Documenter: Angelica Hernandez


  • The MWD GSA Board meeting was held before the general GSA meeting. The board meeting agenda was not posted on the website and throughout the meeting documents were referenced but were not accessible to the public. 

  • The board approved a proposed 2021 water charge of $550 per acre ft. The motion was made by Phil Janzen and seconded by Carl Johnson. Motion passed with unanimous approval. 

  • Concerns were raised about a letter sent out from the MWD GSA that apparently caused  growers and landowners to panic. The letter was meant to promote water conservation but instead was interpreted as a warning that there won’t be enough water this year. Board members agreed to form a committee to draft another letter of clarification and present it to the board before sending it out again. 

  • During the manager’s report district manager John Gies and legal counsel Melanie Aldridge stressed the lack of water available in the area. Aldridge said that there isn’t even enough water in the system to be transferred if it can be found or brokered at all. Gies mentioned that the prices were high and the board should be prepared to purchase water quickly if the opportunity arose. Gies also noted that the distribution may not be fair if a hasty purchase was made but would be based on his own discretion and would take into account the people “sitting behind the desks trying to figure this crap out”.

Madera Water District Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board Member Duties

The Department of Water Resources (DWR) also prioritized the alluvial groundwater basins and sub-basins in California for sustainability in 2014. The Madera Sub-basin was designated as high priority, and in August 2015 the Madera Sub-basin was placed on DWR’s Draft List of Critically-Overdrafted Basins.

Local agencies such as the Madera Water District, were required to form groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) by June 30, 2017. The Madera Water District is an agricultural water district and the MWD GSA with the authority to:

  • Conduct investigations of water rights

  • Require registration of groundwater wells

  • Require well-operators to measure and report extractions

  • Require reporting of diversions of surface water to storage

  • Regulate groundwater extractions, including limiting or prohibiting groundwater production

  • Impose fees and assessments

  • Request revisions of basin boundaries, including establishing new sub-basins

  • Undertake enforcement actions for noncompliance

Madera Water District GSA Board Members

Carl Johnson, President

Pat Henry, Secretary

Gilbert Rascon, Director – Tony Canales

Kevin Herman, Director

Phil Janzen, Director

Management/Consultant Team

District Manager ‒ John Gies

Legal Counsel ‒ Melanie J. Aldridge, Esq.

The Scene

The meeting was held over a virtual conference program called BlueJeans. The meeting was called to order at 9:03 a.m. Melanie Aldridge, the board’s legal counsel, and Michelle Errecart, associate attorney, joined by video. District manager John Gies along with board members Carl Johnson, Tony Canales, Kevin Herman and Phil Janzen called in using audio only. Pat Henry was absent. 

Six additional participants called in with names listed as “Nacho”,  Samuel Cuningham, Jeannie Habben, DWR- Chris Montoya, Bert Jertberg and Kenneth Bowman. There were also two unnamed call-in participants with only phone numbers displayed. 

After a hasty roll call, Melanie Aldridge began leading the meeting. It was not made explicitly clear that this portion of the video conference was a separate board meeting being held before the Groundwater Sustainability Agency Meeting. The agenda posted to the public only related to the GSA meeting and did not include the agenda items discussed during the first portion of the meeting. 

At this point, the audio from the conference call was muted despite the meeting continuing on uninterrupted. This technical issue was fixed in under a minute by logging out and back in again. 

Proposed 2021 Water Charge

Returning to the meeting, Aldridge began referencing an agenda item for the approval of a 2021 Water Charge and called for public comment.

  • Public comment:

    • Gurjit Gosal, a Madera landowner and chicken rancher, claimed he was in the process of trying to obtain and sell water rights for a well. He said he would be making a few calls and keep the board up to date to let them know if it is even possible. 

    • Kevin Herman responded by saying he appreciates Gosal trying to help the board find water, but cautioned him to be aware that the only way to get water to their district is to go through the Madera Irrigation District (MID) and that is a challenge. “If they don’t have a water run, you risk transferring water that we can never get our hands on.” 

    • Melanie Aldridge also warned Gosal, adding that in Madera, all surface water goes through the MID and there will be a charge and also depends on the capacity in their canals. “Even if legally you can get it transferred, then it’s how do you actually physically get the water there and get enough of it?”

  • Board Discussion:

    • Kevin Herman referenced a letter that was sent out to landowners that cautioned about water usage for this year and the long-term future for water. Herman said he received many panicked phone calls from folks who interpreted it as a warning that there isn’t enough water for this year and asked if the board should send out another letter clarifying that this is not the case. 

    • Tony Canales and John Gies agreed that they had also received phone calls about the letter. 

    • Aldridge said the whole point of the letter was to encourage water conservation and keep everyone in the loop. 

    • Herman suggested that they send a follow-up letter to landowners, to clarify the first letter’s meaning and hopefully reassure the growers who reached out with concerns. 

    • Gies said there are no guarantees when it comes to what they can provide due to different variables including the loss of wells in the summer months despite the precautions they have taken. 

    • Herman responded that for the past 10 years they have been able to “cobble together” 2-2.5 ft per acre and that in his opinion there is no real difference between last year and this year.

