The Friant-Kern Canal

published on December 21, 2017 - 12:06 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The Chowchilla Water District and Fresno Irrigation District have officially rejoined the Friant Water Authority two years after leaving the group of water agencies served by the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project.

The Friant Water Authority lost several of its member agencies in 2015 as the drought raged on and opinions splintered on how to best represent water users.

Despite renewed rains and the drought’s end, infrastructure challenges remain.

Fresno Irrigation District (FID) and Chowchilla Water District (CWD) became trial and associate members of Friant Water Authority (FWA) earlier this year, and the FWA board is expected to approve their requests for full membership at its first 2018 meeting. The move would give each district a voting seat on the FWA board.

“It is exciting to see past members of FWA deciding to return,” said Kent Stephens, chairman of FWA and president of Kern-Tulare Water District. “It has been a priority of the FWA board to build a team that can effectively represent the member agencies and help ensure the Friant Division and surrounding areas has a reliable water supply now and in the future.”

Kole Upton, current president of CWD who served as a Friant Water Users Authority chair from 1998 to 2008, said the decision to rejoin was based on positive changes in the organization.

“This action is a direct reflection of the vast improvement in the Friant staff, and Friant’s re-establishing itself at the organization that represents the water interests of the East San Joaquin Valley,” Upton said.

George Porter, representing the FID, said he has been impressed with FWA’s reorganization and new management changes, including new CEO Jason Phillips.

“In addition, FID will benefit by being represented by a larger organization such as FWA on local, state, and federal issues,” he said.

Phillips, who stepped into the role of CEO last year, was pleased to see the organizations return.

“Having both Chowchilla and Fresno back as full general members is an important step in strengthening and diversifying the voice of the Friant Water Authority,” he said. “Both Districts have long played a critical role in water issues on the Eastside, and having them back as General Members will provide tremendous value both to the board and the entire Friant Division.”

FWA members continue to face serious challenges in serving the needs of its 15 member districts. A survey conducted in August found that parts of the Friant-Kern Canal have sunk five inches since April, despite increased rain.

Called subsidence, the sinking indicates areas where the groundwater is over drafted, causing the surface of the land to drop.

“The continuing subsidence issue is why FWA is exploring possible funding mechanisms for bringing the Friant-Kern Canal back to its designed operational potential,” Phillips said. “A fully functioning canal will help achieve the groundwater/surface water balance the Friant-Kern Canal was designed to maintain, and lessen the impacts of subsidence.”

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