March 23, 2023 — Friant Water Authority Board

Documented by Josef Sibala

Here’s what you need to know: 

  • During the March 23 meeting, the Friant Water Authority Board of Directors approved the mid-year cost-of-living-adjustment for the fiscal year 2023. The estimated fiscal impact of this option is approximately $25,000 in additional labor costs over what was budgeted for in the fiscal year 2023 approved budget.
  • The board approved the proposed Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Cost Recovery Methodology Policy and directed staff to provide notice of changes to all affected Friant Division contractors and reclamation for the mandatory 60-day review period.
  • The board approved the April 2023 call-for-funds for $618,224 for the third quarter of the fiscal year 2023 general membership budget.
  • The board authorized the execution of Task Order 2 – Friant-Kern Canal System-Wide Capacity Correction Plan Formulation Study for Stantec Consulting Services, not exceeding $795,000. 

Follow-up questions:

  • What will be the outcome of the Friant-Kern Canal System-Wide Capacity Correction Plan Formulation Study?
  • How will the memorandum of understanding related to the Friant-Kern Canal System-Wide Capacity Correction Project be implemented?
  • Will the mid-year cost-of-living-adjustment for the fiscal year 2023 be sustainable?

The Scene

According to its website, Friant Water Authority (Friant) operates and maintains the Friant-Kern Canal and represents its members in federal or state policy, political and operational decisions affecting the water supply of the Central Valley Project’s Friant Division. The goal is to provide dependable, sustainable water from Millerton Reservoir to Friant Contractors.

On Thursday, March. 23, 2023, the meeting was held at 8:30 a.m. in the Bello Vita, 4211 West Goshen Ave., Visalia, CA. 93291. 

Friant Water Authority Board of Directors:

Others Present:

  • Chief Financial Officer Wilson Orvis
  • Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral
  • General Counsel Don Davis
  • Water Resources Manager Ian Buck-Macleod
  • Consultant Mike Villines
  • General Superintendent Chris Hickernell
  • Austin Ewell
  • Executive staff Jason Phillips
  • Christopher Hunter
  • DDavis
  • Doug Jackson
  • Douglas DeFlitch
  • Dyson Schneider
  • Rufino Gonzalez
  • Michael P. Jackson
  • Jason R. Philips
  • Jenifer Evans
  • Katie Duncan
  • Kris Lawrence
  • Maggie Suarez
  • Mia Swenson
  • Ott Moeller
  • Sean Geivet


The board (17-0) unanimously approved the consent agenda as follows:

A. The board approved the minutes of the Board of Directors meeting of March 3, 2023. (Reported by Chairman Jim Erickson) 

B. The board ratified March 2023 bills and accepted the financial reports for February 2023.

(Reported by Chief Financial Officer Wilson Orvis)

The Finance Committee met on March 20 and reviewed the bills for March 2023 and the financial reports for the month ending February 28. There was a quorum at the meeting.

At the March 20 meeting, the Finance Committee acted to recommend that the Board of Directors approve payment of the March 2023 bills of $27,149,330.54 and accept the financial reports for the month ending Feb. 28. 

$853,077.09 (bills) and $214,728.90 (payroll) is chargeable to the FY 2023 Operations, Maintenance and Replacement (OM&R) Budget.

$47,092.92 (bills) and $54,664.64 (payroll) is chargeable to the FY 2023 General Membership Budget.

$69,418.05 is to be recovered under existing grant agreements, while $0 to San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority for forecasted Exchange Contractor deliveries for April (as of the Finance Committee, the SLDMWA bill still needed to be received).

$25,807,383.49 is chargeable to Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project, Phase 1, of which $25,618,000 was the FY23 Q2 quarterly construction payment to the Bureau under the currently approved spending plan.

$102,985.45 are payments to districts for the fiscal years 2020-2022 cost allocation true-up.

The board (17-0) approved the below-mentioned action items.

A. The board approved the mid-year cost-of-living-adjustment for the fiscal year 2023. (Reported by  Chief Financial Officer Wilson Orvis) 

At the Sept. 22, 2022, Board of Directors meeting, the board approved a 5% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for FWA employees, exempting those covered by employment agreements that incorporate scheduled increases. 

