Agriculture

Feds give green light to Friant-Kern Canal repairs

The Friant-Kern Canal has received the approval from the federal government to fix a sag in the canal. 

The Bureau of Reclamation gave its approval Tuesday – signing a Record of Decision giving environmental clearance for the project – following action from the Trump administration to invest about $5 million to study and begin pre-construction work on the canal. 

“Since day one, the Trump administration directed Reclamation to modernize infrastructure to ensure water reliability for California’s farms and communities,” said Reclamation commissioner Brenda Murman in a statement. “I am delighted Reclamation reached another of the administration’s critical milestones for the San Joaquin Valley and look forward to seeing shovels in the ground in the near future.” 

Once restored, the Friant-Kern Canal will operate at 4,000 cubic-feet-per-second near the Deer Creek check structure, which the Friant Water Authority said is the most critical area. With the 33-mile stretch that has sunk into the earth due to groundwater extraction, the canal is only operating at 1,600 cubic-feet-per-second. 

A fully-functional Friant-Kern canal delivers water to over one million acres of farmland and 250,000 people. Recently the canal has failed to deliver 300,000 acre-feet of water due to the issue. 

With the environmental approval out of the way, the Friant-Kern Canal can look to funding sources such as the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which won bipartisan support from Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California). 

Congress has the ability under the WIIN Act to provide federal funds of up to 50 percent of the total costs of projects such as the Friant-Kern Canal project. 

“I want to thank Secretary [David] Bernhardt and Commissioner Burman for continuing to prioritize critical repairs to the Friant-Kern Canal,” said McCarthy in a statement. “With this action today, all of the environmental documentation is complete, and this project can now move into the pre-construction phases. I also want to commend President Trump for never wavering from his commitment to get water flowing to Central Valley families, communities and farmers.” 

Nunes added in a statement, “I want to thank President Trump and Secretary Bernhardt for their commitment to restoring Central Valley families and farmers their rightful supply of water. For the first time in decades, the federal government has provided the Valley steadfast support against the radical environmentalists’ crusade against agriculture. Today’s decision to advance this crucial infrastructure project – the Friant-Kern Canal restoration – is yet another historic victory for the Central Valley.”

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.