Agriculture

Calif. Assembly kills Friant-Kern Canal funding bill

A bill that would have provided the necessary funds to fix the sagging Friant-Kern Canal was killed by the state legislature on Thursday. 

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) introduced SB 559 to the legislature in February 2019, but the Assembly Appropriations Committee stuck it in the suspense file since August of last year, delaying its consideration to the 2020 legislative session. 

The bill would have granted $400 million to the Friant-Kern canal, which is the exact amount the Bureau of Reclamation – the agency that owns the canal – says it needs to fix the 33-mile stretch that is sagging due to land subsidence. 

However, the Assembly Appropriations Committee threw that money out the window. On Thursday, the committee brought the bill out of suspense and passed it as a study bill, meaning the money has been removed. 

The sag is on a stretch from Pixley to Lake Woollomes, driven by excessive groundwater pumping near the canal. 

Normally, the canal would be able to move water at about 4,000 cubic-feet per second, but instead is down to 1,400 cubic-feet per second with the sag. 

The Bureau of Reclamation has about $50 million to allocated toward fixing the canal and has also requested an additional $70 million from Congress. 

If the federal money comes through, Friant water contractors would match the $120 million total, giving the Bureau $240 million. 

There are also two bills currently in Congress. 

Rep. TJ Cox (D-Fresno) submitted a bill that would provide $200 million for the Friant-Kern Canal and the Delta-Mendota Canal. That bill was added to a larger coronavirus relief bill led by House Democrats that has met little interest in the Senate. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) also introduced a similar bill that is currently in committee.

Daniel Gligich
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.