After years of neglect, numerous measures to make sure much needed and overdue repairs of the Friant-Kern Canal are fully funded continue to be introduced.
Congressman Jim Costa and Senator Dianne Feinstein were the latest to introduce legislation on Thursday that would help fund repairs for the Friant-Kern Canal. Along with Congressman Josh Harder they introduced a bill that has bipartisan support, the Canal Conveyance Restoration Act that would provide more than $800 million for repairs to three San Joaquin Valley canals, including the Friant-Kern Canal, along with restoring salmon runs in the San Joaquin River. Included is $653 million for the repairs of the Valley canals.
Costa stated the restoration of the canals is critical to improving California's drought resiliency and would help farmers comply with groundwater pumping limits due to the state's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
“It's past the time to repair our aging water infrastructure,” Costa said. “With another drought here, we must act now to repair our broken canals and develop long-term plans for future delivery of water to our communities.”
The bill provides funding to restore the Delta-Mendota Canal, the Friant-Kern Canal and the California Aqueduct. “All critical to deliver water to our valley farms,” Costa said. We know water is the lifeblood for California and the foundation of our agricultural economy. Failing to act on this issue is no longer an option.”
Overpumping of groundwater has caused the water level of the Friant-Kern Canal to decline, known as subsidence. This has decreased a key portion, much of it located in Southeastern Tulare County, of the canal's conveyance, its ability to deliver water, by as much as 60 percent.
“A severe lack of water is causing land to sink throughout California. One harmful effect of this subsidence is the damage it has caused to canals throughout the San Joaquin Valley, significantly reducing their capacity to carry water,” Feinstein said. “However, we can restore that capacity if we work together at the federal, state and local levels, ensuring that there will be more water for farmers and to combat subsidence.”
Feinstein added the bill isn't just for farmers but would also help restore salmon runs vital to the Chinook salmon and the fishing industry.
The bill authorizes $180 million to restore salmon runs on the San Joaquin River. The funding is for fish passage structures, levees and other improvements that will allow the threatened Central Valley Spring-run Chinook salmon to swim freely upstream from the ocean to the Friant Dam.
“I am pleased to work with my California colleagues to bring new federal investment to repair our state’s aqueducts and canals, which have fallen into disrepair after years of neglect and land subsidence from groundwater over pumping,” said Congressman John Garamendi, another sponsor of the bill. “All told, our bill would provide the largest federal investment in California’s statewide water infrastructure in decades.
“Beyond just repairing existing infrastructure, we must make forward-looking investments to modernize California’s water supply to meet our state’s future water needs and become more resilient to climate change. I plan to continue working with my colleagues in California’s Congressional delegation to do just that.
“Whether you’re a Republican or Democrat you need reliable, affordable water,” Harder said. “This bill will do a ton of good to ensure our Central Valley water infrastructure is set up for long term success, and that helps everyone in our community.”
The State Department of Water Resources and the Federal Central Valley Project have recently announced reduced water allocations.The state has announced a five percent allocation of 210,266 acre feet of water distributed among 29 contractors who serve more than 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland.
The CVP has still held with its initial allocation of 20 percent for Class I in the Friant Division which is 160,00 acre feet.
“This year’s low water allocations for the communities and ecosystems that depend on the water provided by the Authority’s member agencies only reinforces the need to focus investments in two key areas – increased water conveyance and increased water storage,” said Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority. “Increasing our resilience to climate change demands that we move water in the years when it’s available and store it for the droughts we know will come, like this year. T
“he Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act continues the historical local-state-federal partnership that built California’s water system which provides national food security, improves our regional and statewide economy, and protects ecosystems and habitats that are critically important to the Pacific Flyway.”
“The Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act represents a holistic, statewide approach to restoring the capacity of the statewide and regional canals that deliver water for people, farms and the environment. Doing so will improve climate resiliency, create and protect local jobs, and protect disadvantaged communities,” said Jennifer Pierre, General Manager of the State Water Contractors. “As we seek to increase our resiliency to climate change, restoring the capacity of California’s water conveyance systems will help to secure our state’s limited water resources, both now and into the future.
California State Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger), whose district includes Porterville, has also introduced corresponding legislation in the state legislature to provide an equivalent amount of state funding to restore the canals, including the Friant-Kern Canal.
“Senator Feinstein and Congressman Costa deeply understand the importance of food security and safe drinking water for farmworker communities. The introduction of the Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act further proves that,” Hurtado said. “The Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act and my state bill — the California’s Water Resiliency Act — are crucial complementary steps to securing food to feed our nation and to provide for the workers that sacrifice to make our farms go. It has been an honor these past two years to work side-by-side with these longtime friends of farmers, farmworkers and the communities they live in.”
Costa's and Hurtado's bill would authorize a one-third federal cost share for restoring canal capacity. Hurtado's state bill would authorize one-third of the cost to be paid for by the state, and the remaining one-third would be paid for by local agencies.
As far as the Friant-Kern Canal a settlement reach between the Friant Water Authority, which oversess the canal, and the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency goes a long way in meeting that local share.
ETGSA has agreed to pay as much as $125 to $200 million for damage done to the canal by overpumping of groundwater.
As part of this year's federal appropriations spending package, $200 million has already been allocated for repairs of the canal beginning this year. The repairs will be done on a 33-mile stretch of the canal from between Lindsay and Strathmore to north Kern County.
Costa's and Feinstein's bill allocations $180 million for the Friant-Kern Canal; $183.9 million for the Delta Mendota Canal; $289.5 millino for the California Aqueduct; and $180 million to restore salmon runs on the San Joaquin River.
Funding from the bill may not be used to build new surface storage or raise existing reservoirs. Funding also can't be used to enlarge capacity of canals except for a temporary increase to deal with future anticipated subsidence.