Documenter: Loren Friesen

The Scene 

Fresno Irrigation District (FID) held their meeting using the app GoToMeeting, which requires its own download and installation. The app’s setup was very similar to zoom, with buttons for mute, turning your camera off, and chatting. When someone spoke, the app conveniently displayed the name of who was speaking, making the process of identifying speakers much easier. Squares displayed each attendee’s camera, although for the most part attendees would turn their camera off when not speaking, meaning there were usually only 2-3 cameras turned on at a time. President Jacobsen usually had his camera on. When cameras did display the speakers, the speakers were attending the meeting from a professional space, like a home office, professionally dressed, and using equipment like headphones and speakers. Notably, of the directors only President Jacobsen had his camera on. The other directors were calling in. 

There were 19 attendees total. No public members wished to be recognized. All directors, listed below, were present.

Ryan Jacobsen, President, Division 3

Jerry Prieto Jr, Division 1

George Porter, Division 4

Christopher Woolfe, Division 2

Greg Beberian, Division 5

The meeting started at 3 PM, kicking off with a Pledge of Allegiance. Because of needing to download and install the GoToMeeting app, I logged into the meeting in the middle of the pledge. 

Goals

According to an annual report from May 2020, FID’s mission is to “protect and manage the surface and groundwater resources of the District in order to meet the present and future water needs of the people and lands within the District.” 

FID’s bio on its history is “A long-standing purpose for sustainable water delivery and recharge in the Central Valley”. It claims that “between 85% and 90% of the groundwater supply can be attributed to water imported and distributed by the District.”

FID must coordinate and collaborate with several agencies – the City of Fresno, the City of Clovis, the County of Fresno, the Fresno Metropolitan Flood Control District – to develop and implement “a comprehensive surface and groundwater management effort”. 

The state of California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in 2014, which “requires governments and water agencies of high and medium priority basins to halt overdraft and bring groundwater basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. Under SGMA, these basins should reach sustainability within 20 years of implementing their sustainability plans.” FID is part of the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency (NKGSA), a multi-agency effort to comply with the passage of SGMA.

Actions

Consent Calendar 

After being advised by general counsel Jeff Boswell, Director Wolf recused himself from voting on Consent Calendar item C. Director Wolf has family who have partial ownership of a company that is a part of the 2020 check report. Wolf voted on the rest of the consent calendar. 

Financial Report

Controller Deann Hailey reported on the 2020 fund statements, noting they were 2% under budget, that they had $34 million in investment (earning over 2%), and that water sales make up 54% of earnings. 

Hailey reported that the audit update was being put together

Hailey reported on investment maturities, saying that they earned “hard cold cash” of $400,000. 

Water Operations Update

Assistant General Manager of Operations Adam Claes updated on water levels using several graphs and charts to convey data. Essentially, most areas are running between 30-50% below average. October 2020 – January 2021 was the second driest year in history, with the third and eighth driest years occurring in the past 6 years. In 2015 they had to call on Friant water for the first time, and he hopes that they don’t have to this year. His “optimism for the night” is that upcoming storms will help these numbers. He also reported that a handful of districts are interested in water exchange programs, and staff will be evaluating these programs. 

Engineering Report

Chief Engineer Laurence Kimura reported on several projects using pictures, including pipeline relocation and substitution, the Central Basin Project, Wagner Basin project, High Speed Rail, and Urban Trails. They are receiving phone calls for pipeline locations. The U.S. Beauru of Water Management approved their 5 year plan. 

There is a quitclaim at Chestnut and Behmer (Enterprise 109). There were no issues with the neighbor property owner.

The item titled Slaven no 347: Property owner David Esterman, on Ashlan and Modoc, wants to construct a new well and tie it into the existing pipeline. After reviewing the pipeline, Claes said he recommends quitclaim “the end of the open channel and modify it” so that Esterman and his neighbor, Mr. Antunvich, would draft a contract that lets them share ownership of a new private pipeline.

Construction and Maintenance Report

Assistant General Manager of Operations Adam Claes gave a report (with pictures) on recent dredging, sloping, discing, grading, brushing, installation, and gate replacement. He showed a chart with their goals and priorities – pipeline repair topped at 20%, followed by brushing and weed control at 19%. Measure site maintenance was at the bottom, at 2%.

Administrative Matters

The board was updated on:

SGMA – the $4.8m implementation grant for the Kings Basin was submitted the day of the meeting. They will hear back by April or May. The Kings Basin annual report is due April 2021.

NKGSA – they are working on a new well policy but their meeting was delayed a month. There is a brochure on information about domestic well upkeep that will soon be available on their website. Board seat 7 is vacant and they are soliciting nominations. 

Special Project Manager – there is a big conversion to electronic mail to improve record management. Right now there is hesitancy to go forward with converting to solar and more energy efficient light fixtures due to economics. 

Regulatory Update – the Kings Water Alliance is in full effect of getting established, with their first meeting on January 22. The Nitrate Control Program has an outreach event on January 28. 

