Friant-Kern Canal fix raising flows, hopes of more water infrastructure projects

The first phase of the project to repair the Friant-Kern Canal is nearing completion, a major boon for a state that seldom mounts water improvement projects.

A major project that will enhance California’s water delivery system is moving along in the form of repairing the Friant-Kern Canal. 

Friant Water Authority Chief Operating Officer Johnny Amaral spoke with The Sun for Wednesday’s episode Sunrise FM to provide an update on the project, among a variety of other water-related issues. 


The backstory: Around six years ago, the Friant Water Authority, which operates the Friant-Kern Canal, noticed a major problem throughout a 30-mile stretch between Porterville and Delano. 

  • The canal was suffering from an issue called subsidence, which is the sinking of the ground due to decades of groundwater overdraft. 
  • The canal sunk nearly 14 feet at its worst, most severe point, causing the flow of water to drop to around 1,400 cubic feet per second. 
  • In January of last year, the Friant Water Authority and the federal government broke ground on the first phase to restore capacity.  The total price tag, Amaral said, is around $300 million for the first part.

What we’re watching: According to Amaral, the first phase is currently around 60 percent complete and is projected to be finished by the end of next January. 

  • Once complete, the canals flow will be restored to 2,750 cubic feet per second, nearly doubling the flow that was affected by subsidence. 

What they’re saying: “What we’re having to do is we’re in essence building a realigned canal,” Amaral said. “We’re building a new canal adjacent just to the east of the existing canal where we’re able to restore the capacity back to the canal so that we could move water through that reach.” 

  • The repair is proof that water-related infrastructure projects can get done in California. 
  • “The only thing that I would say is unfortunate is that it’s not as if we’re adding capacity,” Amaral said. “We’re just restoring lost capacity due to subsidence.”
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