Friant-Kern Canal fix on schedule; water quality guidelines discussed

December 14, 2022
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
by Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
Section of Friant-Kern Canal under construction.
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern
Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern

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The Friant-Kern Canal fix is underway and on schedule to be completed before Sept. 1, 2024, according to an update at a recent Friant Water Authority (FWA) Board of Directors meeting.

“They’re on track, they’re on schedule,” Stantec Engineering’s Janet Atkinson told the board at its Dec. 9 meeting. ‘We don’t see anything right now that’s going to prevent that from happening.”

It’s a big job.

The canal, which brings water from Millerton Lake north of Fresno to farms and cities all the way south to Arvin in Kern County, had sunk along a 33-mile section because of excessive groundwater pumping. 

That sag choked its flow capacity down to 1,400 cubic feet per second (CFS). The construction project aims to bring capacity back to 2,500 to 2,750 CFS. The fix entails constructing a new canal just east of the damaged section.

As of the end of October, the completed work accounted for about 45.4% of the original contract cost and about 35.3% of the total contract time, the board was told. 

About $32.8 million from the Bureau of Reclamation and $102.1 million from FWA sources remains in the budget. Expenditures from Reclamation total about $113.4 million and expenditures from FWA sources total about $44.2 million.

The canal excavation is mostly finished, and construction crews are focusing on completing the earthen embankment and concrete structures, Atkinson said. The earthwork is about 68% completed, she added.

“They’re making tremendous progress on all the concrete work,” Atkinson said.

Road closures are in effect at Avenues 88 and 112, with a temporary shoofly (rerouted road) at Road 192. These road closures will continue as long as the construction does, Atkinson said. Work at these sites includes installing waterstops, reinforcing bars and concrete framework, and pouring structural concrete.

In the Deer Creek area, contractors are installing concrete formwork, reinforcing bar steel placement, and pouring structural concrete. 

In October and November, change orders for the project cost a total of $660,000. The cumulative cost of change orders so far exceeds $1 million, Atkinson said.

“We’re bound to have some on a job of this size,” she added.

Water quality guidelines

The FWA is also updating its water quality guidelines, aiming to stave off concerns that water in the Friant-Kern Canal has diminished in quality due to projects on its banks. 

The guidelines include water quality mitigation, monitoring, forecasting, and threshold management with the aim of preventing any contamination of Millerton Lake water. In recent months, the committee has tried to rally support for the guidelines among Friant contractors, as they will determine whether the new standards are adopted.

The Friant-Kern Canal Water Quality Ad Hoc Committee has spent the last four years revising the guidelines. On December 6, the FWA released a Notice of Preparation announcing its intent to prepare an environmental impact report on the proposed guidelines, which Ian Buck-Macleod, FWA water resources manager, called “a big milestone.”

The comment period ends January 9 and a draft will be released in April. Buck-Macleod said they aim to complete the final environmental impact report in July. The FWA has been working with the Bureau of Reclamation to draft a letter of agreement to ensure the guidelines are compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act.

After the EIR is certified and Reclamation has verified that the guidelines comply with the act, the guidelines can be adopted.

The Bureau of Reclamation has indicated that it will not adopt the revised guidelines itself, instead suggesting that the Friant contractors voluntarily enact the guidelines. In May, Friant managers received the latest draft guidelines and cooperative agreement.

Buck-Macleod said he expects the documents will evolve, but that the committee has received overall “positive feedback” from most contractors.

Rose Horowitch, SJV Water reporting intern }

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