Lewis Griswold

Brown signs water projects bill aiding Friant-Kern farmers

A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown authorizes $7 million in state money to build pumps to move water into the Friant-Kern Canal.
A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown authorizes $7 million in state money to build pumps to move water into the Friant-Kern Canal. Fresno Bee file

Farmers getting irrigation water from the Friant-Kern Canal received good news last week: Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that should result in more water in the canal.

Or as Dan Vink, executive director of the South Valley Water Association, put it, farmers “might have the opportunity” to get more water out of the canal. Maybe not a whole lot of water in the grand scheme of California water, but enough to make a difference for some farms.

The AB 935 water projects bill by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, authorizes $7 million in state money to build pumps to move water north to about Terra Bella via reverse flow pump-back facilities still to be built.

As envisioned by the 2006 San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Agreement involving irrigators and environmentalists, water would be pumped out of the lower San Joaquin River and into the California Aqueduct on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, transported south to the Cross Valley Canal, then east to the Friant-Kern Canal.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation already has promised $3.1 million for the recapture and recirculation project, Vink said.

“It’s not a big win, but it’s a win for ag,” he said.

The bill authorizes the money but doesn’t appropriate it. It’s expected that the money will be included in next year’s state budget.

The project is expected to transport 15,000 to 30,000 acre-feet of water annually, perhaps more.

An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons. Many crops require about 3 acre-feet of irrigation water per year per acre.

The South Valley Water Association is comprised of nine irrigation districts in the southern San Joaquin Valley that get irrigation water from the Friant-Kern Canal for farming about 400,000 acres.

The project will benefit all irrigation districts that get water from the canal, Vink said.

Auto Club centennial

The Visalia branch of the Automobile Club of Southern California will hold its 100th birthday party this month.

Visalia was the seventh branch office of the club, which started in Los Angeles in 1900 and expanded to San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara and elsewhere.

“Why was Visalia so early in the process?” said Matthew Roth, the club’s historian. “It’s the proximity to Sequoia National Park.”

The club wanted good roads to Sequoia National Park, Grant Grove and Yosemite, he said.

In 1916, Tulare County had only 281 miles of improved roads.

Voters approved a bond measure to build 300 miles of concrete roads, according to an April 1917 article in Touring Topics, the club’s magazine (now called Westways).

Today, there are 4,400 miles of paved roads in Tulare County.

In the early years, field secretary Clarence McStay would connect with local auto clubs and chambers of commerce to rent counter space or a building.

In 1916, members could get travel information, maps, tour books, auto insurance, register their vehicles and get license plates. Roadside assistance came in 1925.

The first Visalia office was in the Auditorium Building on the north side of Acequia Avenue between Garden and Bridge streets. It’s gone now.

From 1936-1941, the club occupied 607 W. Main St. (now Quality Upholstering).

The Visalia office later occupied 520 W. Mineral King Ave. (1941-1961), and 300 S. Mooney Blvd. (1961-2008).

Today, it’s at 4228 S. Mooney Blvd., next to Best Buy Electronics.

The Visalia branch is hosting a birthday party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 15, with historical displays. The public is invited.

Lewis Griswold covers the news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com, @fb_LewGriswold