Gov. Requests Aid to Drought-Stricken Areas

June 20, 2009 12:07:57 AM PDT
The governor is promising help from the state level and calling on the federal government to assist as well after a tour of Mendota Friday afternoon."This will be followed up with a phone call to the White House, to make sure this gets special attention." Schwarzenegger said.

The Governor's attention to the water shortage and his visit to this economically depressed farming community in Western Fresno County has given growers and irrigators hope.

"I don't know of a better advocate than Arnold Schwarzenegger." Said Tom Birmingham, director of the Westland's Water District.

"He's declared a disaster, that's going to go directly to the white house and I'm very hopeful that will get the attention necessary to start to address in the short term the water crisis that exists and over the longer term."

And, Birmingham says he hopes those solutions can help growers and the environment.

"This does not have to be people versus fish." He added.

The Director of the State Department of Water Resources, Lester Snow, accompanied the Governor. He says fish are not the primary reason water supplies to growers in Western Fresno County have been reduced.

"About 25 per cent of that difference is related to the fish protection standards and about 75 per cent of that difference is related to the drought." Snow said.

But, fish, and federal judges who uphold the environmental laws that protect them remain the easy targets for the Governor, who said: "There's one thing that is important, and that is for the Federal Government to recognize and the Federal Judge to recognize that every single time he makes a decision like that and he chooses the fish and the species over human beings and over our economy and our revenues and over our water and farming and our livelihood it is a huge mistake."

In addition to his request for a disaster declaration that could mean federal funds to help with drought relief, the governor signed an executive order to provide millions in state funds for local food banks, and additional unemployment compensation in Fresno County, where it's estimated the drought has cost about three thousand jobs. A UC Davis study puts total job losses due to the drought in the Central Valley at around 30 thousand.

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