At the time, the Consumer Price Index, West – Size B/C (CPI), used by the staff to inform the annual recommendation, identified a year-over-year increase of 8.3%. 

Given the uncertainty regarding whether inflation was to increase or decrease in the current economic environment, the board requested that the Human Resources Committee evaluate the subsequent trend in six months and provide a recommendation, as applicable, to the board at the March 2023 meeting. 

Since the September 2022 meeting, the rate of increase in the fiscal year 2023, compared to the rate in FY 2022 has slowed. 

While there are months where the month-over-month change has decreased, the overall comparison, back to the August 2021 index, has remained above 5%, with February 2023 numbers showing a relative increase of 9.73%. 

At its March 20, 2023 meeting, the Human Resources Committee reviewed the CPI trend and discussed potential options to bring to the board. The fiscal impacts of each option are calculated against the approved budget for FY 2023. As a reminder, the approved FY 2023 budget assumed 7.6% for COLA. 

For each option, separate and combined, no increase in the overall FY 2023 budget is recommended at this time, as it is anticipated that shortfalls in other budget areas should be sufficient to mitigate the overages.

Options discussed and fiscal impact are the following>

1. Mid-Year COLA Adjustment. Implement a mid-year 3.3% COLA adjustment, effective April 1, 2023; for all FWA employees, exempting those employees covered by employment agreements incorporating scheduled increases. 

The estimated fiscal impact of this option is approximately $25,000 in additional labor costs over what was budgeted for in the fiscal year 2023 approved budget.

2. One-time inflation adjustment. Implement a one-time inflation adjustment equivalent to 3.3% of each employee’s salary income between Oct. 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023, for all FWA employees, exempting those employees covered by employment agreements that incorporate scheduled increases. 

The estimated fiscal impact of this option is approximately $25,000 in additional labor costs over what was budgeted in the FY 2023 approved budget.

At the March 20 meeting, the Human Resources Committee reviewed the CPI trend and discussed potential options. The Human Resources Committee should have acted to recommend a specific option or set of options at the meeting.

B. The board (17-0) authorized the execution of the memorandum of understanding regarding coordination, cooperation and cost-sharing on pre construction activities related to the Friant-Kern Canal System-Wide Capacity Correction Project (MOU), subject to Home Boards’ approvals. (Reported by the Chief Financial Officer at Friant Water Authority Wilson Orvis) 

The board authorized the execution of Task Order 2 – Friant-Kern Canal System-Wide Capacity Correction Plan Formulation Study for Stantec Consulting Services in order not to exceed the amount of $795,000, subject to execution of the MOU.

Capacity correction of the Friant-Kern Canal has been studied as part of Part III of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act since before 2010. 

These studies aim to restore the maximum design capacity of the entire FKC. Operating the canal during the wet year of 2017 revealed the severe capacity constraint in the Middle Reach of the FKC (Fifth Avenue Check Structure to Lake Woollomes Check Structure). 

The Middle Reach became the focus of study and subsequent authorization for construction.

Phase 1 of the MRCCP enables the historic delivery capability of the FKC.  

The benefits of Phase 2 of the Middle Reach will rely on moving water into that portion of the system. 

The Draft Recon Study was presented at the November Retreat, which included the primary benefits and costs of restoring the design capacity for areas outside of Phase 1 of the MRCCP. 

The Final Recon Study was provided in January and included cost refinements, expanded discussion on benefits and a sensitivity analysis.

Completing the Plan Formulation Study costs approximately $670,000 and would be paid through an MOU by willing Friant Contractors. 

FWA will conduct a quarterly call-for-funds and invoice for each party based on their relative share of the anticipated expenditures in the next quarter, considering funding on hand from previous call-for-funds. 

Task 3.6 Regional Storage Investigation costs approximately $149,000 and will be paid through the current fiscal year 2023 OM&R budget. 

The fiscal year 2023 OM&R Budget should have included the costs for this study. However, the staff does not recommend action to increase the overall fiscal year OM&R Budget. 

Staff will continue to monitor budget-to-actuals for this line item and the OM&R Budget as a whole every month and, if necessary, recommend an adjustment to the overall OM&R Budget at a later date.

