Interior Secretary Salazar hears Farmers water plea

June 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Secretary Salazar does not have the authority to change federal regulations. But he is the highest ranking person to address these water issues. He said for the first time in a long time, the federal government is working hand in hand with the state of California. With nothing more than a simple message in hand, farm workers stood silently outside Fresno State's Satellite Student Union Sunday.

"We need water. No water no jobs, no future," said Valley farm worker Rueben Aviles.

Meanwhile, about 900 people packed inside to welcome and question Department of the Interior, Secretary Ken Salazar.

President Obama's top federal land aid traveled to the Central Valley to hear firsthand the impact California's water crisis has had on the farming community. "It is by choice I am here today, not because I was forced to come."

All four Valley congressmen spoke at Sunday's public forum. Their message was simple.

"Mr. Secretary, our constituents are hurting," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D) Merced.

Proof of that came from a man in the audience who started yelling, criticizing the Obama administration. "Your boss Obama cares more about the fish!!"

During the two hour long forum, Secretary Salazar vowed to make California's water crisis one of his top priorities. Among other things promised, the pumps that supply water to the Valley's Westside farmers will be turned on within the next few days. "The time that is sensitive for endangered species is during the springtime so by operation by the opinion itself, the water that can be pumped will be on July first."

And while environmentalists at the forum questioned the move, some farmers say they've been forced to question something else, their future in the farming industry.

Delta land owner Tim Neuharth said "I think in some respects we are trying to solve one problem by creating another."

Cantua Creek farmer Cory Carvalho said "I'm real curious to see what happens in the near future and what happens with infrastructure, in the long term future as well. I'm a 32-year-old man who wants to keep his legacy alive."

Secretary Salazar said they are making more than $200-million dollars available for infrastructure projects. He has requested that his Deputy Secretary stay in California and work with the governor to resolve some of these issues.

Meanwhile, environmentalists admit some regulations need to change, but that they want to be more involved in the process.

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