Agriculture

Calif. Senate advances bill to spend $785mil to repair Valley canals

A bill aimed at improving the Valley’s two largest canal systems from continued subsidence-driven damage advanced through one house of the California State Legislature on Friday.

Senate Bill 559, a top priority for legislators on both side of the aisle in the San Joaquin Valley and led by Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger), seeks to dedicate $785 million in spending for improvements to four sets of waterways, spearheaded by two canals servicing the Central Valley Project: the Delta-Mendota Canal and the Friant-Kern Canal.

On a Friday afternoon, California State Senators voted 34-1 to pass the bill. Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D–Fremont) was the long dissenting vote.

The bill, first proposed nearly two years ago by Hurtado, was developed in concert with a fellow Valley colleague, current Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno).

In the waning days of the 2020 session, the state’s legislative leadership dashed the hopes of local water officials and converted the legislation into a two-year bill, allowing it to return for consideration this year.

Now, it’s being partnered with a pair of bills in Congress – H.R. 2552 and S. 1179 – led by Rep. Jim Costa (D–Fresno) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.)

Those bills would deliver a collective $653.4 million for restoration projects for the Friant-Kern and Delta-Mendota canals and conveyance systems underlying the California Aqueduct.

In a statement, the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority praised the passage of Hurtado’s bill.

“This year’s very real drought conditions reinforce the need for an all-of-government approach to drought response, both in the short and log-term,” Federico Barajas, executive director of the Authority, said. “Today’s overwhelming vote, led by Senator Hurtado and the Valley delegation, puts the California Senate firmly in support of a strong state role in repairing California’s water conveyance infrastructure and increasing California’s drought resilience.”

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.