Drought Meeting in Mendota

June 24, 2009 6:51:42 PM PDT
Mendota is regarded as the "epicenter" of the California drought. Wednesday state officials met in Mendota to hear more on the human toll caused by the lack of water.Broken water pumps dot the landscape in Mendota. Weeds grow in canals where water should be flowing to grow crops. Instead you'll find 450-thousand acres of fallowed land in this economically depressed area on the Valley's west side.

State Ag Secretary A.G. Kawamura said, "What we're trying to do is make sure that everybody understands the impact to the state, to communities is not just some farmers somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, which is what you hear from other folks down south perhaps."

The State Board of Food and Agriculture met at Mendota High School to hear first-hand how the drought has impacted communities which rely on Ag.

Mendota is dealing with a 41-percent unemployment rate. Mayor Robert Silva said, "They can't pay for their houses. They don't have money to pay for medicine because all of a sudden there's no work. They cannot comprehend that people are on the bottom line of a ladder."

Area farmers here are receiving just 10-percent of their normal water allotment. The jobs have just dried up. Firebaugh City Manager Jose Ramirez said, "See the closures of eight different businesses in my community and here the neighboring community of Mendota and San Joaquin."

Officials say as the jobless rate has risen, so too has the crime rate. Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan said, "As the DA of the entire county I know that crime in a smaller town has an exponential effect on quality of life."

State Ag Secretary Kawamura says it's important people around the country understand the severity of the drought, now in its third year.

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