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Westlands Water District September 18, 2018

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The Westlands Water District held its board of directors meeting on Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at its Fresno headquarters. Chairman Don Peracchi called the meeting to order a little after 1:00 pm. There were no additions or corrections to the agenda that I heard. The first order of business was a presentation to David Murillo the US Bureau of Reclamation’s Mid Pacific Regional Director. I’m not stalking Mr. Murillo; we have been to the same meetings for the past week as he goes about saying goodbye before he retires in November. General Manager Tom Birmingham praised Murillo for many of the same reasons others have – whether or not Westlands agreed with Murillo’s decisions the district felt like it was working cooperatively with the Bureau for the first time in decades. Murillo’s philosophy was to recognize there have been some parties who have to live with the decisions so don’t gripe about having to make tough decisions. Build relationships and act with integrity and be transparent. Murillo urged the folks to get to know the new RD. He said during his six years in this position he has often relied on Birmingham’s perspective as a water user. Murillo must be getting used to the warm thanks he’s receiving for his service – WWD gave him a loud round of applause as a sign of its esteem. Good for all them.

Next the board presented employees resolutions of commendation to Francisco Vera – mechanics and Karen Vierra – accounting for many years of work. The auditors report was next and the unqualified opinion was WWD is doing good with nothing untoward in its bookkeeping. The board approved the auditor’s report and the minutes.

Under the GM report assistant GM Johnny Amaral reported the public outreach efforts are starting to kick in. WWD has 30,000 followers on Facebook and more than 3,000 followers on twitter. The website is getting 10,000 view per day. WWD is producing a series of videos that have help drive traffic to its site. The September newsletter is almost finished. This Thursday, September 20th at 10 am at the WWD HQ there will be a forum for elected officials and their staff. The federal Senate is completely preoccupied by the Supreme Court nomination and the House is wrapping up. Russ Freeman reported WWD used 91,000 a/f of surface water and 5,000 a/f of groundwater in August. Total year to date groundwater is more than 200,000 a/f pumped with a project total of 300,000 a/f by the end of the year. More than 70,000 a/f of surface water was delivered. Shasta is more than 100 percent of average and there could be between 13,000 to 17,000 a/f of surplus water from Yuba but they’ll know more by November. Birmingham said carriage loss is determined by a model number and sometimes that doesn’t jive and the Bureau hears about it. Birmingham said there will be a rebuttal next week over the Water Fix of origin before the State Board. Dan Pope reported San Luis Delta Mendota will continue searching for a permanent executive officer. Also, WWD has sent a letter to the Bureau in support of raising San Luis Dam. On October 12th there will be a Region Six and Seven ACWA meeting in Visalia. Attorney Jon Rubin said there will be a legal affairs subcommittee meeting next month.

Director Frank Coelho reported the O&M committee approved increasing the budget by $300,000 to go to meters for subsidence and materials for piping. I had to type pretty fast through here so you may want to double check the official minutes before making any decisions based on this information. There are also monitoring devices on the panels on the Coalinga Canal that have been moving. They’re trying to figure out if it’s subsidence or seismic activity.

Freeman reported four landowners who also farm in the Pleasant Valley WD have asked to transfer some water to the City of Coalinga so it can send it to the PVWD growers. Freeman said these types of transfers will now routinely go before the board in light of SGMA. Director William Bourdeau said Harris Ranch buys water from Coalinga and wanted to know if he should recuse. Birmingham said Harris wasn’t a party to the transfer so there was no conflict. The board approved. Bourdeau recused himself for the next item because Harris Farms (he is CEO) is an investor in the Semitropic water bank. This would require a transfer to Semitropic. This water would have to be returned to Westlands within nine-years. There was no CEQA needed for this, I guess that has already been cleared. Birmingham said this was a good use of water in a year like this. It won’t be lost to carry over this year. The board agreed. The next item dealt with changing the use of some land for solar energy. It appears things are OK for going ahead.

Bourdeau asked if going to the break room was OK for a recusal because the audio of the meeting is broadcast there. Birmingham said the purpose is just to get you out of the room to avoid eye contact, so a director can listen all they want.

Kitty Campbell presented the SGMA updates for WWD. They are developing a groundwater management strategy concept. You may recall from previous reports the idea of a rolling average where a grower can pump up to a limit over a three-year period. Campbell showed the board some of the benefits for a five-year rolling average. She said it is a micromanagement technic and she showed the board a more macro approach. This would be based on groundwater levels that would take into consideration all the undesirable results and set up a trigger. She put a map on the overhead that showed WWD’s water levels. Shallow water was green and deep water was yellow and most of the map was yellow. If the map ever turns orange it goes from the ground level macro to the rolling average micro. If I understood correctly. Bourdeau said it was a great idea and wanted to know who came up with hit. Campbell said herself, Freeman and the always brilliant Jose Gutierrez. They received kudos. Good for them. There are parts along the California Aqueduct suffering from subsidence, up to 16 inches. There are parts where banking is taking place and the ground is rising. The elastic and inelastic areas would determine the trigger depths. Gutierrez said the locations are not yet well known. The discussion had legs. Many variables were put forth and nothing was carved in stone but overall the concept was well received.

Under finances the board purchased new meters, paid its bills and approved the investment and. financial reports.

The next item was filling a board vacancy from Sarah Woolf’s recent resignation. Birmingham said Woolf’s term expires in 2022. The WWD can fill the seat by appointment within 60 days of the resignation and must post notice in three prominent places in the district. A landowner would have to fill out an application by October 1st and will be interviewed by the personnel committee. A special election was also an option but is more expensive than an appointment. All the seats are at large in WWD. The board voted to replace Woolf by appointment. Applications are now available. The next election will be in 2020 for board seats and this seat will have to run in that election. That will make six seats out of nine up for grabs. How about that?

For the most part it was closed session time.

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ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Copyright 2018 by Don A. Wright

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

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