Thousands Attend the March for Water in Firebaugh

April 14, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Strong winds didn't stop more than two thousand people from marching for more water on the Valley's west side.        |   Watch Video Above for More Information on this Story   |

The first leg of the March for Water ended a few hours ago in Firebaugh. Wednesday and Thursday, marchers will walk from Shields Avenue along Interstate Five -- to Highway 152. By Friday, they'll reach the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County for a huge rally.

It was comedian Paul Rodriguez who got the crowd fired up Tuesday morning in Mendota.

Paul Rodriguez said, "Our only goal today is to make enough noise, enough impact so that our legislators in Sacramento will grow a backbone."

As chair of the California Latino Water Coalition, Rodriguez says he is angry that legislators have ignored the Central Valley's desperate water needs for so long.

"Can anybody live without water? I don't think so. I feel stupid trying to convince people of an issue that is so simple," said Rodriguez.

Growers and several thousand farm workers hit the road. Marching along the fields where they would normally be working. Due to drought conditions and zero percent water allocations, the unemployment rate in most of the area hovers between 25 and 40 percent.

Their message to legislators was spelled out on their shirts and hand-held signs ... As well as up in the sky ... and ... On the side of dozens of semi-trucks and tractor trailers ... "like foreign oil? Let's see how you like foreign food."

Firebaugh City Manager Jose Ramirez said, "This is the breadbasket of the world. This region provides the lettuce, the tomatoes, everything you can possible think of to the entire state. That is why the north and the south need to sympathize with what we are doing out here."

According to the Westlands Water District ... 250-thousand acres will not be farmed this year due to the lack of water. Third generation farmer Lisa Gragnani says the state has not begun to feel the ramifications of what is happening in the Valley's west side.

"We're operating only off of well water-- well water is a slow death for all of our crops out there ... its only a band-aid not a solution," said Gragnani.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will tour the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta Wednesday by helicopter.

A spokeswoman for the governor said Secretary Salazar also intends to announce federal stimulus dollars for California water projects.

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