    • Gies said “The difference this year is if we have no surface water. Also our groundwater has dropped about 25-30 feet.”

    • Herman said that growers are interpreting the letter as if this year would be a lot less than 2ft per acre, but that we should reassure them that we can at least get them 1.5 or 1.75 ft. 

    • Aldridge suggested that a committee be formed of herself, Gies, and two board members to review a follow-up letter and present it to the board at the next meeting. All board members agreed. 

Motion to approve the 2021 water charge at $550 per acre ft. was made by Phil Janzen and seconded by Carl Johnson. Motion passed with unanimous approval. 


The Board may review and approve the minutes of the March 10, 2021 GSA meeting. 

Motion was made by Kevin Herman and seconded by Phil Janzen. The motion was approved by a unanimous vote. 

Financial Matters

Aldridge described this agenda item as “the board will review, discuss and possibly approve a variety of matters related to the financial condition.”  This item was not included in the agenda. Aldridge recommended that they begin with the review and possible approval of March bills for the district. 

  • Multiple agenda items were presented by John Gies, although the :

    • Gies referenced “Item 12” being the total of $134,000 for the completion of two major contracts. 

    • The first contract he described as the finalization of a “separation project for the subordinate water”.  

    • The second contract finalized the amount for the Madera water district to absorb the costs of the installation of new water turnouts for around $8,000, but was unsure of the official figure.  

    • Geis also mentioned Provost & Pritchard being “higher than heck” but expressed appreciation for their work especially about the Madera Lake project. 

    • Aldridge echoed those feelings, saying that she believes engineers are needed to keep up with everything. 

Gies paused the financial discussion to bring up the hope that in-person meetings would resume as soon as next month. 

  • Aldridge said that hasn’t been confirmed although many in agriculture may be vaccinated already and are eager to return to in person meetings

  • Gies mentioned that it’s just a better way for everyone to understand one another,  “It’s like the kids should all be back in school, but I won’t get into that one”

Kevin Herman resumed the financial discussion by asking about a listed invoice called “MID $32,503” 

  • Gies clarified that was for the 2021 subordinate land assessments. 

  • Herman expressed confusion about a “funky formula totally new to him”. He requested the 2020 subordinate land assessments in order to compare the two. 

  • Gies attempted to explain the formula was based on usage. 

  • Aldridge said if they changed the formula it needs to be approved. She agreed it would be worth looking into.

Motion to approve the payment of the bills was made by Carl Johnson and seconded by Phil Janzen. The vote passed unanimously. 

Gies commented that by paying off these contracts they will be running with 2 – 3 million dollars less in their reserves. 

Aldridge asked if anyone had questions about the financial statements from Blankenship & Shultz or the receivables list for the district. There were none. 

At this point, vague references were made concerning various issues without context:

  • Gies brought up an issue he referred to as the “Thorebird thing” asking if they had heard from Fowler’s attorney. Aldridge said no. 

  • Gies also mentioned “the bankruptcy thing” and asked someone named Linda about whether the delinquency was a few months out. 

  • Linda chimed in from an unnamed call-in screen and confirmed it was a few months out. 

Reserve Funds

Aldirdge moved on to this agenda item where the board may also review, discuss and approve options for rebuilding and or maintaining it’s reserve funds. She suggested that from a practical standpoint the only option available for that would be through next year’s water rate. 

  • Johnson and Gies agreed that they might need to wait until next year. 

  • Herman asked why we would need $5 million. Suggestion that if the amount required for reserves was reduced it would be more practical. 

  • Aldridge agreed that they don’t want to reserve money just to reserve money, although the self-financing of the Madera Lake project would cost $4 million alone. 

  • Herman added that they need to justify why they are asking people to pay higher rates to contribute to reserves. “Transparency is a good thing”

  • Aldridge suggested including a spreadsheet of upcoming expenses including the Madera lake project, Surface water purchases and GSP ongoing costs

  • Gies added that a few growers have asked about drilling more wells. He said that it doesn’t make sense to spend a million dollars for a well that would give you 500 or 600 gallons a minute of water, but the water quality is an issue. He expressed frustration about the lack of understanding from growers when there is no water available and wells in this area are unreliable. 

  • Herman also added that SGMA would not allow them to pump any more water. “We could drill 20 wells and wouldn’t be able to use them.” . He reiterated the need to communicate this information to growers. 

Aldridge asked if there were any questions regarding the financial reports. There were none. 

Motion to approve financial reports was made by Phil Janzen and seconded by Carl Johnson. Vote passed unanimously 4-0. 

Water System Water Delivery Separation

Aldridge described this item as “Regarding the Bifurcation System and anything related to that”. She asked the board if any rules or regulations needed to be changed. 

  • Geis said the project has been completed and as far as modifying rules and regulations it does not appear to be necessary.

Aldridge asked for questions regarding the new system and there were none.

The Madera Lake Project

Aldridge moved on to Item 6. Geis told the board that they were not prepared to make a presentation at this time regarding the project. He said they would have more information for the meeting in May. 