C. The board (17-0) approved the proposed Operations, Maintenance and Replacement (OM&R) Cost Recovery Methodology Policy and directed staff to provide notice of changes to the OM&R Cost Recovery Policy to all affected Friant Division Contractors and Reclamation for the mandatory 60-day review period. (Reported by Chief Financial Officer Wilson Orvis) 

On July 25, 2019, the Board of Directors approved a substantive revision to FWA’s Operations, Maintenance and Replacement (OM&R) Cost Recovery Policy, incorporating contractor comments received during the 60-day comment period. 

The focus of that revision was to update the 25-year rolling average methodology used to calculate each Long-Term Friant-Kern Canal Contractor’s annual OM&R percentage and establish a threshold above which any proposed extraordinary maintenance project would require consideration of potential alternative cost recovery methodologies. 

The current methodology, developed in 1998, set the conveyance fee per acre-foot basis, calculated based on the current year Class 1 O&M water share of O&M Expense (based on the O&M Budget) divided by the 25-year average of Class 1 deliveries on the Friant Kern Canal. 

A substantive update to the methodology calculating conveyance fees for “Other Water” is necessary to reflect current practices and recover an equitable share of OM&R costs. 

The current rate is $11.60/per acre-foot. 

The proposed methodology would include any Warren Act water deliveries for Long-Term Water Delivery Contractors into the existing 25-year rolling average calculation. 

An impact analysis suggests that including these amounts would not substantially increase the OM&R costs for the three affected.

D. The board approved the April 2023 call-for-funds for $618,224 for the third quarter of the fiscal year 2023 general membership budget. (Reported by Chief Financial Officer Wilson Orvis)

At the March 20 meeting, the Finance Committee recommended that the Board of Directors approve the April 2023 call-for-funds for $618,224 for the third quarter of the fiscal year 2023 general membership budget.

General updates and reports include

A. Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project Update – Construction Progress Report and Financial Summary (presented by Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral and General Counsel Don Davis) 

The contractor has worked 421 calendar days as of Feb. 25. Turnout work continued, with work being conducted at Casa Blanca, Teapot Dome, and SID-S1 turnouts. 

At the Deer Creek work area, work continued to pump water out of the new siphon, and the temporary bypass berms were replaced from the January flood.

A canal embankment was placed between Avenue 112 and Avenue 104 and between Road 192 and the project’s end. 

At the Avenue 88 siphon, work included installing reinforcing bars and pouring structural concrete. 

At the Avenue 112 siphon, work included installing reinforcing bars and placing structural concrete. 

At the Road 192 siphon, work included installing reinforcing bars, formwork and placing structural concrete in several wall and slab sections.

Road closures for Avenue 88 and 128 siphons remain in effect, and a temporary shoofly remains at Road 192. Terra Bella Avenue is now closed to traffic.

Biological construction monitoring continued, and no nesting bird buffers were in place. To date, no evidence has been found to indicate the presence of kit foxes or burrowing owls within the work area.

There were two change orders this month totaling $597,944. The largest change order was for adjustments to the canal earthwork quantities.

B. Water Operations Update (reported by Water Resources Manager Ian Buck-Macleod) 

Despite a below-normal first three weeks of February, the month ended above normal for the San Joaquin and Tulare Lake Basins

So far this month, the Sierras have received 12-20 inches, with statewide precipitation in March ranging from 160% to 290% of normal from north to south. 

Precipitation ranges from 136% to 212% of average, and SWE from 180% to 280%. Another storm is occurring this week, bringing another 3-5 inches in the central and southern Sierras and about half as much in the north. 

These storms are anticipated to have low freezing levels, resulting in less runoff than in recent events. 

Before this week, precipitation in the Upper San Joaquin watershed is more than 230% of the average. Snow-water equivalent (SWE) ranges from 200% to 300% of the average, with all stations well exceeding April 1 averages. 

Beyond this week, long-range forecast models continue to indicate wet weather adding another 3 inches of precipitation at the peaks. 

Forecasts for both reservoirs have risen dramatically over the month. 

The current CNRFC Millerton 50% forecast would result in a water year inflow that is 260% of average and the wettest year on record exceeding 1983. 

