In recent weeks there has been an increased focus on Friant-Kern Canal issues among lawmakers and federal agencies. The water conveyance system is in need of considerable investment to address subsidence that has drastically reduced the ability to effectively move water. Estimates for what is needed to address Friant-Kern Canal issues range between $450 million to $600 million.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently sent Congress the finalized feasibility report evaluating some of the repairs needed for portions of the Friant-Kern Canal. The Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project report notes that the project is eligible for support under the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Under section 4007 of the WIIN Act, up to 50 percent of the total project cost can be requested from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The House of Representatives recently approved H.R. 2, known as the Moving Forward Act. The legislation would provide a total of $1.5 trillion to address multiple sectors with considerable infrastructure needs which includes water. The Moving Forward Act would also authorize other legislation that would ensure federal funding is used to improve and repair water infrastructure. The legislative package includes the Move Water Now Act, which would provide $200 million for repairs on the Friant-Kern Canal. Although there are considerable doubts that the package will pass through the Senate, there is hope that it can serve as a starting point for addressing the serious need for water infrastructure investment.
The 2021 fiscal year Energy and Water Appropriations bill was also recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee, which includes funding requested by the DOI to help address Friant-Kern Canal issues. State-led efforts to increase funding support for repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal include SB 559 which requests $400 million to make the necessary repairs to the canal. While there is still time for the bill to move forward, California’s budgetary constraints make it unlikely that the bill will be a priority.