Feds may cover half of Friant-Kern fix

Reggie Ellis

Recent report from Bureau of Reclamation makes plan to repair subsidence eligible for $250,000 in federal funds under Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act

TULARE COUNTY – The plan to repair subsidence in the Friant-Kern Canal is now eligible for federal funds to cover half of the estimated construction cost.

On July 6, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BoR), the federal agency that oversees the canal, finalized a feasibility report for Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. Under section 4007 of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, the bureau’s report means up to 50% of the total project costs can be requested from the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and subsequently appropriated by Congress for construction. The bipartisan act was championed by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-23rd District).

“There is still work to be done, but Reclamation’s actions today represent a significant milestone in supporting the more than one million acres of farmland that provide sustenance to the United States and across the globe,” McCarthy said.

The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project Feasibility Report is the first such report to be sent by the DOI and BoR to Congress following enactment of the WIIN Act in 2016. This makes the project eligible for $250,000 of its estimated half a million price tag. Prior to the feasibility report being finalized, Congress already provided $4.5 million to this project for studies and pre-construction work at the request of the DOI.

“Addressing reliable water and power delivery in the west is a top priority for the Trump Administration, and the 50-year old Friant-Kern Canal is front and center,” Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said. “Restoring the capacity along the middle stretch of the canal is critical to providing reliable water supplies to one of the most agriculturally-productive regions in the nation.”

The BoR estimates the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project will cost $500,000,000, which will be financed through a combination of Federal and non-Federal funds. Specifically, this project will repair subsidence on the canal between Linday and McFarland.

“For nearly three years, Friant Water Authority staff and team of consultants have been working in partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation to assess the magnitude of the Friant-Kern Canal’s conveyance challenges, and developing alternatives for addressing it,” Friant Water Authority CEO Jason Philips said. “This final study not only affirms that this project is feasible, but that it provides a high value for investment by local and federal partners.”

In 2017, the Friant Water Authority discovered significant subsidence (up to 2 feet in some areas) along 33 miles of the Friant-Kern Canal in Tulare and Kern Counties. The subsidence has reduced the canal’s capacity to deliver water by 60% to the Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District, Kern Tulare Water District, Sausalito Irrigation District, Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Municipal Utility District, Tea Pot Dome Water District, and Terra Bella Irrigation District. That same year, one of the wettest years in recent history, 300,000 acre-feet of water could not be delivered through the Friant-Kern Canal to those who contract and pay for it due to subsidence.

“As the southernmost district on the Friant-Kern Canal, the cumulative effects of the canal’s constriction land at our doorstep,” Arvin-Edison Water Storage District President Edwin Camp said. “And, as the single largest Class 2 water contractor, we live and die by our ability to recharge groundwater aquifers using canal supplies. With the feasibility study now complete, we can move forward to repairing the canal and restoring needed water supplies for our farmers and small communities who rely on the recharge water it delivers.”

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