The CNRFC Shasta, 50% forecast, would result in an average water year. 

Unimpaired inflow to Shasta this year needs to be 4.0 MAF or greater to avoid a Shasta Critical year, and current 90% forecasts show that it should well exceed that. Relatedly, on Feb. 15, Reclamation initially determined Shasta’s noncritical year type.

CVP North-of-Delta (NOD) reservoirs have been increasing in response to the storms. Storage levels for this week based on the 15-year average – Trinity, Shasta and Folsom are 58%, 107%, and 112% of the average, respectively. 

Releases from Folsom and Oroville were as high as 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and 35,000 cfs, respectively, but have since reduced to 12,000 cfs and 15,000 cfs. 

Reclamation sent notice that this is not a Shasta Critical year and agricultural service contract allocation is 35%. 

The SWP updated their Table A allocation to 35% on Feb. 22 (from 30%). Internal projections of upstream operations were updated with DWR’s latest inflow forecasts. 

Shasta storage is trending better with recent storms, and the prior 50% projection from Reclamation is now 90%. 

The current 90% forecast shows Shasta topped over 4.1 MAF by the end of April. Folsom storage shows the recent spikes in storage due to flood control operations and trending on the 50% forecast.

C. External Affairs Activities. (Reported by Consultant Mike Villines and Chief of External Affairs Johnny Amaral) 

The budget deficit continues to balloon as California has seen a decline in Personal Income Tax (PIT) and corporate tax payments. 

The governor’s January budget anticipated using the state reserves to cover the deficit, allowing him to avoid announcing cuts. 

However, it seems clear now that the $15-$17 billion reserve will be eaten up, and a significant deficit of at least $10-$15 billion will exist. 

Cuts in future growth, not real current-level programs or infrastructure cuts, can be expected. If things worsen financially, the board can anticipate potential cuts to programs and infrastructure funding.

The governor has called for a mental health bond to focus on providing housing and mental health services for California’s homeless population. 

Additionally, CTA and education coalition members are sponsoring a K-12 education bond. The Legislature is looking to put a flood bond (there are three versions out now, but the Legislature will coalesce behind one by the summer). An affordable housing bond is being considered too. All of these bonds would be on the November 2024 ballot.

With the concept of an oil severance tax not palatable to the Legislature, Newsom has retooled his request for a tax on the oil industry into a “penalty” without teeth.

While there are over 2,500 new bills this session, many are still in “spot bill” form and will have to be amended before it will be learned what those bills will do. 

These amendments will be happening soon. Relative to water, there are no major bills that have us concerned. But SGMA implementation and groundwater over-drafting are still a big focus of the state, so we will need to watch closely. 

Additionally, we can anticipate flood-related legislation, especially if flooding occurs as anticipated this spring.

Biden Administration Cabinet secretaries will kick off appropriations season by testifying on Capitol Hill to defend President Biden’s fiscal year 2024 budget request as Republicans mount a counteroffensive to increased spending in the budget request. 

The annual ritual of budget hearings does not mean the appropriations process will proceed smoothly. 

With the new Republican majority in the House and the 51-49 Democratic majority in the Senate, finding consensus across party lines to enact spending bills for FY 2024 will not be easy or impossible. 

But Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Washington) and ranking member Susan Collins (RME) have vowed to mark up all FY 2024 bills in committee and move them across the Senate floor, which would require at least 60 bipartisan votes to accomplish. 

In the past, the Senate has needed a better track record in moving spending bills, as last year, they only marked up three of the 12 spending measures.

The Senate did not pass a single appropriations bill for FY 2023 (the omnibus spending bill did, however, pass late in the lame-duck session).

As budget hearings crank up this week, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-California) is pressing President Biden to resume talks on a deal to lift the statutory debt limit. 

The debt limit must be raised by summer, by most expert projections, and Republicans are pushing for spending cuts and other fiscal changes as part of any debt limit increase, a condition Democrats, including President Biden, have rejected.

The Biden Administration’s response to the recent banking turmoil amid the biggest American bank failure since the global financial crisis in 2008 caused the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to withdraw roughly $40 billion of cash, enough to drop the U.S. Treasury’s cash reserves to $208 billion, its lowest level since December 2021. 

