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Plans to fix the Friant-Kern Canal moving fast. Funding — not so fast.

 •  by Lois Henry
The sun appears to be split in three as it sets above the coastal range in western Kern County with the Friant Kern Canal in the foreground. Jan. 2020 Credit: Lois Henry

Planning to fix the Friant-Kern Canal is moving at a lightning clip even as funding to put those plans into action lags.

The massive project went from its initial notice on Dec. 3, 2019, to release of the draft environmental impact statement on May 8, 2020 — just five months.

Comments on the draft environmental impact statement are due by 5 p.m. Monday (see sidebar for how to submit comments.)

Expectations are that a final environmental impact statement will be released early this fall for consideration by the Friant Water Authority, which operates the canal on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Bureau would then issue a “record of decision” paving the way for staffers to begin obtaining permits by early 2021.

The document was prepared jointly under the California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The canal is considered critical infrastructure as it brings water from Millerton Lake to nearly a million acres of farmland and numerous small towns along the eastern side of the valley all the way south to Arvin.

Getting to this point in the planning process has been a “lightning round,” agreed Adam Nickels, the Bureau program manager for the project.

Especially considering the magnitude of work needed to fix the canal.

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