A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the banks of the Friant-Kern Canal near Terra Bella on Tuesday, Jan. 25, to celebrate the start of repairs on a portion of the sinking canal.
By Jesse Vad
“This year will mark a turning point in human security due to the increasing water scarcity across western states,” said state Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger). “Now more than ever we need to secure clean water for generations to come. Today’s groundbreaking will allow us to conserve this precious natural resource that represents life, food, good health and so much more. This major milestone is the hard work of many men and women before me.”
Leadership from the Bureau of Reclamation, the state Department of Water Resources, and the Friant Water Authority also spoke at the event.
Watch: Fixing the Friant-Kern Canal
Overpumping of Groundwater Causes Land to Sink
For decades, farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley have overpumped groundwater for crops, causing land to sink in some areas.
The Friant-Kern Canal, a 152-mile federally owned canal that carries water from Millerton Lake north of Fresno to farms and towns on the east side of the valley down to Arvin, has been significantly damaged by subsidence. In the most impacted section, called the “middle reach”, the canal’s carrying capacity has decreased by more than 50%.
Tuesday’s ceremony hailed the beginning of Phase 1 of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction project. The first portion of the project will construct 10 miles of new concrete-lined canal to replace one of the most impacted areas at a cost of $187 million. The project is funded by all three agencies.
33 Miles of Canal Will Be Restored
In total, the multi-phase project will restore 33 miles of the canal which will cost about $500 million.
Project managers are close to securing all of the money, said Jason Phillips, CEO of Friant Water Authority, adding that $250 million will come from the Bureau of Reclamation, $150 million from local groundwater agencies, $50 million from Friant contractors, and upwards of $80 million from the state of California.
Friant contractors will be figuring out how to allocate costs for any remaining gaps over the next year, Phillips added.
(GV Wire contributed to this article.)
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