Agriculture

Amid COVID relief, Congress delivers $206mil for Friant-Kern Canal repairs

Last-minute work by Congress to secure government and coronavirus relief funding netted a much-needed win for San Joaquin Valley farmers.

$206 million in Federal funding is set to be steered to repair subsidence along the Friant-Kern Canal, funded in part by the fiscal year 2021 omnibus spending bill to fund the Federal government through September 2021 along with funds from the second-wave coronavirus relief.

It’s a considerable boost for Friant water contractors along the eastern San Joaquin Valley. At the outset of 2020, the Department of Interior requested $71 million to fund repairs to damage caused by subsidence in the canal’s middle reach – a 33-miles stretch of conveyance in Tulare and Kern counties.

The canal’s middle reach lost more than half of its carrying capacity due to regional land subsidence, the Friant Water Authority reported.

As funding deadlines grew closer, Interior officials sought to increase the funding demands to $206 million.

The new total, approved by Congress on Monday and awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, is covers just shy of half of the estimated $500 million in repairs to the area.

“Since we began working to restore the Friant-Kern Canal’s capacity more than three years ago, one of the most common questions we’ve been asked is how we plan to finance the project, and whether the Federal government would be a meaningful funding partner for fixing this Federally-owned facility,” Friant Water Authority chief Jason Phillips said in a statement.

“Today, the answer to that question became clear. Once again, we’ve seen the President and his administration prioritize and follow through with actions and projects that will deliver actual water supply benefits for the San Joaquin Valley’s communities and farms.”

Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.