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Costa, Feinstein Introduce Bill to Restore Valley Canals. No Money for Dams.
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 3 years ago on
April 16, 2021

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Rep. Jim Costa and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein introduced the bipartisan Canal Conveyance Capacity Restoration Act on Thursday, a bill to authorize more than $653 million to restore the capacity of three San Joaquin Valley canals.

Official U.S. House portrait of Rep. Jim Costa

“We know we have a broken water system and we know there’s a lot that we need to do to improve our water supply and our water quality.” – Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno

Restoring these canals would improve California’s drought resilience and help farmers comply with limits on groundwater pumping under the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, Costa’s office said in a news release.

“We know we have a broken water system and we know there’s a lot that we need to do to improve our water supply and our water quality,” Costa told reporters during a virtual news conference Thursday afternoon. “One of the most precious resources we have is water. Where water flows, food grows.”

The bill also authorizes an additional $180 million to restore salmon runs on the San Joaquin River. The funding is for fish passage structures, levees, and other improvements that will allow the threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon to swim freely upstream from the ocean to Friant Dam.

Feinstein: A Win for Farmers and Fish

“We can restore that (canal) capacity if we work together at the federal, state, and local levels, ensuring that there will be more water for farmers and to combat subsidence,” Feinstein said in a news release. “But our bipartisan bill isn’t just a win for farmers, it would also restore salmon runs vital to the Chinook salmon, helping protect this threatened species.”

State Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, has corresponding legislation in the California Legislature to fund canal fixes. She has been trying to win approval since 2019.

“The reality is that this investment really benefits the entire nation because the region supplies food for the nation and beyond,” said Hurtado.

portrait of state Sen. Melissa Hurtado

“The reality is that this investment really benefits the entire nation because the region supplies food for the nation and beyond.” State Sen. Melissa Hurtado

What The Bill Does

The bill would authorize a one-third federal cost-share for restoring canal capacity. Meanwhile, Hurtado’s bill would authorize one-third of the cost to be paid for by the state and one-third by local agencies. The bill would authorize $833.4 million for four major projects:

  • $180 million to restore the Friant-Kern Canal.
  • $183.9 million to restore the Delta Mendota Canal.
  • $289.5 million to restore the California Aqueduct.
  • $180 million to restore salmon runs on the San Joaquin River.

The funding may not be used to build new surface storage or raise existing reservoirs. It also can’t be used to enlarge canal capacity — except a temporary increase to mitigate future subsidence.

GV Wire asked Costa why storage wasn’t included in the package, and whether it was off the table.

“No, it’s not off the table,” responded Costa. He says there’s separate legislation for a seismic retrofit of the San Luis Reservoir and raising it by 10 feet to add about 140,000 acre-feet of water storage.

Costa says he has yet to find any significant opposition to the bill he introduced today.

“I’m always attempting to find the art of the possible,” said Costa.

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