Agriculture

Costa spearheads $800 million water infrastructure bill to restore key Valley canals

Congressman Jim Costa (D–Fresno) introduced a bill on Thursday that would provide over $800 million in funding to water projects in California. 

If the Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act is enacted, $653 million in Federal funds will go to restore the capacity of three canals in the Central Valley, and $180 million will be used to restore salmon runs on the San Joaquin River. 

“This act will improve the water supply and water quality for 27 million Californians,” Costa said in a press conference. “How does it do it? It does it by restoring surface water delivery capacity that will better charge and recharge our aquifers where communities up and down the Valley get their drinking water.” 

Congressmen Josh Harder (D–Turlock) and John Garamendi (D–Solano) joined Costa in introducing the bill to the House, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein brought the bill before the Senate. 

Costa said the goal is to push this through Congress and have President Joe Biden sign it into law this year. 

Of the $653 million total, $180 million would go to restoring the Friant-Kern Canal, $183.9 million would go to restoring the Delta Mendota Canal and $289.5 million would go to restoring the California Aqueduct. 

Notably, the bill prohibits any funds from being used to build new surface storage, raise existing reservoirs and enlarge the capacity of any canal. 

The Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act works in conjunction with SB 559, the State Water Resiliency Act of 2021, which was introduced to the California Legislature by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D–Sanger) in February. 

With Costa’s bill providing one-third of the cost to restore the canal capacity and Hurtado’s bill providing another third, the final third would be covered by local agencies. 

“This year’s low water allocations for the communities and ecosystems that depend on the water provided by the Authority’s member agencies only reinforces the need to focus investments in two key areas – increased water conveyance and increased water storage,” said Federico Barajas, Executive Director of the San Luis and Delta-Mendota Water Authority. 

Along with the legislative efforts, the Friant-Kern Canal received further good news Thursday. 

The Friant Water Authority Board of Directors finalized a cost-share agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation that determines how the canal restoration project will be funded. 

The project will restore canal capacity to 60 percent in areas where water flow has been severely constricted. 

Funding sources include $206 million from the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriations package signed by President Donald Trump last December, $125 million from an agreement with the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency and $50 million in local funding from Friant-Kern Canal contractors. 

“The Friant Division began 70 years ago with a shared vision and investments in its collective future,” said Cliff Loeffler, Friant Water Authority Chairman. “Although challenging, it was important for Friant contractors to continue financing their portion of the Friant-Kern Canal repairs together, as a family, irrespective of being north or south of the pinch point. It’s our legacy and part of what makes the Friant Division special, unique and solutions-oriented.” 

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.