After years of efforts to provide needed repairs of the Friant-Kern Canal, the first stage of those repairs is on the verge of finally happening.

And the repairs will be done to the canal in Southeastern Tulare County.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Reclamation signed a record of decision to advance construction to repair a portion of the Friant-Kern Canal. The decision gives final approval on the required environmental reviews for the first phase of repairs to the canal.

The first phase will fix a 33-mile portion of the canal from Lindsay to McFarland. The amount of water transferred from that portion of the canal has been reduced by 60 percent due to declining water levels know as subsidence caused by increased pumping of groundwater. So the repairs should also significantly help groundwater supplies. The repairs are set to begin early next year.

Yesterday’s Record of Decision signing is a big step toward restoring water conveyance capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal, bringing more reliable water access to the Central Valley,” said Rep. T.J. Cox-D, who represents a portion of southwestern Tulare County. Cox is among a number of representatives on the local and state level who have worked to provide funding for Friant-Kern Canal repairs.

I’ve worked over the past two years to secure federal funding to assist with this effort.

Cox said. “Now, construction on the first phase of the canal restoration is on track to begin early next year, showing what we can get done when we work together.”

“The Reclamation team quickly and efficiently guided this project through the environmental requirements,” said Ernest Conant, Reclamation regional director. “Signing the Record of Decision today for restoring the capacity of the Friant-Kern Canal is a significant step to providing reliable water supplies to farms throughout the eastern San Joaquin Valley.” 

The Friant-Kern Canal provides water for irrigation for more than 1 million acres of farmland and potable uses for more than 250,000 rural Californians.

Cox has helped lead legislation that has secured $2.35 million in pre-construction funding for the Friant-Kern Canal and $20 million in funding for needed repairs for canals.

It's expected the Friant-Kern Canal will receive an additional $71 million for repairs that have been included in 2020-2021 fiscal year appropriations legislation passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate still needs to pass its version of similar legislation.

The Moving Forward Act has also bee passed by the House and that includes $225 million for canal repairs, including the Friant-Kern Canal. That legislation still needs to be passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump for it to become reality.

In announcing its decision, the Bureau of Reclamation stated repairs will eventually restore the Friant-Kern's full water delivery for the entire area of the Valley it serves.

“The team assembled by Reclamation has been outstanding and has worked hard, with no missteps, to keep this project on schedule,” said Jason Phillips, chief executive officer of the Friant Water Authority. “To me, it is another example of how the Trump Administration is dedicated to getting things done; things that really matter to people, cities, and farms in the Valley, and the Friant Water Authority is truly grateful for that.”   

“I want to thank Secretary Bernhardt and Commissioner Burman for continuing to prioritize critical repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal,” said Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23). “With this action today, all of the environmental documentation is complete, and this project can now move into the pre-construction and construction phases. I also want to commend President Trump for never wavering from his commitment to get water flowing to Central Valley families, communities, and farmers. From repairing the Friant-Kern Canal to issuing new updated, science-based regulations to bring our communities more water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the President and his teams at the Interior Department and Bureau of Reclamation have navigated complicated California water policy to secure multiple achievements in order to help Californians get the water they contract and pay for. I look forward to working with the Trump Administration, the Friant Water Authority, and other stakeholders to continue to advance this important canal repair project.” 

“I want to thank President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for their commitment to restoring Central Valley families and farmers their rightful supply of water,” said Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). “For the first time in decades, the federal government has provided the Valley steadfast support against the radical environmentalists’ crusade against agriculture. Today’s decision to advance this crucial infrastructure project — the Friant-Kern Canal restoration — is yet another historic victory for the Central Valley.”

Recommended for you