Friant Water Authority welcomes new leaders

The Friant Water Authority swears in Jim Erickson as chairman, Rick Borges as vice chair and Josh Pitigliano as secretary treasurer at the Jan. 30 board meeting

Kern County – The Friant Water Authority will see three members move into leadership positions on its board of directors.

Three members of the Friant Water Authority (FWA) will assume new leadership roles on the board of directors during a Jan. 30 board meeting. Jim Erickson of Madera Irrigation District was elected as the new chairman. He will serve alongside Rick Borges of Tulare Irrigation District as vice chair and Josh Pitigliano of the Lower Tule River Irrigation District as secretary treasurer. All three additions to the board bring knowledge and personal history of operating their own family farms to their new positions. 

“As a director representing farmers who receive their Friant Division water supplies from the Madera Canal, I’m moved by the board’s decision to elect me as chairman,” Erickson said. “Their confidence in my ability to provide leadership on behalf of all Friant contractors regardless of how they receive their supply from Millerton Lake, underscores the strength and unity of the Friant family.”

The FWA is responsible for the 152-mile Friant-Kern canal that supplies water to more than 1 million acres of farmland and 250,000 residents in the San Joaquin Valley. The farmland typically includes major crops including alfalfa, corn, grains, grapes and vegetables according to the FWA website. 

Erickson brings more than 40 years of experience in the agricultural field to the table. He currently runs his family’s farming operations with his sons. He is also a second-generation director for the Madera Irrigation District. He was born, raised and still lives on the original home ranch his great-grandfather bought in 1924 in Madera. 

As for Borges, he also previously served as a director for the Friant Water Users Authority, FWA’s predecessor, and serves as a director for the Tulare Irrigation Company, Kaweah and St. Johns Rivers Association, and Kaweah Basin Water Quality Association. Borges is a fourth-generation farmer in Tulare, and his son Greg is the fifth generation working on the family’s farm. 

Pitigliano’s previous experience includes previously serving as chairman of the Tulare County Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee and later as a director on the Tulare County Farm Bureau board. He is a fourth-generation farmer and works alongside his father and two brothers. Their diversified farm and farm management business is spread across multiple irrigation districts. 

Two additional heavy hitters with the FWA will remain in their advisory positions, Cliff Loefler of Lindsay/Strathmore Irrigation District and vice chair Edwin Camp of Arvin-Edison Water Storage District. According to Jason Phillips, chief executive officer for the FWA, the leadership of both Loefler and Camp was crucial to the success of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. The project was created after decades of groundwater overdraft near the Friant-Kern Canal have caused land subsidence that restricts the canal’s ability to deliver water.

“Directors Loefler and Camp presided over some of the most exciting but tumultuous times in the Friant division’s history,” Phillips said. “[They] also kept us united during the calls on water stored in Millerton Lake by the exchange contractors. We were also fortunate to have director Erickson as part of that leadership group, and are likewise grateful he will return as chairman.”

According to the Water Education Foundation, the Friant-Kern Canal is part of the federal Central Valley Project designed as a gravity-fed facility and does not rely on pumps to move water.  It is part of the Friant Division Project that impounds water from the San Joaquin River in Millerton Lake behind Friant Dam, 10 miles northeast of Fresno to the fertile farmland throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

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