A CENTURY OF CONVEYANCE,
COMMITMENT & CUSTOMER SERVICE
FIGHT OVER WATER
Water rights disputes began just over a decade after the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company’s first diversions were made in 1871. As more diversion canals were built, claims mounted for use of Kings River water – which was plentiful in some years and barely a trickle in others – but there were conflicting types of claims.
“Appropriative Rights” were established by posting a notice at the point of diversion and then recording it with the County Clerk.
By 1900, these appropriative rights had claimed 750,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), 6.5 times more water than the highest Kings River flow ever recorded. During late summer as flows diminished down to less than 100 cfs, there was not enough water for irrigating crops during the hot summer months.
LAGUNA DE TACHE GRANT
This 48,000-acre former Mexican land grant near what became Laton helped solve Fresno’s water rights problem. Dr. E.B. Perrin, who then owned the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company, in 1891, purchased the Laguna de Tache Grant for $1 million. The following year, the company gained control of riparian rights totaling 2,500 cfs of Kings River water that remains the basis of FID’s excellent water entitlement to this day.
PINE FLAT DAM – AT LAST
Groundbreaking for the Pine Flat Dam project was in 1947, when the Army Corps of Engineers embarked on a $42.3 Million project. To mark the occasion, then California Governor, Earl Warren, set off a massive dynamite blast on what would become the dam’s south abutment.
Pine Flat Dam, the nation’s 26th tallest dam, was completed in 1954. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages river flood releases, and the Kings River Watermaster is in control all other times. KRWA member agencies, including FID, adopted new and more complete water schedules in 1963, which still govern the Kings River entitlements and operations. This project secured the water future for FID, and the dam provides a major regional flood protection benefit.
Riparian Rights were also being claimed and, by court decisions, granted to large landowners on the Kings River’s banks.
These decisions limited the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company to diverting 100 cfs, far less water than had been sold to landowners.
Unsettled times: The riparian disputes sparked a number of farmer-led armed revolts to control headgates and water rights.
FIRST WATER SCHEDULE
L.A. Nares took over the Fresno Canal and Irrigation Company in 1894, and by 1897, brought together the four senior Kings River diverters to frame and adopt the Kings River’s first water entitlement schedule. Only the river’s low flows (below 1900 cfs) and the small but constant Laguna Grant supply were included but it was a start. These original schedulenumbers were included in later agreements and remain in use today.
KAUPKE SETTLES IT
In 1917, Charles L. Kaupke was called in as an impartial water engineer to evaluate the schedules. He quickly went to work to gather data on river flows, diversions, canal capacities, and historical uses, which would be required to prepare an entitlement
schedule for Kings River “units”, as they became known. Kaupke became the Watermaster in 1919. A formal river-wide schedule was adopted in 1927 when the Kings River Water Association (KRWA) was formed.
TODAY'S WATER SUPPLY
In an average year, FID imports approximately 500,000 AF of surface water, which is approximately equivalent to the capacity of Millerton Lake. FID manages this robust water supply, ensuring water availability for users even in the driest years. The composition of the FID supply is primarily Kings River water, but also includes Central Valley Project (CVP) water available from contracts with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). FID has a separate contract for Class II CVP water (up to 75,000 AF per year) and also has an agreement with the City of Fresno to manage their Class I CVP supply (up to 60,000 AF per year).