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Sinking Friant-Kern Canal Has $500 Million Problem

August 15,2017-

near Dos Palos- USGS photo where the land has dropped relay 5 ft from 1988 to 2013

Near Dos Palos- USGS photo where the land has dropped nearly 5 ft from 1988 to 2013

Land subsidence along the Friant Kern Canal in Tulare & Kern Counties has increased in the past five years according to South Valley Water Authority Executive Director Dan Vink. The sinking terrain, reported to be two to three feet – along a 25 mile stretch, has already reduced the capacity of the key irrigation artery by 50 to 60% in some locations.

“It’s like a big dip, a bowl or depression in the land that has the effect of not allowing flows to the south” says Vink.”The Bureau of Reclamation knows about it and estimates are it could be a $200 to $500 million problem” worries Vink.

Even if they had “that kind of money” and they hurry “it could take 5 years or longer to repair.”

Vink says the canal is designed to carry 3500cfs but flows have been restricted to 1700cfs in places like the Deer Creek / Earlimart area and all districts south of there.

The impact on farmers is the same as a drought – not enough water available when they need it. What is a farmer to do? Go back to pumping groundwater, expects Vink.

Of course, it was vigorous pumping that has been said to be the culprit behind land subsidence in the first place – both here and on the westside of the Valley, impacting the critical California Aqueduct, as well.

NASA has mapped land subsidence and says the rate has gotten a lot faster in the recent drought with a huge bowl seen in the Corcoran area. Likewise in the Dos Palos area USGS has measured a drop of nearly 5 feet from 1988 to 2013 (see pic) affecting the Delta Mendota district.

Repairs to restore the capacity on the 126-mile Friant Kern have been carried out several times over the years with the banks of the big canal raised in some places by six feet.The canal irrigates about a million acres.


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