A newly-elected California state senator wants the state to fund repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal that were originally part of an attempt through a water bond that a failed last November.
State Senator Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, whose district includes a section of the canal heavily impacted by ground subsidence, is carrying a $400 million bill to help bolster the canal and restore design capacity. Coauthors include San Joaquin Valley representatives: Sen. Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno; and, assembly members Joaquin Arambula, Devon Mathis, and Rudy Salas.
The appropriation from the state’s general fund would be given to the Friant Water Authority under a grant from the California Department of Water Resources. That money, according to Friant officials, would be used to raise the sides of the canal to help restore capacity that’s declined by over 60 percent in the last few years.
The over pumping of groundwater in a region including southern Tulare County has resulted in a 20-mile portion of the canal to subside 12 feet below its original design elevation. For water users downstream from this location that’s meant the loss of about 300,000 acre feet in surface deliveries each year.
Friant officials originally pinned hopes on passage of a water bond last November that had $750 million earmarked for canal repairs and other water conveyance projects to aid in water delivery. In the wake of the political loss, the agency moved to find additional funding sources to begin stop-gap measures to help restore about one-third of the lost capacity through installation of a temporary canal liner and an agreement with Tulare County to temporarily run the canal against several county-owned bridges during irrigation season.
Though not named in the 2014 State Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), a law designed to stop the over draft of groundwater in California, the Friant-Kern Canal and other surface water conveyance systems play a crucial role in helping the state meet tenets of SGMA by moving surface water to farms and cities, thus reducing the demand for groundwater pumping.
Efforts are ongoing to build groundwater recharge basins and design infrastructure to help farmers flood farmland, all to use surface water from snow melt and rain to recharge groundwater basins in the state, including in those districts heavily reliant on the Friant-Kern Canal for irrigation and drinking water.