The San Luis Delta Mendota Water Authority held its Thursday, November 9, 2017 meeting at its Los Banos headquarters. It’s time the board room is expanded. The more progressive facility often includes a dedicated press area with vibrating recliners. I always get here early and rearrange the chairs so me and my crew in the corner have more room. Chairman Cannon Michael was pounding on the table with his coffee cup so SLDMWA Executive Officer Jason Peltier gave him the gift of gavel. A new, what looks like walnut from here, gavel and Michael thanked him. Next we saluted the flag and introduced ourselves. New to the Authority is Becca Akroyd, she’s the new lawyer tasked with helping the big, bull goose lawyer Jon Rubin. Also introduced was a young man named Griffin Hill. Hill is the science intern and it’s a pretty good bet the guy works his tail off between here and grad school.
Public comment was next with Director Jim McLeod, Banta Carbona ID saying finally the enviro terrorists have been overruled and the regulating agencies will allow forest thinning in light of the recent devastation in the wine country. Then the minutes were passed with a minor change and the entire consent calendar was passed as well. For a while after that things weren’t fun anymore. Assistant General Manager, the charming Francis Mizuno presented to the board the new contract between SLDM and the US Bureau of Reclamation regarding the repayment of extraordinary maintenance costs for the C.W. “Bill” Jones Pumping Plant. I, myself, did not read through the 20 plus page contract before the meeting, nor do I have much depth in the area of extraordinary maintenance of pumps attached to tunnels big enough to drive my car through. I asked the guy next to me for some color commentary so I can report to you something intelligible concerning this matter. At first he was hesitant but most water folk are nice folk so he took time to fill me in and the deal is; this contract is for rewinding pump number six and there’s a good chance this will set precedence for the other five pumps. Mizuno has both a technical and a financial expert on her negotiating team as the contract with the Bureau is finalized. There were a good number of questions and as things worked out the board was comfortable with Mizuno’s efforts. That was the only “action” item listed on the agenda. Peltier pointed out when one sees single spaced type in a Bureau contract it is very difficult to change the language therein.
Reports were next and Mizuno updated the board about the San Luis Transmission Project. This will require a three-party agreement between the Bureau, Western Transmission and shadowy DATC. I only call it shadowy because I didn’t catch what DATC stands for. SLDM is part of the Central Valley Project and the CVP includes provisions for power production and transmission. The Jones Plant uses a lot of juice to run them pumps and there can be substantial benefits for using your own production and transmission of power.
Peltier spoke about the California Water Fix and the word is things are being scaled back to one 6,000 cfs tunnel. He told the board its feedback is to not miss an opportunity for SLDM get some capacity in the new proposal. He’s been talking with the Bureau about this and he said the word from Washington is the Bureau’s interest in this ranges from neutral to zero but the Bureau’s regional office is willing to brainstorm with the CVP members. There is now more uncertainty than ever. Perhaps another tunnel will be built sometime in the future. McLeod said the estimated cost of water from CWF will be $900 to $1,000 a/f. He said it will be very difficult for growers to find a bank willing to make loans based on those costs. It has nothing to do with whether or not the project is a good one.
Rubin spoke about the State Board’s water quality control plan. He expects things to come to a head quickly seeing the State Board making a final decision by the end of the year. Rubin had Akroyd give the presentation. She said the 1995 Bay Delta Plan saw the State Board take over water rights to some degree. An update if this plan has two phases. Phase I takes on the Delta and Phase II the Sacramento River and its tributaries. She said Phase II could have the most impact on the CVP with higher through Delta flows and lower water temperatures. The State Board has a science basis report open to comment until noon today. This is the nuts and bolts of how the State Board justifies its choices. The unimpaired flows are based on modeling as opposed to a real, historical basis. She said SLDM will comment on the “flow-centric” approach and how it would be better to address the stressors instead of increasing flows. There were other comments as well but I don’t type that fast. The Phase I portion has more to do with the San Joaquin River but the date for that comes later. Rubin added the science based report has been driven by State Board staff and has gone through two reviews. One was by the Delta Protection Commission and he doesn’t see the State Board staff backing down. SLDM has joined many other groups concerned about the disconnect between the causes of the stressors and the increased flows. Former Clinton Administration Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt has got his nose and nuts in the middle of things trying to get voluntary cooperation from stakeholders. Director Bill Diedrich asked about the legality of some of the State Board’s planned actions. Akroyd said that is part of SLDM’s comments. Rubin said in effect not to give up hope yet. The State Board is getting pressure to act while State Board staff continues to say things are complicated and that seems to drive things to the flow centric approach.