Analysts have warned that the federal government will likely exhaust extraordinary measures that would allow it to continue paying debts sometime in the third quarter if the debt ceiling is not lifted or suspended.

Twelve House lawmakers from the six Basin states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have formed a new caucus focused on the Colorado River Basin, where more than two decades of drought threaten water supplies and hydropower production. 

The Wyoming congressional delegation has yet to join. The caucus is jointly led by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colorado) and Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Arizona). 

In the Senate, Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) has likewise been convening an informal group of Colorado River Basin senators to work on Basin issues. 

According to scientific data, the Colorado River supplies water to 40 million individuals (about twice the population of New York). It irrigates 5.5 million acres of agricultural land but is experiencing the worst drought in 1,000 years. 

Shrinking reservoirs, according to 100-year-old multi-state compact and various court directives, known as the “law of the river,” now sit at record low levels, jeopardizing power production at the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams and endangering water deliveries downstream. 

The Interior Department is reviewing how to update the 2007 Colorado River Interim Guidelines, which dictate how much water is withdrawn from each reservoir based on its current surface elevation. A draft is expected to be released this April.

The Biden Administration announced it proposes a federal rulemaking setting new drinking water limits for toxic “forever” chemicals known as PFAS, estimated to contaminate 200 million Americans’ drinking water. 

If finalized, the regulation would spark the first major upgrade to the safety of the nation’s drinking water in three decades. 

The proposal is an aggressive move in response to what health experts and community activists say is a long-overdue effort to begin regulating widespread contamination from PFAS, which is linked with cancer, reproductive problems and a wide array of other health ailments. 

But the agency acknowledges that the $772 million annual cost to meet the new standards would, at least initially, be borne by American households through higher water charges. 

Under the proposed regulation, the limit for the likely carcinogen PFOA and equally notorious PFOS would be four parts per trillion, as low as labs can reliably detect and measure. 

The proposed rule would require water utilities to treat their drinking water supplies to essentially no detectable levels of the two chemicals in the class of some 12,000 substances. 

EPA’s new proposal also includes a surprise provision aimed at limiting four other chemicals the industry shifted to using after the PFOA and PFOS phase-out, which chemical companies argued were safer. Still, federal scientists have concluded severe dangers of their own.

A federal judge in Texas has put the Biden Administration’s newly finalized rule defining “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act on hold in two states, while many are calling for the rule to stay nationwide until a much-anticipated Supreme Court ruling is decided later this year.

Judge Jeffrey Brown handed the states of Texas and Idaho a victory in their fight to head off the new WOTUS rule. 

Two separate lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas had argued that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers should have to wait for the upcoming Sackett v. EPA decision before implementing the new regulation. 

State officials brought one, and one by industry members. However, the judge denied the industry associations’ plea to stop the rule nationwide. 

The Supreme Court’s upcoming Sackett decision could potentially limit the reach of the Clean Water Act, in conflict with the Biden WOTUS rule. That decision is expected by early this summer.

D. Operations and Management Report. (General Superintendent Chris Hickernell) 

Operations Department held tailgate safety meetings in the Lindsay yard, and outlying field office staff attended the Canal and Maintenance meeting. 

Friant staff received environmental training on endangered species completing the annual review. 

Delano, Lindsay and Orange Cove Foremen held tailgate safety meetings discussing safety hazards and precautions associated with employees’ work assignments. 

Delano Foreman and crew discussed good housekeeping in and around maintenance buildings.

The Friant staff has worked 2,318 days without a lost-time injury accident. The Friant staff has worked 384 days without a liability accident.

Staff worked with Stantec on the water-quality monitor program. Staff continued working with the County of Tulare and Stantec for middle-reach plan reviews.

Managed new construction projects being proposed for the upcoming middle reach outage. 

Managed system leaks in the construction zone and met with bureau and contractor representatives on system tie-ins. Staff participated in Southern Contractors’ water operations coordination meetings. 

Weekly staff meetings with the COO and Operations Supervisor were ongoing.

Staff worked on several personnel items, including annual reviews, policy conformance and other matters. The general superintendent conducted staff meetings with the division foreman and operations supervisor.

