CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KSEE) – Federal, state, and local officials broke ground for a $180 million restoration effort to the Friant-Kern Canal.
“Where water flows food grows,” said U.S. Representative Jim Costa, who represents California’s 16th District. The Central Valley of California, known as the breadbasket of the world, has three of the highest-ranked counties for food production in the United States.
“We provide food to this state,” said California State Senator Melissa Hurtado. “We provide food to this nation and we provide food security, which also means good health to communities across the Central Valley.”
The Friant-Kern Canal delivers water to 1 million acres of Ag land, and 250,000 residents. But over the years, drought and low snowpack have left canals dry and farmers pulling groundwater through wells, which sinks the land through a process known as subsidence.
Officials said in 70 years the Friant-Kern Canal has sunk 13 feet and continues to sink about an inch a month. The damage wiped out 300,000 acre-feet of water deliveries.
“We have lost 60% of the capacity to water in some of the stretches,” said Costa.
After multiple administrations and years of begging for help, officials finally broke ground on the $180 million project to repair 10 miles of the middle portion of the canal, which has been the hardest hit.
Funding comes from the federal, state, and local authorities. Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tanya Trujillo said more projects are on the way.
“We have resources through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill to do more of these types of project,” said Trujillo. “It is something that will benefit us today but also into the future. “
The project is anticipated to be finished in January 2024, and while this is a win for the valley it is a small piece in the overall puzzle of the water crisis.
“We have the capacity that if we had better policies and were able to abide by those policies,” said U.S. Representative David Valadao- CA District 21. “We would be capturing some of the water and putting it up into storage.”