A plan to fund much needed and long overdue repairs for the Friant-Kern Canal is now in place.

After being neglected for so long, there are now a number of proposed sources of funding to fully repair the canal. On Thursday, the Board of Directors for the Friant Water Authority, which oversees the canal, approved a funding plan that clears the way for a contractor to be selected for the project.

The board's action which the Friant Water Authority referred to as an “important milestone” now allows the Bureau of Reclamation to solicit construction bids to begin repairs on the canal. It's hoped a contractor will be selected this summer.

Construction on Phase 1 of the repairs is expected to be completed in 2024.

The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction project will restore the canal's water level up to 60 percent of capacity in areas where the canal's flow ahs been severely hampered.

The Friant Division began 70 years ago with a shared vision and investments in its collective future,” said Friant Water Authority Board Chairman Cliff Loeffler said. “Although challenging, it was important for Friant that the Friant Water Authority Board of Directors voted to finalize a cost-share agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclam that details how the work to restore lost capacity in the Friant-Kern Canal will proceed and be funded.”

Funding for the project will include $206 million included in the 2021 fiscal year federal appropriations spending package.

A minimum of $125 million that will come from the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency as the result of a settlement the FWA reached with the agency. The canal's decreasing water level, known as subsidence, has been caused by overpumping of groundwater.

The settlement was reached to pay for that damage. FWA noted much of that damage has been caused by pumping of groundwater from outside the Central Valley Project Friant Division service area with no access to surface water.

Another $43 million will come from the San Joaquin River River Restoration program. Friant-Kern Canal contractors will also contribute $50 million for a total of $424 million.

The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project will restore the canal’s design capacity through 30 miles of its most damaged section near Terra Bella. The project will run from between Lindsay and Strathmore to North Kern County.

State and Federal environmental reviews for the project were completed in September, 2020 and the project’s Record of Decision was signed on November 4, 2020.

The Friant-Kern Canal is also counted on to deliver surface water to reduce groundwater usage and to restore underground groundwater aquifers. So the repairs are critical to the area's ability to reduce groundwater usage to meet the requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Repairs of the canal will also help meet the needs of rural and disadvantaged communities in the area.

It's estimated the total cost of repairing the canal will be $450 to $600 million. Last week Congressman Jim Costa and Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation that would provide an additional $180 million in federal funds for the project as part of a cost-sharing agreement with state and local sources.

State Senator Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, whose district includes Porterville, has introduced legislation that would provide state funding as part of that effort.

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