Delano and Lindsay’s maintenance staff continued the application of Roundup Custom as part of the annual weed control program along the canal right-of-way for post-emergence control of weeds. 

Orange Cove staff continued the application of Roundup Pro as part of the annual weed control. Delano maintenance staff continued the application of Roundup Pro Concentrate as part of the annual weed-control program.

Lindsay and Delano’s maintenance staff began the annual application of Diuron as a preemergent for spring and summer weed control. 

Orange Cove maintenance staff hand-cleared vegetation around canal structures.

Orange Cove staff continued the application of diphacinone to the canal right-of-way to control California ground squirrels. 

Lindsay’s maintenance staff began the application of Roundup PRO for post-emergence control of weeds along the FKC right of way. Lindsay’s maintenance staff continued rodent control and damage repair.

Lindsay maintenance staff, due to heavy rainfall and severe flooding, all drains had to be cleared repeatedly because of trash and debris. 

Delano maintenance staff continues their structure gate maintenance for the year; Repairs Radial and Slide gates such as oil leaks, gearboxes, motor couplers, wire rope inspection, etc. 

Staff will lube all grease points and wire ropes, repair all metalwork, security fence repairs, deck cleaning, touch-up painting, Buoy ball and wire rope replacement, and debris removal.

Orange Cove maintenance staff continued to clean silt and debris from several cross-drainages filled after heavy rain. Orange Cove maintenance staff completed the construction of the measuring structure. 

Orange Cove staff continued structure inspections and annual maintenance. Orange Cove staff continued road-patching activities.

Orange Cove staff began hauling materials off the embankment from the recent desilt project. 

Lindsay’s maintenance staff repaired the plumbing on a sump pump to divert flood water into the FKC. 

Delano staff continues embankment maintenance to upper and lower embankments and around structures such as blockhouses, turnouts, bridge abutments, utility tractors, motor graders and earth-moving equipment. 

Embankment maintenance will prevent erosion to the inside/outside banks, roads, gate structures and concrete liners by backfilling eroded areas, compacting and grading materials. 

Lindsay’s maintenance staff removed trash illegally dumped in several locations along FKC. Orange Cove staff continued bridge maintenance activities.

Staff completed panel replacement and liner sealant repairs; 2.5 panels were replaced due to separation and erosion at MP144 and MP128. 

Lindsay’s maintenance staff filled potholes at various locations along FKC.

Delano, Lindsay maintenance staff continued to perform routine maintenance and repairs, yard cleaning, vehicle/equipment repairs, facility improvements and office duties. 

Delano staff continues reverse flow pumping, and maintenance requires installing generators, fuel tanks, electrical line and debris screens. 

Delano and Lindsay’s staff continue installing bollard guard posts to prevent vehicles and heavy equipment from damaging FWA structures. 

Delano, Lindsay and Orange Cove maintenance staff continued the removal of illegally dumped trash and removed debris from gate structures to the local solid waste/recycling facility.

Lindsay’s maintenance staff placed pumps at various locations to relieve flooding. 

Delano and Orange Cove maintenance staff continued to repair and install security fencing to prevent public access from entering the Friant-Kern Canal right-of-way and structured areas. 

Orange Cove staff completed inspections on all the bridges and documented them.

Delano staff continue Painting Bar gates, bollard posts, guard railings, warning signs, liner markers, structures, security fence wings, electrical panels, and block house doors.

Staff reviewed and supplied comments to the 50% plan set for the proposed Lewis Creek Recharge Project.

Operations Staff during January delivered 201,905 acre-feet. Total water diverted year-to-date to FKC Contractors is 556,187 acre-feet. 

Reported sump pump deliveries of 264 acre-feet and a year-to-date total of 376 acre-feet.

E. San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Update. (Reported by Austin Ewell)

The Water Blueprint for the San Joaquin Valley (Blueprint) is a nonprofit group of stakeholders working to better understand our shared goals for water solutions that support environmental stewardship with the needs of communities and industries throughout the San Joaquin Valley. 