Next Rubin reviewed the WINN Act and said Reclamation has started a process to deal with storm events. This should determine how the Bureau will work with the fishery agencies. The was a workshop on this matter in October and comments are still accepted. Rubin said the one big problem SLDM found is the language of the Bureau’s intentions stray from the WINN Act itself. For instance; the fishery folk want the standards and implementation to become more subjective. This is attracting attention that Bureau may not want. Peltier said not to get overly confident as the fishy folks will try to take actions contrary to the WINN ACT. He said the enviros will have a quasi-religious frenzy over this. Rubin said the other WINN Act item is a section that allows contractors to revert water service contracts to repayment contracts. There is a growing interest to learn more about this not only in SLDM but a much broader portion of the CVP. He said there will be a workshop on this at the Mid Pacific Conference in Reno this January. Dan Pope asked if this reversion will require further congressional action beyond the WIIN Act itself. Rubin didn’t think so.
Tom Boardman gave his much-awaited operations update and said the Jones Plant pumped at capacity through October. The X2 line moved up stream and that helped. However, the demands were unusually high and only 32,000 a/f was moved to San Luis Reservoir. Conversely, the State’s Bank Plant was not given the go ahead to pump under relaxed X2 lines and lost more than 200,000 a/f in SLR storage. The X2 line is the furthest point inland salt was from the San Francisco Bay is allowed to go. The more water being passed through the Delta the closer the X2 line is moved to the Golden Gate, where the measurement starts. Boardman said there hasn’t been much rain so far and he doesn’t see the pumps as active. There are San Joaquin River restoration flows that will allow 3,000 a/f of captured water going into SLR to Friant’s credit. Shasta and Folsom Reservoirs are about where they would be in this time and type of year. He projects filling the CVP share of SLR by the end of January. He said the higher than average October demand pushed this back from December. Of course there are many variables that can change this dramatically. He said the years of 2011 and 2012 could be similar. It started out at the end of 2011 with SLR full but things started happening in 2012 like fish folks getting bent and slowing down the pumps. The WIIN Act could help from 2018 suffering a similar fate. It allows some flexibility during storm events. Garth Hall, Santa Clara Valley Water District asked about what factors are at play with a 90 percent verses a 50 percent accidence declared. Boardman said he sees more of a 50 percent likely. Mizuno said SLDM will be consulting with the Bureau very soon on these matters. As happens every year the growers want to know what the Bureau’s allocation will be and Peltier said he fears instead of the traditional February announcement date. It could be later. The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to know how much cold water will be in Shasta before it allows the Bureau to make an announcement and that could be – no joking here – as late as May.
Peltier reported on the biops reconsultation saying the fisheries agencies are not being cooperative because they don’t understand the WINN Act. The Bureau is trying to grapple with the technical issues along the CVP chain of supplies. Peltier said it got really complicated. Ara Azhderian, GM Panoche WD asked who is working as a consultant for the Bureau and I didn’t catch the firm’s name but Azhderian was pleased saying the firm knows what is really going on. However, Peltier said there are still instances where agency staff and NGOs act on emotion and not science.
