Still sinking rebuilt section of Friant-Kern Canal will officially “open” after ribbon-cutting ceremony

June 11, 2024
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
by Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Construction on the Friant-Kern Canal shows a new canal being laid out next to the existing canal, which has sunk due to overpumping groundwater in the region. SOURCE: Friant Water Authority
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water
Lisa McEwen, SJV Water

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A ribbon-cutting ceremony for a newly rebuilt – but still sinking – portion of the Friant-Kern Canal is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 21.

The public is invited to attend.

The event, to be held at the Avenue 136 bridge in Porterville, marks the completion of Phase I of a massive construction project known as the Middle Reach Capacity Correction Project. Four years in the making, the ten-mile segment runs parallel to the canal and aims to restore the canal’s ability to carry water downstream to cities and farmland all the way to its terminus in Kern County. 

Subsidence, or land sinking, from groundwater overpumping is the main culprit behind the damage. Friant Water Authority, which operates the canal, says the canal has lost more than 60 percent of its original carrying capacity.

It has sued the Eastern Tule Groundwater Sustainability Agency for not doing enough to stem pumping and slow subsidence, blaming a complicated groundwater accounting system instituted by Eastern Tule.

The canal’s capacity reduction has been especially hard on Arvin-Edison Water Storage District, which sits at the end of the Friant-Kern Canal’s 152-mile run and contracts for 350,000 acre feet annually.

A total of 33 miles of canal from Pixley to the Kern County line will need to be rebuilt in phases, with an expected price tag of $500 million. Funding is coming from a combination of Friant water contractors and state and federal funds. Eastern Tule is also paying a share, though Friant says it has paid far less than expected so far.

Ironically, the canal was built in the 1940s to bring in surface water to slow a dropping water table which was causing land to sink, damaging infrastructure such as levees, bridges and roads.

Lisa McEwen, SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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