LSID water project tapped for $400K boost

(Rigo Moran)

Grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation allows Lindsay-Strathmore Irrigation District to further key project, improve upon groundwater sustainability

LINDSAY – The Lindsay-Strathmore Irrigation District has received a splash of federal funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, siphoning $400,000 into an ongoing water project meant to improve groundwater sustainability during the state’s drought years.

Lindsay-Strathmore Irrigation District (LSID) general manager Craig Wallace described the funds as a positive step forward for the Rancho de Kaweah groundwater banking project, saying they will assist in finishing the environmental studies for it.

“Obviously on a project of that size, any grant assistance we can get definitely helps,” Wallace said. “We have done pilot recharge testing and pilot recovery testing. We are basically moving into the environmental CEQA process, so we are still in the early stages.”

Wallace said the environmental study phase will take about one year to complete, during which time, LSID will continue to work with partner agencies to identify future funding and grant money. Construction is anticipated to begin in early 2026, Wallace added.

The total cost of the project is projected to be more than $1.3 million and involves the construction of a pipeline, re-regulating basin, lift station, aquifer recharge areas and wells.

“Right now, financing the studies has been all on the district, so one of the next steps along with the environment would be talking to the local agencies on partnering with them (so they can) be project participants,” Wallace said. He added that LSID is a net importer of supply in the area, meaning it imports more services than it exports to meet its needs, but noted this project will help with that.

“The only time that we are short of supply is during really dry years, so that is what this project will help us backstop some of that,” Wallace said. “We have limited access to groundwater.”

The start date of the project is set to coincide with the draining of the Friant-Kern Canal, which is done once every three years. Wallace said that while construction of the project is possible with the canal running, timing it for when the canal is drained is the most cost-efficient solution.

Wallace said the Rancho de Kaweah project is the largest project in the subbasin at this time. The goal is to improve groundwater sustainability in drought years.

“By January or February of 2027, that is when we would like to have it ready to go,” Wallace said. He added that the actual construction of the project itself can continue with the canal running, but the turnout portion would be done with the canal drained. He said that if the project gets delayed and the window is missed, it would require constructing a turnout behind the Copper Dam to continue with construction.

The grant money was part of a larger package that was provided to 34 projects nationwide. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced an investment of $11.1 million in grant funds for water projects in mid-April, and as a result, a total of 14 grants will go to water reclamation projects in California, with several being in Southern California communities.

“This important investment in the planning and design of water-related projects is focused on improving water management and infrastructure to enhance water supply reliability and promote sustainable practices in water management,” said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton in a statement announcing the federal grant funding. “We have the opportunity to invest in projects like these to combat the impacts of long-term drought for current and future generations.”

The statement adds that under the Biden administration, more than $3 billion in grant funding has gone to water projects nationwide, helping to fund more than 440 projects.

Amid this development, several of the state’s Groundwater Storage Agency districts are facing the possibility of being placed on probation by the state for failing to meet goals enacted by the legislature, including the Kaweah subbasin districts. Probation would lead to state agency authority and could further derail projects that are ongoing.

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