A groundbreaking ceremony was held on the banks of the Friant-Kern Canal on Tuesday, to celebrate the start of construction to repair a portion of the sinking canal. Leadership from the Bureau of Reclamation, California’s Department of Water Resources and the Friant Water Authority spoke at the event.
For decades, farmers in California’s San Joaquin Valley have overpumped groundwater for crops, causing land to sink in some areas. The Friant-Kern Canal, a 152-mile federally owned canal that carries water from Millerton Lake north of Fresno to farms and towns on the east side of the valley down to Arvin, has been significantly damaged by subsidence. In the most impacted section, called the “middle reach”, the canal’s carrying capacity has decreased by more than 50%.
Tuesday’s ceremony hailed the beginning of Phase 1 of the Friant-Kern Canal Middle Reach Capacity Correction project. The first portion of the project will construct 10 miles of new concrete-lined canal to replace one of the most impacted areas at a cost of $187 million. The project is funded by all three agencies.
In total, the multi-phase project will restore 33 miles of the canal which will cost about $500 million.
Project managers are close to securing all of the money, said Jason Phillips, CEO of Friant Water Authority, adding that $250 million will come from the Bureau of Reclamation, $150 million from local groundwater agencies, $50 million from Friant contractors and upwards of $80 million from the state of California.
Friant contractors will be figuring out how to allocate costs for any remaining gaps over the next year, he added.