$1T infrastructure bill benefits Valley ag and rural communities

Local News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – The California Farm Bureau is applauding Congress for passing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, commending the benefits it extends to local agriculture and rural communities.
The one trillion dollar plan passed by congress late Friday night is set to fund improvement projects across the country and projected to create some 2 million jobs.

In the bill are benefits for local agriculture and rural communities like water storage and conveyance, road and highway improvements and broadband internet for areas currently without coverage.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is seen as a major accomplishment for the Biden Administration.
Besides provisions for public transportation, roads, bridges, power, and the environment, the act also invests in projects important to Central Valley agriculture and rural communities.

California Farm Bureau president Jamie Johansson says, “Of the 8-billion dollars, there’s a billion dollars that goes toward storage projects whether that’s groundwater storage or surface storage projects. We have many new storage projects on the books that we haven’t been able to get over the finish line.”

Johansson says the bill covers the most pressing needs in the Central Valley — water. “We are seeing infrastructure needs with just simple repairs with the Friant-Kern Canal, which services a million acres of farmland in Kern and Tulare Counties. You also have the Delta-Mendota Canal which helps store water at the San Luis Reservoir coming out of the Central Valley Project. They’re long ignored but need to have repairs because those canals are operating between sometimes 16% to 60% of capacity, which only adds to a tighter squeeze on water supplies in California.”

“So, critically important projects. Like I said over a billion dollars assigned to that as well as also desalination plants along the coastline which can help because of course there’s a lot of demand as we move water around the state to our urban areas. There’s also over a billion dollars for rural water projects. Whether that’s for small water districts that need assistance whether it’s water quality issues or maybe even trying to hook up rural residents to a surface water supply rather than a groundwater supply.”

Johansson says this could bring about the proposed 1.5-million acre foot Sites Reservoir Project north of the Delta.

“Sites reservoir which is off-stream storage and would work in conjunction with the state water project and federal water project and could bring another million acre feet of water into into the system which would have helped alleviate the dramatic drought that we have now just experienced in this past year. There’s optimism there that it really will create some kind of new storage.”

Sites is a project Congressman, and champion of this legislation, Jim Costa also sees as ideal for this funding.

Costa (D-16) says, “Invest back into our water and transportation because we’re living off the investments our parents and grandparents made a generation or two ago. This bipartisan American rescue plan we are providing over 8 billion dollars for western water, which California will receive more than 3 and a half billion dollars for water infrastructure. For efforts to move on with the Sites Reservoir. To do the seismic retrofit with the B.F. Sisk Dam that provides the water supply behind San Luis Reservoir. In doing so, we think we can raise the dam 10 feet and add 160-thousand acre feet of additional water.”

Transportation on waterways is also covered. Johansson says, “In California half of what we produce has to be exported. We can see the congestion at the ports, farm products turned away because there are not storage containers for them. Or they don’t have the capacity to load the ships. There’s over 17 billion dollars for ports and inland waterways that can hopefully modernize our ports, expand our ports and help export our agricultural products. Which ultimately means saving and increasing jobs in the Central Valley because those products are coming from the Central Valley.”

“Rural California, rural America has been overlooked for a long time, now. You know there are other parts of this infrastructure bill that may be going unnoticed in what it means to rural California in the future. Not only what it means for roads and bridges and typical infrastructure package highway improvements and roads but there’s also 65 billion dollars in it for broadband expansion in rural America. So that will be a competitive one to see what we can do to bring a lot of that funding to California. And we saw the lack of broadband and high speed internet access in COVID to learn from but also in telemedicine for rural residents who can’t make it to hospitals and can’t go online.”

President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is a separate plan and lawmakers are working on it next. Costa says it could work hand-in-hand with this infrastructure bill by adding things like solar panels over repaired canals to prevent evaporation while generating electricity.

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