A major step has been taken in providing funding for Central Valley water needs, including much needed repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.
The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has approved H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. The legislative package would provide $1.5 trillion for the nation’s infrastructure needs. Included in the bill is funding for Central Valley water needs and Friant-Kern Canal repairs.
The package is expected to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives next week. The package would then need to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump.
The package includes two bills introduced by Rep. T.J. Cox-D: H.R. 5347, the Disadvantaged Community Drinking Wanter Assistance Act, which would provide $100 million for clean water projects for small, low-income communities in the Western U.S. that are suffering from tainted drinking water. The bill increases the size of communities that could qualify for the funding such as Delano.
The package also includes H.R. 5316, the Move Water Now Act, which would provide $200 million to repair the Friant-Kern Canal and $200 million for river related restoration infrastructure.
Congress is also considering $71 million for the Friant-Kern Canal as part of the 2021 fiscal year Energy and Water Appropriations bill. That funding for the Friant-Kern Canal was requested by the Department of Interior.
That funding would allow for 3,000 acre-feet/ day to be restored to address the issue of the declining water level of the canal. The funding would also increase annual average surface water delivery from the canal by 8,000 acre feet.
“When I joined Congress in January 2019, I promised I would do everything in my power to bring water to the Central Valley. We’re one step closer to delivering on that promise,” Cox said. “Now, two Central Valley water priorities are part of the largest infrastructure package in a generation. One will help cities like Huron, where families are paying $119 a month for water that doesn’t meet disinfection standards. The other, the Move Water Now Act, will help fix the Friant-Kern Canal, which is a critical facility for delivering water to farmers and families on the Eastside of the Valley.”
The Moving Forward Act has support from Delano Councilmember Grace Vallejo, Wasco City Councilmember Alex Garcia, and several organizations in the Central Valley, including the Friant Water Authority, the South Valley Water Association, and Self-Help Enterprises.
“Because the Congressman included small communities in his Disadvantaged Community Drinking Water Assistance Act, small towns like Delano will be able to clean up their wells,” said Delano City Councilmember Grace Vallejo “I have been on his back, but fortunately he listens and when this bill was being drafted, they reached out to us to see if it would meet the need of what we needed to do. And whenwe said well, there’s no language for blending and that’s very necessary. Not just in the City of Delano, but in many other cities. They said thank you, we’re going to do that, and they sure enough did and for this very reason we are very grateful to have the representation of Congressman TJ Cox.”
“Current federal standards restrict the classification of a rural disadvantaged communities, like the City of Wasco. By definition, we aren’t rural or disadvantage enough to assist when we need reliable, safe drinking water. Small cities have been saddled with mandates to treat our drinking water without the necessary resources or technical expertise to upgrade our water infrastructure,” said Wasco Councilmember Alex Garcia. “I’m happy the Congressman was able to cut through the red tape to help local governments within the district, and frankly across the nation. Small towns simply cannot afford it alone.”
Friant Watern Authority CEO Jason Phillips, who oversees the Friant-Kern Canal, also expressed support for the package.
“The farmers and communities that depend on the water that flows through the Friant-Kern Canal are thankful that fixing the canal remains a high priority and has not been a political or partisan issue,” Phillips said Jason Phillips. “H.R.2 includes the language of H.R. 5316 by Rep. TJ Cox, the Move Water Now Act, that would potentially provide a significant amount of funding for the Friant-Kern Canal Capacity Correction Project and be a tremendous boost for the success of the project. We look forward to swift passage and enactment of the bill.”
Phillips has estimated the total cost of repairing the Friant-Kern Canal would be $450 million to $600 million.
South Valley Water Association executive director Dan Vink echoed Phillips thoughts. “The Friant Kern Canal delivers water to more than one million acres of farmland and numerous communities in the Central Valley,” he said. “Repairing the canal will ensure that the San Joaquin Valley’s economy can continue to thrive, even during these uncertain times.
“There is no singular issue more important to our landowners. We applaud Congressman Cox on his hard work to advance Move Water Now Act and getting the bill included in the House infrastructure package. The bill will provide much needed federal funding to begin the process of repairing the Friant Kern Canal and we appreciate his leadership on these vital water issues.”
Jesse Snyder, community development manager at Sel-Help Enterprises, said the package provides needed resources for clean drinking water.
“Drinking water infrastructure is a fundamental and critical piece to creating livable communities that are healthy, sound affordable, and wonderful places to live,” he said. “So we’re really pleased to be working with the congressman on this bill because we really do believe that we can’t grow communities unless they are underlain by strong effective infrastructure.”
The Moving Forward Act also provides resources to rebuild the nation’s transportation infrastructure and provides $250 million to the Rebuild Rural Program for rural highway.
Another major piece of the package is considerable funding for school modernization and renovation projects. The package provides $130 billion for school infrastructure for schools that serve low income areas that have facilities that don’t meet health and safety standards for students and educators.
The package also has programs designed to upgrade childcare facilities, reduce housing inequality and modernize energy infrastructure.
The package also is designed to provide high-speed broadband and internet access to the entire country.
Also included is funding to keep the U.S. Postal Service going.
In addition the package includes modernizing the nation’s health care system and promoting investment into job creation in communities throughout the U.S.