Peltier and Chris White, Central California ID GM presented the updates on the Temperance Flat Dam on the SJR. Peltier said the Friant Water Authority has come up with a MOU that costs $100,000. He said the MOU strikes him as being overly “Friant-centric.” White said he believes this project will live or die on everyone working together and he may be overly optimistic but he’s optimistic. He said the Bureau has spent $35 million on feasibility studies. Several agencies and communities in the Valley have come together to form a JPA called the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority. Friant wasn’t a member. The Bureau had a scenario known as Option Five it likes but no one else does. Still there was some movement and everyone put $50,000 in the pot to put in a Prop One application. The Bureau came up with a more palatable operations plan by June and July. The application deadline was August 14th and the deadline was met. Barely, but it was. The California Water Commission reviewed the application in time for any incompletions to be fixed. That was all taken care of in time. Except for the uncertainty analysis. This has to go to the CWC board for approval. The applicants believe this is not so and White said he thinks there’s a good chance this work will be accepted. I asked how can the CWC staff tell them we’ve reviewed the application and say everything is good. Then later tell the applicant they screwed up? White was more diplomatic than I would have been. I can say this if this is the standard CWC puts on its staff let me know next time they hire a rocket surgeon. As for the CWC board’s acceptance of the application we’ll know in 30 days. There could be as much as $1 billion in matching funds. There is more analysis needed to come up with solid financial numbers and operations but there are some highlights. A scenario of operating Millerton as is and using Temp Flat for spills shows this record setting wet year would have filled new reservoir. White presented more scenarios for the operations of Temp Flat. A workshop on buying into the MOU is scheduled for SLDM on December 4th in Los Banos.
Peltier reported the State & Federal Contractors Water Agency is setting up a budget and dues will be announced. He said the Family Farm Alliance is chugging along or keeps on ticking or something like that. Mike Wade was present and said the California Farm Water Coalition is receiving widespread support on public education efforts. Good for him. Excellent organization. Diedrich announced ACWA elections are showing more support for ag. He said there is a great deal of toxic fumes coming from Sacramento next year. Michael said the Temp Flat JPA will be meeting next Friday.
Staff reports were next and abacus savant Tona Mederios reported on the self-funding accounts. SLDM members owe money for certain stuff and some of it funds itself. The members are owed some refunds and should get them next month. Mizuno said to make things short the O&M report can be read and call her later with questions. Peltier urged her to report on safety meetings. Mizuno said the next safety meeting will include what to do should armed bad guys show up at the workplace. Mizuno also said the SGMA required coordination on the 23 GSAs within the Delta Mendota Sub Basin is going along very well.
Peltier gave his report and talked about CSAMP; the Collaborative Science & Adaptive Management Program. This is new. It’s part of the new X2 approach and not only looks at where are the fish but also where is the food. The smelt, despite the extra water this year didn’t make the gains they made during drier years. Why? Maybe because it was so hot last summer. Really, who knows if you just count fish samples. He said Mizuno, Rubin and him have already started talking about next year’s budget. There will be a joint financial and water resource committee meeting on December 4th. He said Westlands Water District is still looking over the activities agreement and it has been provided with all the information needed since it hasn’t requested any further details. Director Sarah Woolf, Westlands WD asked Peltier about how he conducts his Washington DC trips and would like a report. He said he had a good meeting with Austin Ewell from the Department of Interior. He said discussions continue on the Coordinated Operations Agreements.
Michael reminded everyone tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and to take time to honor those who have given so much for our freedom. Amen. The meeting then went into closed session for several matters.
DISCLAIMER OF RESPONSIBILITY; Waterwrights strives to provide his clients with the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate information available. Nevertheless, Waterwrights does not serve as a guarantor of the accuracy or completeness of the information provided, and specifically disclaims any and all responsibility for information that is not accurate, up-to-date, or complete. Waterwrights’ clients therefore rely on the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of information from DAW entirely at their own risk. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not represent any advertisers or third parties.
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.
SAN LUIS & DELTA-MENDOTA WATER AUTHORITY was established in January of 1992 and consists of approximately 2,100,000 acres of 29 federal and exchange water service contractors within the western San Joaquin Valley, San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The governing body of the Authority consists of a 19-member Board of Directors classified into five divisions with directors selected from within each division. The main conveyance is the Delta-Mendota Canal that delivers approximately 3,000,000-acre feet of water within the Authority service area. Of this amount, 2,500,000-acre feet are delivered to highly productive agricultural lands, 150,000 to 200,000-acre feet for municipal and industrial uses, and between 250,000 to 300,000 acre-feet are delivered to wildlife refuges for habitat enhancement and restoration. Executive Director: Jason Peltier. Attorneys: Diane Rathmann and John Rubin.