Executive Director of Friant Water Authority Jason Phillips welcomed a group of 300+ attendees to the first Annual Meeting last Tuesday night. Board Chairman Kent Stephens also gave opening remarks speaking to the steps Friant has taken in the last couple years and the need for continued unity. Phillips and his team spoke to several important issues including:
- Snow Survey Technology – Friant’s program, which calculates snow pack in the mountains, has provided impressive data which other government agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation, are utilizing. As of now it appears 2.1 million acre feet are in the mountains.
- California Water Fix – Otherwise known at the Twin Tunnels, this project is worth looking at but will not be on the forefront of Friant’s priorities. They would first need to calculate the benefits that the project would bring to Friant water users.
- Temperance JPA – Friant has signed a letter with other water interests to demonstrate a collaboration to help the Temperance Flat Dam project go forward in its process with the California Water Commission. Phillips stated this dam would not fix all of our water supply problems, it is but one piece of the pie.
- Federal Legislation – Rep. Valadao’s H.R. 23 is being researched by Friant staff and there is agreement that changes need to happen at the federal level regarding equity. Phillips spoke more to the need to change the regulatory agencies at the foundation level. There are too many examples of collaborative efforts with real solutions stopped in their tracks because of a lawsuit by an activist group.
- San Joaquin River Restoration Program – Phillips acknowledged that the settlement was a business decision and any efforts to get out of it would be handled as a business decision as well.
Friant also announced they would begin a state and federal PAC of their own. The first fundraiser would be a tribute golf tournament to Mark Watte. Phillips spoke to the need to “reclaim” water. It is not as if thousands of acres of land have recently been placed into production, it is a matter of water being taken away. As 3 million acre feet have been given to the smelt and salmon, there is nothing to show for it. It is not sustainable for Friant to continue running at a 1-2+ million acre feet deficit year after year.