The San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority met on Friday, October 13, 2017 at the Fresno Irrigation District headquarters in Fresno. The SJVWIA was formed to promote the Temperance Flat Dam project. This was the first meeting with a representative of the Friant Water Authority. This was also the first time Julianne Phillips from Kings County attended. You might recall her name from the South Delta Water Agency reports. Phillips was formerly with the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau. So, good for Kings County hiring someone with Delta knowledge. Board President Steve Worthley, Tulare County Supervisor called the meeting to order at about 9:00 am. We all joined together to salute the flag and the minutes were approved. There were no public comments shy of Kings County Supervisor Doug Verboon introducing Phillips.
After a brief discussion lead by Executive Director Mario Santoyo regarding the call for funds balance Worthley welcomed Friant’s representative Jason Phillips. Phillips thanked the board for the welcome and expressed Friant’s willingness and desire in helping the Valley prepare for its future water needs. Friant’s coming on board required some tweaking to the Joint Powers Authority language and the board OK’d that.
The Water Storage Investment Program is a part of the Prop One funding grant application. Santoyo reminded the board the SJVWIA met the August 14th deadline. The WSIP program is different than a common grant. It is an investment as opposed to a grant. The October 18th California Water Commission meeting will be the next chance to get this up and running. The CWC staff will be reviewing all the applications for eligibility from the 12 projects submitted. Santoyo believes all 12 meeting at least the minimum eligibility requirements. The Temperance Flat Dam application was half a foot thick at least. There’s plenty for the CWC to look over by January. After that the CWC has until March to hear appeals from applicants who may feel their applications weren’t given fair treatment. By May of 2018 the CWC has to score the applications on their public benefit ratio. There is some wiggle room for the staff to come up with the recommendations to be sent to the CWC board. Santoyo said the CWC’s board has the final say but the staff has a great deal of say so on the scores. This is California and the bureaucracy has a lot of power. Once the scores are determined and the projects selected in June of 2018 there will be public comment. Santoyo expects a good deal of comment. If you should get an award from the CWC a project has to show a local financial support equal to two/thirds of the award before a project gets the money. There is some time to drum up the local support built in so there will be a fundraising period to follow. Engineer/consultant Bill Swanson is the expert but he couldn’t be at today’s meeting but he came up with a very good public benefit ratio; the best ratio of the 12 applications. Now is CWC doesn’t agree there is a three-week appeal process followed by a three week response deadline for the CWC staff to come to grips with reality.
Santoyo continued saying there can be no ex parte communication with CWC commissioners by the public and especially applicants. Worthley reminded folks such communication could be very harmful to the cause. However, since there is a huge, multi-billion dollar investment, making a decision based on reading tons of material as opposed to visiting the projects and receiving a presentation by the applicants in a non ex parte manner would be good. Santoyo said he’s been pushing for both but if it comes down to it he’d prefer a presentation by Swanson. Worthley said it might be difficult for the commissioners to get around to every site but that’s to be determined. Santoyo said at the last SJVWIA meeting he’d requested a heads up from Stantec Engineering on what the possible scope of work waiting would be and how much would it cost. Santoyo wants to include stakeholder outreach. The total amount Stantec estimated was $162,422 for the proposed work under task order #4. He needs to talk with the four cost share entities about this. Worthley said the US Bureau of Reclamation could be a funding partner in this. The Bureau is still a partner and was helpful in getting the application ready. Alvaro Preciado, Mayor of Avenal expressed his opinion it will be very helpful to have a presentation by Temp Flat proponents before the CWC.
Santoyo gave his Exec Officer report and said he attended the recent CWC meeting pushing for a presentation of Temp Flat’s benefits before that board. The next CWC meeting will be October 18th and staff will officially announce which projects are eligible and if there are any issues that need to be addressed. Santoyo said it is important a well populated delegation from the area to attend. He wants to have expert support for any questions that should arise as well as public support from the region. He stressed this is critical. I got to agree with him. I once sat through a California Public Utilities Commission hearing on assigning telephone area codes. At stake was who would retain the old area code 209 – remember that? – and would get to change all their stationary to 559. There were only two of us at the meeting held in Fresno to support the retaining the 209 code. There were several folks from Stockton and elsewhere who drove down to state their position they should retain the 209 code. I think it’s obvious whose desires were granted.
