Agriculture

Calif. water officials roll out $100mil in funding for Valley canal fixes

Four key San Joaquin Valley water arteries are set to see an infusion of cash to improve their ability to deliver water to farms and communities, California water officials announced Monday.

The Department of Water Resources announced it would commit to spending $100 million for capacity repairs on three key conveyance systems: the California Aqueduct, the San Luis Canal, the Delta-Mendota Canal, and the Friant-Kern Canal.

Each has seen its water delivery capacity diminish due to land subsidence as Valley communities and farms have relied upon heavy groundwater pumping to keep farm production and communities supplied with water resources.

In 2022, California water regulators will spend $37 million on two State Water Project arteries – the Aqueduct and the San Luis Canal (which is jointly operated by the Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation).

Another $39.2 million will be sent to the Friant Water Authority for its work to improve capacity on the Friant-Kern Canal, particularly in the damaged, 33-mile middle reach in southern Tulare County.

The final $23.8 million will be provided to the San Luis Delta-Mendota Authority for the Delta-Mendota Canal.

“Fixing these canals is an important foundational piece to ensure a reliable and climate resilient water supply for California,” said State Water Resources director Karla Nemeth. “It enables us to move water during very wet conditions, which will be essential to adapting to more extreme weather.  Restoring capacity in our existing infrastructure provides a critical link in diversifying water supplies by supporting groundwater replenishment throughout the Central Valley and water recycling projects in Southern California. It’s a prudent investment in our water future.”

Local water officials, who backed a competing measure – Senate Bill 559 – to fund subsidence repairs, celebrated the announcement as a step toward restoring water delivery capacity along the Valley floor.

“This first $100 million isn’t just an investment in water infrastructure, it is a down payment on California’s future,” officials with the San Luis Delta-Mendota Water Authority and Friant Water Authority said in a statement.

“We know that much more funding is necessary to restore the full capacity of these facilities, and we applaud the Governor and the Legislature’s commitment to responsible investments in California’s future, specifically by doing the necessary work of investing in the current and future viability of the water delivery infrastructure that will always be necessary to meet California’s water needs.

“While this initial funding will help to leverage federal and local dollars so that repairs can begin, additional funding along with the political will to see it through will be necessary if we are to truly meet the water supply challenges ahead of us. We have learned that droughts and flooding no longer come in cycles, instead they are simply our new normal.”

Funding for the quartet of water projects was appropriated in the 2021-2022 state budget with another $100 million set aside for fiscal year 2022-2023.

California water officials, in announcing the funding, noted that the four water conveyance projects provide water to 29 million people and that, once completed, the projects will restore up to 50 percent capacity of the canals over the next decade.

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.