speak about the Temperance Flat MOU. There were no public comments and the committee went to closed session.
The Westlands Water District board of directors met at its Five Points offices for their meeting directly after the water policy committee. Chairman Don Peracchi called the meeting at 10:30 am. The first item was approving the minutes and they were approved. The agenda then went out of order to allow the Friant bunch to give their presentation. Jeff Payne, of Friant Water Authority introduced himself. Payne said he brought along engineer Bill Swanson of Stantec and Aaron Fukuda, GM of Tulare ID and Chair of the MOU steering committee.
The MOU now has 12 members and is looking for more from the west side of the Valley. Swanson has been working on Temperance Flat for more than a decade. He said the new dam would create a reservoir that can hold 1.25 million a/f. The site has been heavily studied and the figures obtained are presented with a high degree of confidence. Temp Flat raises the question of how to operate the new dam. For accounting purposes the MOU wants to see it operated based on what would be happening at Friant Dam which holds 500,000 a/f or so. Any extra water will be counted as a spill and stored at Temp Flat. The space of the two reservoirs would first hold Friant Division obligations and the remainder of the space can be reserved by storage accounts. Payne said yield estimates from the feds didn’t include this. Director William Bourdeau asked if this methodology is in use anywhere else. Payne said Pine Flat is similar. But if I understand correctly the goal would be to avoid some of the head aches encountered there. Director Jim Anderson asked about the restoration flows. He wondered if the extra yield would be sacrificed to restoration. There is a limit to how much water comes from the river to protect the contractors. The California Water Commission is administering the payout of the $2.7 billion Prop One grant awards. The CWC wants climate change figured in. Payne said this is a matter of storage more than yield. It allows for moving ag water from a time it isn’t need it to a time it is needed.he Westlands Water District board of directors met at its Five Points offices for their meeting directly after the water policy committee. Chairman Don Peracchi called the meeting at 10:30 am. The first item was approving the minutes and they were approved. The agenda then went out of order to allow the Friant bunch to give their presentation. Jeff Payne, of Friant Water Authority introduced himself. Payne said he brought along engineer Bill Swanson of Stantec and Aaron Fukuda, GM of Tulare ID and Chair of the MOU steering committee.
Every Friant contractor has joined the MOU and at $100,000 per seat Payne said FWA asked for too low a price. Birmingham said he sees this as an east side centric approach because no one from the westside has stood up to put its interests in operating the new dam. He said it wasn’t a clam to call it a Friant centric deal. Payne said that was right and Ara Azhderian did some work on westside concerns but things are in an early stage. Fukuda said TID had the same concerns but the seat at the table is what gets the discussion going. Payne said every member of the MOU has optimism and paranoia. The seat brings an entity face to face with the decision process and allows them to put their concerns on the table. From that point the amount and costs will be determined. Bourdeau asked if there is any dispute resolution in place. Payne said not at this time but as governance parameters are developed that should come into play. There is a very fast schedule. The MOU should be in final draft by the end of May. The goal of the MOU is to raise $2 million within two-years to get the pre-construction funded. After that the further expenses will come up. Director Sara Woolf asked if any other CVP contractors have signed up and Payne said there is interest from the Exchange Contractors, San Luis Delta Mendota and of course Westlands.
Birmingham gave his report and the way that is set up is; staff gives the board the more detailed information. Russ Freeman spoke on water matters, drainage and energy. There was more talk about the WIIN Act. Birmingham said it has been pointed out to both the Departments of Interior and Commerce – which means NOAA – the WIIN Act applies whether or not the State Board wants to try to operate the CVP. Johnny Amaral gave his report on federal legislation. He said after a trip to Washington DC some proposed legislation will be revised. That was as specific as the information got. The raising of Shasta Dam is certainly a big deal. There are many folks working on this. Amaral said WWD has been able to increase its social media profile. Someone at the San Francisco Chronical ran a nasty editorial about the drainage legislation and Westlands successfully responded with the help of Gayle Holman, PIO. Birmingham congratulated staff on winning a $50,000 grant for its efforts to clean up an encampment of nomads near Mendota.
Dan Pope reported on the SLDM saying there is the possibility of purchasing 100,000 a/f for $200 per from Oakdale ID and other district near OID. Birmingham said SLDM withdrew from the State & Federal Water Contractors Association. SWFCA is ramping down but will continue to exist until the Cal-Pers matters are dealt with. Of the other committee reports the only thing that caught my ear was the Legal Affairs Committee is looking for another general counsel and that saddens me as I rather liked Phil Williams. The Water Policy Committee had a few things to say about the above discussed contract conversions. Freeman helped talk the full board through this matter. I heard him say this would be similar to what Friant is going through. I’m guessing but Westlands may be looking to buy up the federal infrastructure in the way Friant is looking to take title of the Friant Kern Canal. The board agreed to this. The district wants to sell 1,600 acres to a solar company called EDP Renewables and no comments were received from the public regarding this sale. Pending a CEQA review the board approved Birmingham to go ahead and sell the land. Under SGMA Freeman said the Westlands GSA is looking at the trading of pumping credits and other ways to deal with pumping. He also said Fresno County received some grant money for monitoring wells which should help gather data around the boundaries of Westlands and the Kings Sub Basin. Freeman reminded the board the Water Policy Committee recommends the board join the Temp Flat MOU. Birmingham said some of the SLDM will join together to get a seat. Santa Clara Valley WD and Central California ID will participate independently. If WWD goes it alone that’s $100,000 but if it joins with the other SLDM members interested in joining the cost will be lower. Director Todd Neves asked if WWD’s interests would be unique enough to warrant its own seat. Birmingham sounded pretty confident there wouldn’t be any conflict going with the SLDM. Neves wasn’t persuaded. He wants to go with the district holding its own seat. Director Frank Coelho asked if there are scenarios where Temp Flat could harm Westlands. Birmingham said there are such scenarios – involving flood flows for one – that seems to seal the deal that Westlands should participate. Woolf said she thinks WWD should join SLDM and save some money and break out later. Bourdeau asked who from SLDM will be representing WWD’s interests. Birmingham said he wasn’t sure but SLDM Assistant GM Francis Mizuno would most likely be the representative. But he wasn’t sure. The board agreed to buy its own seat on the MOU.
The Finance & Administration Committee report was given by Bobbie Ormonde. Resolution No. 110-18 approving amended bylaws was put before the board. It mostly had to do with committee chair powers and terms of service for the officers and it was approved. There was a recommendation to revise the terms and conditions of ag water service, Section 11, claims for overcharges and errors. Ok, what that means is – if your meter is broken and you need a refund staff can determine that without it having to go to committee. Ormonde next asked the board to approve a budget transfer to pay for a new heater at one of the facilities and the board was good with that expenditure. The accounts payable was paid. The investment and financial reports were also approved.
There was no public comment and the meeting then went into closed session.
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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, 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