Another hurdle has been cleared in the pending and much needed repairs of a 33-mile stretch of the Friant-Kern Canal.

Known as the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Project, repairs will be done on the 33-mile stretch of the canal form between Lindsay and Strathmore to North Kern County. When the federal government provided $206 million in funding for the project last year that meant the project would finally become a reality.

The Friant Water Authority which oversees the canal has been working on financing and putting the plan into place for the canal's repairs ever since that federal funding has been allocated. FWA began the process of selecting a contractor for the project this summer. It's hoped phase 1 of the repairs will be completed in 2024.

FWA and the federal government has also been negotiating a repayment contract this summer. The federal government can pay for half of the project.

Based on the feasibility study done in 2020, it was estimated the project would cost $500 million. The repayment contract is based on that figure so the federal government can provide funding up to $250 million.

FWA is required to repay reimbursable funds that were granted by the federal government, so the repayment contract is needed.

FWA and the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced on Monday a 30-day public comment period for the repayment contract, so the final hurdle for the project has been cleared.

One little sticking point of the contract was the federal government's stance a repayment plan for each phase of the project be done over 30 years. It's expected the project will be done in two phases.

FWA was hoping for a 40-year repayment plan for each phase. But in the end the repayment contract requires repayments for each phase be done in 30 years.

In April, FWA approved the plan for how the project will be funded. Direction from all those involved calls for a joint federal, state and local effort to fund the project.

FWA's plan includes the $206 million from the federal government, $43 million from the San Joaquin River Restoration Program and $50 million from Friant-Kern Canal contractors.

As part of the funding plan, FWA and the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency came to a settlement in which the ETGSA will provide a minimum of $125 million to account for the sinking of the canal known as subsidence that's been caused by overpumping of groundwater. It's estimated the middle section of the canal in this area that needs to be repaired has sunk 10 feet as a result.

As a result of that sinking, it's estimated the ability of the canal to deliver water to users in southern Tulare County and Kern County has declined by as much as 60 percent. The repairs will restore the 33-mile stretch of the canal's capacity from 1,600 cubic-feet-per-second to its original 4,000 cubic-fee-per-second.

Also included in this year's state budget is $100 million for repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct.

The State Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 559, a bill introduced by State Senator Melissa Hurtado, whose district includes Porterville. The bill would provide a total of $785 million to the three canals, including $308 million to the Friant-Kern Canal.

The repayment contract can be reviewed at this link: https://www.usbr.gov/mp/friant/docs/friant-kern-canal-middle-reach-extraordinary-maintenance-contract-final.pdf

Written comments on the contract must be received by the close of business day, September 1, and can be sent to Barbara Hidleburg-Johnson, California-Great Basin Regional Office, Bureau of Reclamation, 2800 Cottage Way, CGB 440, Sacramento 95825 or emailed to bhidleburg@usbr.gov

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