Agriculture

Fixing sinking Friant-Kern Canal is unprecedented task. The latest hurdle? Scheduling payments.

After some negotiation, the Friant Water Authority Board of Directors will vote on a repayment contract with the Bureau of Reclamation regarding the repair of a portion of the Friant-Kern Canal. 

The Friant Water Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation held its second round of negotiations Thursday morning, which was a two-hour process hammering out contract language in the repayment deal. 

The finalized contract will be presented to the Friant Water Authority Board at its next meeting on July 29 for a vote of approval. 

At the center of the issue is a 33-mile stretch of the Friant-Kern Canal that has lost over half of its original capacity to subsidence. 

The Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project is a joint effort by the Friant Water Authority and the Bureau of Reclamation to restore that stretch from its current estimated 1,600 cubic-feet-per-second to the original 4,000 cubic-feet-per-second capacity. 

Since the terms of the cost sharing agreement have already been settled, the repayment contract is the last hurdle for both sides to overcome. 

The Friant Water Authority entered into the cost sharing agreement in April for the Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. 

Under that agreement, the Federal government is providing funds for up to 50 percent of the project, not to exceed $250 million. 

The Friant Water Authority is required to repay the reimbursable funds that were granted by the Federal government, creating the need for a repayment contract. 

The Bureau of Reclamation has proposed a 30-year repayment plan for each phase. The Friant Water Authority expects there to be two phases. 

The 30-year repayment period could prove to be a sticking point for the Friant Water Authority. 

“While FWA staff would like to see a longer repayment terms because of the unique size and cost of the canal repairs, the FWA Board will consider the proposed terms at its meeting next week,” Friant Water Authority spokesman Johnny Amaral told The Sun in an email. 

However, when asked during the negotiations, Bureau of Reclamation officials said that there is no precedent for a deal to run longer than 30 years.

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.