Sharon McHale is a branch chief from the USBR. She addressed the board and said the Bureau was very focused on getting the WSIP application turned in on time. Now that that has happened she’s been working with Stantec on developing a feasibility report to send back to Washington DC. The Bureau has been working on this for many years. It started with the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation to determine if another dam on the SJR was feasible. Once Temp Flat passed that hurdle five locations were chosen and eventually narrowed down to the current location. A MOU to complete the USJRBSI between the SJVWIA and the USBR is proposed. Don’t you love sentences like that. I swear sometimes it feels like I sit here typing the alphabet in capital letters. Anyway, a steering committee is being put together. Jason Phillips said Stantec has been helping raise investment funds. Swanson has been making presentations so far. Worthley thanked McHale for her dedication to the project. Santoyo asked her since Stantec is an investor consultant and a Bureau consultant – how can the Bureau speed up its review process. Worthley reiterated that concern. McHale said Friant’s recruiting of local investors will be very helpful and the Bureau is working with a compressed schedule. The federal deadline comes up next August – that’s like 10-months from now – a virtual blink of an eye for government action.
Worthley thanked FID for the use of its facilities. He said he and others met with Fiona Ma, Chair of the State Board of Equalization and so far the only candidate for State Treasurer. He said she realizes the need for water. He said usually the guest is the first to leave; in this case Ma was the last to leave. Worthley said that was a refreshing change. Evidently she is a native of San Francisco and her knowledge and willingness to learn was unexpected.
Santoyo reported on public relations and outreach and said Congressman Kevin McCarthy was helpful in putting together a letter of support to the CWC for Temp Flat signed by every GOP congressman in California. This group is also issuing a press release about its support. In turn the great Randy McFarland, PR guru for the JPA will release a press release also. Santoyo thanked Senator Diane Feinstein’s ace assistant Shelly Abajian for her help as a conduit to Washington DC. Santoyo said he believes Feinstein is on board and his sense is Senator Kamala Harris is leaning towards supporting Temp Flat.
Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes appeared on newscaster John Malos’ internet television show. He said it was most definitely a step up from Wayne’s World and there were some call-in opportunities to help educate folks on the subject. Santoyo said there are some opportunities available to appear on the Ray Appleton Show, KMJ 580am. This could start next week and is an excellent opportunity to spread the word in the ag community. One of Santoyo’s highest profile efforts has been to link big time boxing with water for the San Joaquin Valley. This very successful endeavor has resulted in much recognition of the need for Temp Flat. He’s been able to put together a Town Hall meeting on October 23rd to be televised by KMPH 26. There will be a panel style discussion held at Fresno’s People’s Church. PR consultants Jeff and Jill Aiello have produced several video shorts. The once shown at this meeting featured Mendes and Swanson explaining the coordination between surface storage and groundwater storage. The next video had Swanson explaining how Temp Flat will help with salmon restoration on the SJR. I thought they are pretty well done. These videos can work well on social media such as You Tube and Face Book. Worthley said after watching these videos there needs to be a “Buddy and Bubba” show. Cannon Michael, San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority said while the videos are well made they are very much the standard ag approach. Most folks don’t understand conjunctive use. He urged a different approach to reach out to the people who don’t care about agriculture or are unaware. Mendes suggested showing Fresno’s recharge efforts and linking that to Temp Flat. Victor Lopez, Mayor Orange Cove sits on this board. Orange Cove’s only source of water is the Friant Kern Canal surface deliveries. There’s a poster child for the disadvantaged community. Jason Phillips said defining the target audience will be very important. Santoyo pointed out there are many target groups; investors, urban and ag messages. I think there are some benefits for the wildlife refuges and in my humble opinion ducklings are far cuter than smelt.
Santoyo continued with reporting about a linked need in leave behind material. An executive summary has been prepared and McHale said her office is developing an abbreviated version with language that will be easily understood by most folks. The next meeting will be November 10th and that was that.
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