Bill to Fix Friant-Kern Canal Continues Forward Progress

Brian German Agri-Business, Legislative

The bill that will provide support for necessary repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal is continuing to make forward progress in the California legislature.  Senate Bill 559 (SB-559), authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado representing the 14th Senate District and co-authored by several other San Joaquin Valley lawmakers, was voted through the Water, Parks, and Wildlife Committee in the Assembly on July 2.  The bill itself is seeking $400 million to make important upgrades and repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal.

Friant-Kern Canal“SB-559 is a district bill that supports fixing the Friant-Kern Canal, a project critically important for the long-term security and economic vitality of the San Joaquin Valley,” Senator Hurtado explained to the committee.  “The canal’s infrastructure has, and is, crumbling.  Sixty percent of the canal’s capacity to deliver water has been lost in the lower portion of the facility due to land subsidence as a result of the recent historic drought.”

The bill would require the Department of Water Resources to grant $400 million to the Friant Water Authority for the purpose of repairing the canal to allow it to operate at full capacity.  The 152-mile long canal that delivers water from the Friant Dam to the Kern River has been steadily degrading for several years.  The damage to the canal has resulted in some areas experiencing an elevation decline an average of one inch every month since 2014.

“One of the authorized purposes for the canal is to deliver not just irrigation and municipal supplies but also water for groundwater recharge,” said Alexandra Biering, Government Affairs and Communications Manager for Friant Water Authority.  “In most years more than half the water the canal delivers is specifically used to recharge groundwater and that’s the water that’s been unable to be delivered because of this subsidence problem; up to 300,000 acre-feet per year.”

Thus far SB-559 has been receiving bipartisan support as it moves through the legislative process.  The bill is also being supported by multiple agricultural organizations including Western Growers Association along with both the Fresno and Tulare County Farm Bureaus.  SB-559 will now be moving to the Committee on Appropriations to be heard.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West