F. San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority Update (reported by Executive Staff Jason Phillips)

Friant Water Authority staff engaged with San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority (SLDMWA) via the Finance and Administration Committee (FAC) meeting on March 6, and the Board of Directors (BOD) Meeting on March 9, a Special Workshop on March 13, as well as additional meetings throughout the month. 

There were four items associated with SLDMWA over the last month that pertain to FWA operations: 

  • San Joaquin River Releases to Mendota Pool
  • From April through July 2022, Reclamation released flows bypassing Friant Dam down the San Joaquin River to the Mendota Pool to meet Exchange Contractor demand.
  • FWA and SLDMWA are continuing to have discussions regarding how these releases are to be treated under the memorandum of understanding between FWA and SLDMWA
  • Water Year (WY) 2023 Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Rates
  • SLDMWA approved initial WY 2023 rates at the Feb. 9 meeting based upon the approved OM&R Budget, an assumed 10% South-of-Delta Agriculture allocation, 60% Municipal and Industrial (M&I) allocation, 100% refuge allocation and 100% Exchange / Water Rights Contractor allocation. 
  • After SLDMWA’s Feb. 9 Board of Directors meeting, Reclamation announced the Water Year 2023 initial allocations, providing a 35% South-of-Delta Agriculture allocation. 
  • The SLDMWA Board of Directors approved updated rates for WY 2023 at their March 9 meeting.
  • FWA will be updating the contractor cost projection model to reflect these changes and will be sharing them with the District General Managers soon.
  • Workshop(s) regarding Minimum Participation in Rate Setting Procedures
  • FWA has been bringing up a long, unresolved issue about SLDWMA’s practices regarding calculating minimum participation for cost recovery. 
  • At issue is SLDMWA’s practice of including and billing 25% minimum participation amounts for South-of-Delta Agricultural contractors only during the final accountings for each water year and not including those amounts in the rates established during the water year. 
  • The impact has been in dry and critical years that ratepayers (including FWA) end up paying higher rates than they should based on SLDMWA’s Cost Recovery Policy. 
  • SLDMWA held a workshop on March 13 to discuss the issue and walk through the language in the Cost Recovery Policy, the procedures used by staff in previous years, and the potential impact of inclusion in the rates to SLDWMA’s cash flow needs during the year. 
  • FWA hopes this and future workshops will resolve the outstanding issue
  • Environmental Draft Assessment / Initial Study for the Delta-Mendota Canal Subsidence Correction Project
  • On Feb. 13, the Bureau of Reclamation and the SLDMWA released the “Draft Environmental Assessment/Initial Study (EA/IS) for the Delta Mendota Canal Subsidence Correction Project” for a 30-day public review. 
  • As the single largest OM&R rate-payer of the SLDMWA, FWA has a vested interest in understanding the scope, beneficiaries and impacts of this project on FWA costs and water operations. 
  • FWA’s review comments identified various areas of concern requiring further analysis, including
  1. Assumptions regarding future subsidence impact the Delta Mendota Canal (DMC)
  2. Potential impacts to Settlement Contractor deliveries during construction due to drawdrowns or possible dewatering of the DMC, which in turn could result in a call on Friant water supplies and impacts to the San Joaquin River Restoration Program if releases from Friant Dam were required during construction. 

Closed sessions are as follows:

A. Conference with legal counsel – existing litigation (Government Code section 54956.9(d)(1)) 

1. California Natural Resources Agency v. Raimondo, United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Case No. 1:20-CV-00426-DAD-EPG 

2. Tehama Colusa Canal Authority v. California Dept. of Water Resources, Sacramento County Superior Court, Case No. 34-2021-80003665-CU-WM-GDS 

3. NRDC v. Rogers, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento Division), Case No. 88-CV-1658-JAM-GGH. 

B. Conference with legal counsel – anticipated litigation (Government Code section 54956.9(d)(2)) Significant Exposure to Litigation: Four potential matters. 

C. Conference with legal counsel – initiation Of litigation (Government Code section 54956.9(d)(4)) Initiation of Litigation: Two potential cases

The meeting lasted until 1 p.m. The next board meeting will be on Thursday, April 27 at 8:30 a.m. 

If you believe anything in these notes is inaccurate, please email us at with “Correction Request” in the subject line.

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