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State Says It Will Deliver $100 Million for Valley Canal Repairs

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Photo of the Friant-Kern Canal below Pine Flat Dam
The Friant-Kern Canal near Pine Flat Dam. (SJV Water/Lois Henry)
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The state Department of Water Resources has designated $100 million for repairs on four major canals that flow through the Valley.

“Fixing these canals is an important foundational piece to ensure a reliable and climate-resilient water supply for California.” — DWR Director Karla Nemeth

In an announcement made Monday, the agency said that the goal is to restore the canals’ carrying capacity. Portions of the California Aqueduct, San Luis Canal, Delta-Mendota Canal, and Friant-Kern Canal can’t convey as much water as they used to because of land subsidence.

The four canals collectively deliver water to more than 29 million people, 2.9 million acres of farmland, and 130,000 acres of wetlands. The completed projects will restore up to 50% of the capacity of the canals over the next 10 years, DWR said.

Importance of Canals to State’s Water Future

“Fixing these canals is an important foundational piece to ensure a reliable and climate-resilient water supply for California,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth in a news release. “It enables us to move water during very wet conditions, which will be essential to adapting to more extreme weather.

“Restoring capacity in our existing infrastructure provides a critical link in diversifying water supplies by supporting groundwater replenishment throughout the Central Valley and water recycling projects in Southern California. It’s a prudent investment in our water future.”

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, who has worked hard to improve the Valley’s water situation for farmers and rural communities, called DWR’s announcement “a major milestone.”

“I will continue fighting to ensure California’s vital water infrastructure is fully funded and will be asking for additional funding next legislative session.” — State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger

But, the Sanger Democrat added, “(T)his is just a start. California is still experiencing an epic drought and desperately needs additional funding to provide a safe water and food supply now and in the future. I will continue fighting to ensure California’s vital water infrastructure is fully funded, and will be asking for additional funding next legislative session.”

Funding Breakdown

In its first year, the program will provide:

— As much as $37 million to the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and San Luis Canal (jointly operated by DWR and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation);

— $39.2 million to Friant Water Authority for the Friant-Kern Canal;

— And $23.8 million to San Luis Delta-Mendota Authority for the Delta-Mendota Canal.

About a year ago, a federal pandemic relief bill designated $206 million for Friant-Kern Canal repairs. The estimated cost to completely fix the canal is $500 million.

Subsidence Must Be Addressed

State officials said that the funds are earmarked for planning, permitting, design, and construction of near-term subsidence rehabilitation projects. The agencies with funded projects will need to investigate the risk of subsidence and how to prevent continued subsidence.

DWR officials said that they will work closely with the fund recipients to ensure that the projects are successful.

The 2021-22 state budget appropriated $100 million for the program and authorized $100 million more for the next fiscal year.

 

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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