Presidential plans for California drought tour

The White House has officially released President Barack Obama?s plans for this visit to the Central Valley.
February 13, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Valley farmers are hoping -- on President Barack Obama's first visit to the Fresno area -- he'll bring drought solutions with him.

Security and equipment are already in place at Fresno Yosemite International Airport where Air Force One will be landing. President Obama will fly from the airport, on Marine One, to Firebaugh.

Severely dry and fallow land is what President Obama will find when he flies into the Central Valley on Friday, his first official visit to the Fresno area since taking office. His trip comes as the entire state faces what could be the driest year on record.

"It's a multi-year problem, we're going to need multi-year solutions and the feds have us all tied in knots," said Kerman farmer Paul Betancourt. "The president's the guy to untie the knots."

Growers, like Betancourt, are hoping this presidential trip is about drought action.

"We hope there's some substantive discussions and whoever he visits with that they have the opportunity to explain to him the problem and explain to him how the feds can cure this," he said.

As growers wait for federal drought assistance, they're already getting help from companies like PG&E. The California Public Utilities Commission this week agreed to push back a deadline that would limit water pumping schedules, to cut peak power demand.

"That ag rate was going to encourage farmers and ranchers to use their pumps in a really narrow window," said PG&E spokesman Denny Boyles. "The concern was if all of them turn those pumps on at the same time and the wells are taking water at the same time that might impact the water table."

Late Thursday, the White House officially released the president's plans for this visit. From Air Force One, which lands at 2:30 p.m. Friday, the president will head to Firebaugh for a roundtable with local growers at the San Luis Water Facility. Then, at 4:15 p.m, he'll tour a private farming operation in Los Banos.

He'll speak to the media while in Los Banos and then travel back to Fresno, where Air Force One is scheduled to leave at 5:30 p.m. Once the president leaves the Valley, he'll continue on his busy day with a stop in Palm Springs.

Traffic around the airport may be impacted while Air Force One is there.


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