$1.5 million recharge basin in Fresno County unveiled

FRESNO COUNTY. (KFSN) -- It wasn't the wet winter farmers in the Central Valley had hoped for, but one Fresno County water supplier says they're ready to capture runoff when it becomes available.

Those behind the new $1.5 million recharge basin between Riverdale and Laton were excited to finally unveil the project Friday.

"We expanded the canal's capacity," Laguna Irrigation District General Manager Scott Sills said.

Sills says during a flood release year, the basin could double the district's ability to recharge the aquifer.

The only problem is they haven't seen a flood release from Pine Flat Dam since 2011.

This year's El Nino didn't bring relief, so the basin remains dry.

"The weather patterns didn't hold for our part of the state," Sills said.

But partners in the project say the recharge basin is a sustainable solution for future dry years, by capturing runoff in wet years that would otherwise be wasted.

The water will percolate into the ground and be pumped at later times.

"We need this on steroids, we need 100 projects like this," said Fresno County Supervisor Buddy Mendes.

"This will help the communities of Laton and Riverdale, as well as all of the farmers in the surrounding areas, not only in our district, Laguna Irrigation District, but in Riverdale Irrigation District, the town of Lemoore eventually," Sills said.

Sills says the project got the green light in 2012 when they received grant funding through the Department of Water Resources.

In the process, they teamed up with Sustainable Conservation, which helped coordinate the project, and get Coca-Cola contribute funding.

"We think about how to do recharge, in different ways so dedicated basins, but then also how do you use fallowed land and even active crop land, and spread water when we do get flood flows and use that to recharge the aquifers," said Kelli McCune with Sustainable Conservation.

"This turned out to be a great connection, by sustainable conservation with an area that needs water, an area that's really sensitive to water, and it can do something good for the community," said Coca-Cola Vice President of Environment & Sustainability Bruce Karas.

The water hasn't arrived yet.

But partners in the basin project believe it's just a matter of time before they can capture it, and plan for another drought.
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