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California to Friant-Kern Canal: “No $ for you!”

 •  by Lois Henry

Any hope that California might kick in money to fix the sagging Friant-Kern Canal was killed Thursday when a bill that would have provided $400 million toward the effort was stripped of all funding.

The bill, SB 559 by State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, had been stuck in the suspense file (a kind of legislative purgatory) of the Assembly Appropriations Committee since the end of the 2019 Legislative session.

On Thursday, SB 559 was brought out of suspense and passed by Appropriations but only as a “study bill,” per Apropriations Chair Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

That means it no longer includes any money.

The cost to fix a 33-mile-long “sag” in the Friant-Kern Canal is about $400 million, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the canal.

The Bureau is in the process of finishing environmental work on how best to fix the sagging section, which runs from near Pixley in southern Tulare County to Lake Woolomes in northern Kern County.

That sag, caused by excessive groundwater pumping near the canal, has severely restricted the amount of water able to move south from about 4,000 cubic feet per second to 1,400 cubic feet per second.

The Bureau has some money, about $50 million, which it has been spending on environmental and other pre-construction work.

It also requested another $70 million, which Congress is considering.

Assuming it gets that $70 million, that would bring the total on hand to $120 million, which Friant water contractors must then match.

If all that money comes in, it would give the Bureau about $240 million for construction.

That amount would be enough to rebuild the canal to carry between 2,500 and 3,000 CFS, Bureau Program Manager Adam Nickels told SJV Water in June.

Without any real hope of money coming from California, Friant contractors are hoping some federal money comes through.

T.J. Cox, D-Fresno, did have some success getting $200 million for the Friant-Kern Canal through the House in early July as part of a larger infrastructure bill.

That measure may be taken up after the summer recess.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstien also introduced a bill with about $200 million for the Friant-Kern Canal on the Senate side.

Lois Henry Lois Henry
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