Investment in Friant-Kern Canal, authored by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, Extended into a Two-Year Bill

By on September 13, 2019
California Drought Water Legislation

Senate Bill 559, written to secure California’s water supply by setting up a policy framework to invest in the Friant-Kern Canal, failed to reach a vote on the Senate floor before the Sept. 13 legislative deadline. The bill, authored by Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-14th District-Sanger), proposed a $400 million infusion to finance repairs for the Friant-Kern Canal.

The Friant-Kern Canal’s conveyance capacity has degraded due to several factors, including severe land subsidence caused by regional groundwater overdraft. A portion of the canal, roughly 20 miles long, has subsided twelve feet below its original design elevation, including three feet of subsidence from 2014 – 2017 at the height of the stte’s most recent drought.

The canal has suffered the loss of 60 percent of its carrying capacity – constricting the delivery of water to some of California’s most vulnerable communities. SB 559 seeks funds to invest in the canal, a key part of the San Joaquin Valley’s most critical water delivery facilities in spite of bipartisan support.

“I am beyond proud of the work that my colleagues and I have partnered on to raise awareness about the needs in the Central Valley region. The bipartisan work on SB 559 is just a glimpse of what we can accomplish if we work together,” said Sen. Hurtado. “Although the extension of the bill wasn’t the outcome that we had anticipated, it will provide stakeholders across the board with more opportunities to continue fighting for long-term investments in clean water supply. I look forward to revisiting this conversation next legislative year with my colleagues,” continued Sen. Hurtado.

The bill is now slated to be reconsidered in 2020. However, if it does not pass a state senate vote by Jan 31 it will die.

“This effort is of critical importance to cities, farms, and small communities that depend on water from the Friant-Kern Canal to recharge our groundwater aquifer,” said Jason Phillips, CEO of the Friant Water Authority. “Although delaying passage of this bill until next year was not the outcome we were hoping for, we remain committed to working towards creating a successful partnership for funding, and Senator Hurtado’s efforts will be critical toward our success.”