District Elections

Aldridge informed the board that the terms of Kevin Herman and Tony Canales will expire in 2021. The board would need to authorize an all-mail ballot election, approve a proposed election date of Tuesday August 31st, 2021 and authorize the district secretary, assistant secretary and/or legal counsel to take actions required under the uniformed election law to process the election. Motion was made by Phil Janzen and seconded by Kevin Herman. The vote was passed unanimously. 

Manager’s Report

John Gies referenced a copy of the manager’s report that was emailed to each board member.

  • He discussed the 2-day schedule for the district that was approved at the previous meeting and asked the board their thoughts on running all the pumps or moving to a 3 day schedule. “How hard do you want me to push the district?”

  • Herman said he would rather wait until the middle of June to change anything rather than gamble and try to guess at the best schedule. 

  • Janzen mentioned that MID is expected to make a decision regarding a “3 week season” at their next board meeting. “They’re out looking for water but no one is selling any. With SGMA they’re sinking any extra water they have into the ground.”

  • Gies asked Aldridge about an email pertaining to the subject

  • Aldridge clarified that Water Wise, run by Sarah Woolf , included in an email through their mailing list that they can’t do water transfers or broker water. The email stated that “there is no surface water to be purchased and if there was a price on it, it would be upwards of $1500 an acre foot.” 

  • Aldridge said that even if you have water banked in a groundwater bank there is so little water in the system to do transfers. She said that one option is to pump water up north from the groundwater banks to get it to Fresno and other areas. She was unsure if that would happen, citing that it may be necessary to get water to growers that need it. “Kings River is at 30 percent. It’s pretty dry.” 

  • Herman suggested that a “class one 3-week run” would maximize MID’s revenue. He also brought up a previous incident where they made zero water deliveries to Class One and instead delivered it to “class two guys” in order to sell for two-three times as much to increase revenue. Herman asked if anyone was concerned about that taking place again. 

  • Geis asked the board if something became available should he accept it? Adding that “It wouldn’t be equal to everybody but there would be a certain area where they could put it to, and everybody else would still have to take well water even though they were subordinates. But I’d have to choose who those people were just out of my own knowledge. So I just don’t want complaints about ‘why do they get surface water and I don’t?’ Well, because you don’t sit behind these desks and try to figure this crap out, that’s why.” 

  • Janzen pointed out that they would still be getting the same amount of water but it would be well water. He complained about the window of opportunity to pump water and hoped the MID would not give them a short time limit. 

  •  Herman asked Aldridge if they should give Geis permission to purchase up to a certain amount if an opportunity arises.

  • Aldridge said she wouldn’t want to do that in a public session because it would “show their hand” in a negotiation. She suggested an emergency meeting would be called in the event of an opportunity arising. 

Geiss resumed his manager’s report.

  • Geiss spoke about an increase in infrastructure issues this year due to new construction and a factory defect for which they are not liable.  

  • He also mentioned that water pumps #20 and #2 are still inoperable. They are hoping to have at least #20 repaired as soon as next week. He also mentioned that pump #23 and #19 are experiencing sand problems. A recycled flush water system that filters the sand will be installed. This will put both pumps out of commission for 2 days to complete the installation. 

  • Geiss said spring water levels measured the deepest drop at 25 feet with an average of 7 feet over all. Geiss mentioned that reporting to SGMA requires that they make progress or risk going on probation. 

There were no questions or public comments for the manager’s report. 

Director Comments

Keven Herman asked that the creation of a capital reserve budget be added onto the next agenda. Aldridge made note of that addition. 

Aldridge adjourned the board meeting and moved on to the GSA meeting. 

Meeting Agenda

1. Public Comment: 

No public comments were made. 

2. Approval of minutes: 

The Board may review and approve the minutes of the March 10, 2021 GSA meeting.

Motion to approve the minutes was made by Phil Janzen, it was seconded by Tony Canales. 

The motion passed unanimously. 

3. Basin coordination: The Board may hear a report from the District GSA’s

representatives regarding the status of the coordination of activities among the GSAs in the Madera Subbasin. 

Aldridge commented that there wasn’t much to report and asked Phil Janzen if he had any updates. He also did not have any updates. 

4. GSP ANNUAL REPORT. The Board may discuss the results of the annual report including recent groundwater level testing undertaken over the entire basin.

Aldridge said that the GSP annual report had just been submitted but has not been circulated yet. 

  • Geis asked about MID and the county eliminating some of the wells they were monitoring.

  • Aldridge mentioned that Chris Montoya was following up with that.

  • Chris Montoya of DWR chimed in to comment. He said that Madera county is not the only GSA that has encountered the monitoring wells being shut down. They were advised to include it into their annual report. 

5. GRANT WRITING. The Board may review, discuss and possibly approve proposals from grant writers in connection with hiring a grant writer for the District GSA. 

Aldridge reiterated that Geis would have more information at the next meeting to address this topic. 

6. Director Comments

There were no Director comments. 

Aldridge said she would get back to everyone about whether the next meeting would be in person. 

Meeting was adjourned at 10:18 a.m. 

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