External Affairs –  Austin Ewell, who has experience in Washington D.C working for the Department of Interior, reported on the incoming administration appointments and Congress’ priorities. This includes a large infrastructure package that will have opportunities for programs and projects, and the Biden’s administration’s appointment of Deb Haaland to be Secretary of Interior. He also reported that they included language with bipartisan effort in a recently passed package that allows expedited studies to go forward. 

Public Relations – There will be an episode about FID on the “American Grown” TV show, occurring on Valley PBS on February 17 at 7:30 PM. They are updating their website for groundwater measurement information, agriculture water management plan, and weather forecasting. There will be 2 virtual events to recognize the stakeholders Biola Community Services District and the City of Fresno on 1/19/21 and 1/28/21. 

Centennial Update – FID is converting their letterhead and decal to “2021 and Beyond” logo, and will update on social media and their website. 

General Manager Report

General Manager Stretch reported that there will be an executive meeting for the Kings River Association. He will give an update on the Friant Water Authority after their Jan 28 meeting. 

Stretch also commented on the new City of Fresno administration coming in, highlighting their specific goals: addressing homelessness, beautifying Fresno, economic development, youth leadership, downtown development, and police reform. He also said he was happy that Gary Serrato, former General Manager, agreed to continue his contribution of 8 hours per week.

Debate/Comments

Consent Calendar 

Director Prieto had 2 questions for item C on the Consent Calendar, regarding payment to John Randall MacFarland for the centennial publication and 4th quarter newsletter, and for $79.67 spent at Boot Barn. Prerto didn’t recognize MacFarland’s name, who he knows by a more informal name, and the Bootbarn money was spent for the employee appreciation award, who had $80 to spend.

Water Operations Update

Adam Claes noted that FID is committed to giving the City of Fresno a certain percentage of water through the Kings River, meaning the amount of water they give is based on the total amount received. 

Director Beberian wanted to make sure that they measure the water at the “the gate level, not the dam level” because “it makes a big difference”. He said this clarification was never really resolved and the understanding seems to be murky. 

General Manage Stretch said they will “take all things into account” when meeting with the City of Fresno and City of Clovis, and that with a few months of the rainy season ahead we will see what the situation looks like. 

Engineering Report

Regarding Slaven 347, Director Beberian asked how much the quitclaim would cost. Claes said it was minimal. 

Construction and Maintenance Report

Commenting on a brushing project involving eucalyptus, President Jacobsen said it knew it was going to be a big project and offered his appreciation on the task of balancing staff during the holidays.  

Administrative Matters

Regarding the external update, President Jacobsen highlighted Ewell’s point on Haaland’s appointment, noting her lack of experience in water. Ewell noted Haaland’s background (tribal issues) and said her deputy appointment will be important to look at. 

President Jacobsen asked about the secretary of commerce position, to which Ewell pointed out how some water and wildlife related departments, like the National Marine Fish Service, fall under commerce and not water. He said the government often focuses on commerce and trade rather than wildlife and water flow.

General Manager Stretch asked about the water blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley, to which Ewell said the blueprint was put together to bring in reality where we are in California; the need to collaborate towards common goals is important. Stanford really hosted an uncommon dialogue to bring together urban interests, agriculture interests, environmental interests, etc. 

General Manager Report

President Jacobsen commented that “few times in history we have an incoming mayor so familiar with our issues” and that he’s looking forward to their partnership. 

Outcomes

Consent Calendar 

The consent calendar without item C was passed by a unanimous vote. Item C was passed unanimously, without Director Wolf, who recused himself.

Financial Report

Director Porter motioned to approve the November 2020 Fund Statements. Director Prierto seconded. It passed unanimously. 

Engineer Report

Regarding the quitclaim at Chestnut and Behymer, Director Prierto motioned to approve. Director Porter seconded. It passed unanimously. 

Regarding Slaven 347, Director Prierto motioned to approve. Director Porter seconded. It passed unanimously. 

Administrative Matters

The board was updated on all administrative matters.

General Counsel Boswell clarified the assistant board secretary’s responsibility. 

The outcome of the closed session, which the district was scheduled to report on, was not clear. The district went into closed session at 4:48PM, saying it would reconvene at 4:55PM. I went to the provided link at 4:55PM but no one came back. Either there was a different link to return to or they did not come back.

Summary

The majority of the meeting was filled with updates and reports, with the board taking votes on action items that stemmed from these reports (such as the 2 quitclaims from an engineering report). It has been the second driest Oct-Jan period in history, although the board’s overall tone was to wait and see how the next few months, which are typically wet, will play out. Other than the reports, highlights include Director Beberian repeatedly making sure that the percentage of water given to the City of Fresno is measured at the gate, not dam, level. In addition, the update on external affairs, such as Deb Haaland’s appointment to be Secretary of Interior, drew comments on her lack of experience with water. With that being said, there was optimism about recent federal packages passed that allow money for projects. 

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