Statement from FWA CEO on Announcement of 2018 CVP Water Allocations

The following statement is from Jason Phillips, Chief Executive Officer of Friant Water Authority, on the 2018 Central Valley Project water allocations announced by the Bureau of Reclamation on February 20, 2018:

Today the Bureau of Reclamation announced that Friant Division contractors would only be receiving a 30 percent allocation of Class 1 water supplies for 2018 – a decision which was not unexpected. In the announcement, the Bureau cited the need to be conservative given that the 2018 Water Year has already been far drier than normal. We understand their hesitation to allocate more water given this year’s hydrology, and we appreciate that this is a preliminary allocation that we hope might be updated if conditions change. More than 1.3 million acres on the San Joaquin Valley’s Eastside are sustained by some portion of Class 1 supplies, and 2018 looks to be very difficult for its farms and communities.

Despite our anticipation that Friant contractors would receive a low allocation this year, we are still glad to see that the Agricultural Contractors South of the Delta are receiving an early allocation, meaning that Friant supplies will not be called upon by the Bureau for meeting obligations under the San Joaquin River Exchange Contract, as occurred in 2014 and 2015.

However, what most concerns us about 2018 is the likelihood that water users throughout the Valley facing unavailable surface supplies will once again be forced to ramp up groundwater pumping, which will exacerbate the already-severe subsidence in the Valley including along the Friant-Kern Canal. Portions of the canal have already lost about 60 percent of their designed conveyance capacity due to subsidence largely caused by water users outside of the Friant Division. Conveyance capacity problems in the San Joaquin Valley were a major problem in 2017, one of the wettest years on record, when 300,000 acre-feet of water went undelivered because of the Friant-Kern Canal restrictions. Also last year, contractors that rely on water through the Cross Valley Canal near Bakersfield didn’t receive any of their water at all because canal subsidence problems made it physically impossible to deliver their water. This is a dire problem likely made worse this year with the low allocations we heard about today.

The contrast between 2018 and 2017 also underscores the need for additional storage throughout California. Had storage projects that were recommended almost 20 years ago been constructed by now, almost all CVP contractors would be much closer to a full supply this year. In the future, if weather conditions continue to vacillate between ever-increasing extremes on a year-to-year basis, the flexibility to store additional water will allow our communities in the San Joaquin Valley to continue to thrive and prosper.

Finally, it might seem sensible that the low allocations are merely a result of drought conditions.  What is not being made clear in today’s announcement is that the need to comply with dysfunctional state and federal water regulations is also a contributing factor to the low allocations, and ensures that surplus water stored during 2017 cannot be used to offset the pain we’re experiencing in 2018. As long as regulators focus solely on the failed strategy of holding back water from water users and then releasing more water into the ocean to support species who likely need more comprehensive recovery measures, we will continue to squander opportunities to operate our water projects for the benefit of the vast majority of California.

Contact: Alex Biering,, 916-628-0431

Friant Water Authority CEO Testifies Before U.S. Senate on Benefits of Transferring Title of Federal Facilities

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Friant Water Authority (FWA) Chief Executive Officer Jason Phillips provided expert testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power. Phillips testified during a hearing to examine the Bureau of Reclamation’s title transfer process.

Phillip’s testimony focused on how transferring title ownership of Federal facilities to non-federal agencies such as FWA could benefit both water users and taxpayers alike. Title transfer of the Friant-Kern Canal – paid for by Friant Division contractors – would provide a critical asset water users could use to secure financial resources for major investments, such as addressing the severe subsidence problem plaguing southern portions of the canal.

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“In other words, transferring title of the Friant Kern Canal to the Authority would not and likely could not, change the current operation of the facility, or saddle the Federal taxpayer with the cost of building the Canal – already repaid by Friant water users – or deprive the government of the revenues that the Canal will generate into the future. Instead, with a title transfer, Federal costs would decrease while the Authority’s ability to protect the original Federal investment in the project would increase,” said Phillips.

Phillips urged Congress to introduce legislation that facilitates title transfers in a way that would both safeguard the public and simplify the process, which many non-federal entities consider too burdensome to undertake.


“The problem is that the current title transfer process remains lengthy, overly complex, and costly for the non-federal parties. Time, cost, and uncertainty are powerful disincentives to undertaking a title transfer effort. Congress should act to appropriately focus the scope and implementation of permitting as they are applied to Reclamation title transfers,” said Phillips.

Phillips' written testimony is available here.

An archived video of Phillips' testimony is available at

FWA is a joint-powers authority formed in 2004 by a majority of the water agencies receiving water from the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project. Its primary purposes are to operate and maintain the Friant-Kern Canal and to serve the information and representation needs of its member agencies.

Contact: Alex Biering,, 916-628-0431

Orientation Tour of Temperance Flat Dam Site

MILLERTON LAKE, FRIANT CA.  What might have appeared at first glance as a group of friends enjoying an early fall day on Millerton Lake, was actually an important orientation tour set up by Friant Water Authority (FWA) staff. The guests that day were Tim Quinn, Executive Director of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), Jeff Rieker, Operations Manager of the Central Valley Operations Office, Bureau of Reclamation, and Michael Jackson, Area Manager of the South-Central California Area Office, Bureau of Reclamation. The goals of the day’s activities were to one, visit the location for the proposed Temperance Flat Dam, thus the boat; and two, provide an orientation of facilities along the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam and an introduction to the agencies who operate those facilities.

Heading toward proposed Temperance Flat Dam site

Tim Quinn (2nd from left) and Michael Jackson (3rd from left) get the lowdown from Bill Swanson

The proposed TFR Project would be a new reservoir, formed by constructing a new dam within the footprint of the existing Millerton Lake. The TFR would provide an additional 1.26 MAF of water storage capacity on the San Joaquin River that would manage water supplies stored from inflow that exceeds the operational capabilities of Millerton Lake. When lake levels are adequate the best way to visit the proposed dam site is by boat. Representing FWA on the tour was Jason Phillips, CEO, Jeff Payne (Director of Water Policy), Bill Luce and Bill Swanson (consultants). Michael Cervantes, Regional Affairs Representative for ACWA was on hand as well.

The group got a first-hand look at the future location of Temperance Flat Dam, as well as a rundown on how the project would operate in conjunction with Friant Dam. The organization Mr. Quinn leads, ACWA, is a statewide association whose 430 local public water agency members are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California.

Jason Phillips and Tim Quinn praised the success of the Temperance Flat trip

Seeing the proposed dam site is really important. Providing these ACWA and Reclamation managers with some of the proposed operational details of how Temperance Flat would work is also critical to everyone’s understanding of how important this project is to the State.
— Jason Phillips
It was exciting to see this project up close. ACWA and Friant worked together closely to include storage in Prop. 1, which was passed by voters in 2014. Thanks to that hard work, the California Water Commission is poised in 2018 to allocate $2.7 billion to CALFED storage projects like Temperance Flat and perhaps others.
— Tim Quinn

Bill Swanson, Jeff Rieker, Michael Cervantes, Tim Quinn, Jason Phillips and Jeff Payne

The second part of the tour took place along the San Joaquin River, and was intended to provide an orientation of facilities along the San Joaquin River below Friant Dam and an introduction to the agencies who operate those facilities. Presentations at these facilities included information from Gerald Hatler (California Department of Fish and Wildlife); Reggie Hill (Lower San Joaquin Levee District); Randy Houk (Columbia Canal Company); and John Wiersma and Palmer McCoy (San Luis Canal Company).