Groundwater Banking Funds Are Awarded
Grants Will Help Ease Impacts Of Restoration
A number of districts served with water from the Friant Division of the Central Valley Project have been awarded an estimated $12.7 million in cost-share funding for water banking projects intended to lessen supply impacts of San Joaquin River Restoration.
These grants are among the first major federal spending to implement the Restoration Program’s Water Management Goal.
The Friant Water Authority continues to stress the vital importance of that goal, which is to buffer water supply impacts to Friant growers and communities as a result of implementation of the San Joaquin River Settlement.
FUNDS FOR FOUR DISTRICTS
Receiving the funding will be the Tulare, Shafter-Wasco, Porterville and Pixley irrigation districts. Also involved are the Kaweah-Delta and Semitropic water storage districts, Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District and Kern-Tulare Water District.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation officials made the announcement June 7. They said $10 million would be awarded in Fiscal Year 2013. “Combined with local cost-share contributions, more than $39.6 million in water management improvements will be implemented through these projects for Friant Division water contractors in the San Joaquin Valley,” a Bureau statement said.
According to Reclamation, the selected projects are projected to yield more than 760,000 acre-feet of water over a 30-year period.
WATER MANAGEMENT GOAL
The awards fall under the San Joaquin River Settlement’s Water Management Goal.
That objective, viewed as an equal partner to River Restoration activities and goals, seeks to reduce or avoid adverse water supply impacts to all Friant Division long-term contractors resulting from the San Joaquin River Settlement’s interim and restoration flows.
“These awards are important and welcomed but they are only one of many activities that Reclamation must undertake under the Water Management Goal to minimize water supply impacts to users as a result of Friant’s contributions of water for restoring San Joaquin River flows and fishery habitat downstream from Friant Dam,” said Ronald D. Jacobsma, Friant Water Authority General Manager.
Types of other existing or anticipated Water Management Goal projects and activities include capturing and recirculating or exchanging the releases, making wet-year water available at a reduced price for groundwater banking and recharge, and restoring the original capacity of the Friant-Kern and Madera canals.
The San Joaquin River Settlement resolved 18 years of costly and contentious litigation over the river and its fishery. Friant Division contractors accepted the Settlement, and have participated closely in its implementation, all to avoid what many believed was destined to be far-greater environmental water releases being ordered by a judge.
Settlement and the federal legislation that followed have provided water supply and cost certainty and security for Friant users by capping contributions of water (under a variety of natural runoff conditions) and money. Other benefits have been provided to Friant users such as perpetual contracts and a legal mandate that Friant water supply mitigation and river restoration are co-equal.
From Friant’s perspective, the Water Management Goal is essential to mitigate impacts created by the water used for river restoration.
Upon full implementation, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will be obligated to provide river flows that are anticipated to result in a long-term average reduction of 15-20% of Friant’s historical contract water supply.
Under the Settlement’s Restoration Goal, the river is to be restored to bring back a run of salmon between Friant Dam and the Merced River confluence. Flows will be restored to some 60 miles of river that were usually dry after the Friant Project’s water deliveries became operational more than 60 years ago. Interim flows aimed at amassing data collection for Restoration planning have restored some water to portions of the river.
Massive channel, levee and riparian habitat improvements are needed if the salmon objective is to be met. It could become the nation’s largest-ever river restoration effort at a cost of $900 million or more.
Friant Division leaders have said repeatedly that the Settlement was strictly a business and water management decision, made with the approval of district directors, all of whom are farmers who understand the critical importance of water delivery certainty.
The litigation was brought originally by the Natural Resources Defense Council and an environmental and commercial fishing coalition.
Friant’s Four Grant-Funded Banking Projects
These four projects have been awarded funds from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to develop groundwater banking facilities as part of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program’s Water Management Goal:
Tulare Irrigation District, along with Kaweah-Delta Water Conservation District
- Tulare Irrigation District, along with Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, plans to construct the 60-acre Cordeniz Basin and realign a portion of the Serpa Ditch in Tulare County to increase the district’s ability to recharge groundwater. The project also includes a groundwater recharge capacity study, a groundwater basin strategic plan, and developing an exchange program to bank water underground in wet years in exchange for dry year surface supplies. The project’s average annual yield will be about 8,500 acre-feet.
Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, along with the Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District, Kern-Tulare Water District and Semitropic Water Storage District
- Shafter-Wasco Irrigation District, along with Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District, Kern-Tulare Water District and Semitropic Water Storage District, plan to construct what will be known as the Madera Avenue Intertie, a conveyance alternative identified in the Poso Creek Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. The intertie will be a bi-directional pipeline and pumping plant with a capacity of 50 cubic feet per second, linking the Friant-Kern Canal with the California Aqueduct. The project will include a connection to Semitropic’s groundwater banking facilities in Kern County. The project’s average annual yield will be about 11,000 acre-feet.
Porterville Irrigation District
- Porterville Irrigation District plans to build new service pipelines and channels to bring surface supplies to an 1,800 acre in-lieu service area within Tulare County in which growers currently rely upon groundwater pumping. The project’s average annual yield will be about 2,500 acre-feet.
Pixley Irrigation District, along with the Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District
- Pixley Irrigation District, along with the neighboring Delano-Earlimart Irrigation District, plans to construct a joint groundwater bank initially investigated in a reconnaissance study completed in 2008. The project includes 170 acres of new recharge basins, recovery wells, a pump station and pipeline connection to the Friant-Kern Canal. This is the first phase of the project. It could eventually be expanded to include additional recharge and recovery capacity. The project’s average annual yield will be about 3,100 acre-feet.