March for Water

Fresno, Calif. Thousands to march for additional water resources for California; CLWC Chair Paul Rodriguez calls for immediate drought relief and long-term solution -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Local and state-level leaders joined with the California Latino Water Coalition on April 2, to announce a massive four-day march from Mendota, Calif. to San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, Calif. The March for Water will take place Tuesday, April 14-Friday, April 17. March organizers described rallies and events along the 50-mile route expected to bring local and national level attention to the Central Valley's desperate drought conditions, zero water supplies in many areas and similar situations beginning to emerge across the state. The March for Water is expected to include thousands of Latino farm workers, farmers, small business people, elected officials and politicians and other civic leaders.

"From April 14-17 we will take our concerns to the streets as all of us March for Water," said Assemblyman Juan Arambula of Fresno.

CLWC organizers said a rally will kick off the march in Rojas Pierce Park (Derrick and Belmont avenues) in Mendota, 38 miles west of Fresno, at 8 a.m. April 14. Marchers will cover a 50-mile route over four days ending with another rousing rally at the San Luis Reservoir visitor's center at 11 a.m. Friday, April 17th. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein and other political figures have been invited to greet marchers and encourage California residents impacted by the drought and downturn in the economy.

Actor/comedian Paul Rodriguez, CLWC chair and a San Joaquin Valley product, will lead the march – in which all participants are being urged to wear blue – and be joined by other well-known personalities and political leaders.

"We're all friends; we're all neighbors," Rodriguez said. "This march isn't about celebrities. California residents need immediate relief and at the same time we need progress on a long-term solution."

Rodriguez said the four-day demonstration and its marchers will seek to raise awareness of effects of drought and court-mandated water supply cutbacks from the Delta that are adversely affecting many parts of the state.

"We're not anti-anything. We're pro water," Rodriguez said. "But like the Latino generations before us, we have to speak up for ourselves and march."

Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson said Mendota, where the March for Water will begin with a rally expected to attract thousands, now has unemployment approaching 50%. "We are in the richest farmland in the world and the richest agricultural county in the nation and we're told we are going to have 40,000-80,000 unemployed because of a lack of water," Larson said. He described a recent food line than served 1,000 hungry farm workers in Mendota and said those who were helped "want water so they can work."

During a March for Water organizational meeting on April 2 that followed the news conference at the Fresno Irrigation District offices, one story after another was told by the nearly 100 people from around the valley in attendance about job losses and economic cuts. Those impacts are already devastating thousands of valley families, many of whom have worked in farming or agriculture-related businesses for decades.

Mendota Mayor Robert Silva said his wounded community is eager to host the March for Water's opening stage because "things are not getting any better."

The April 14th Mendota rally will include farm workers along with farmers, valley residents and other Californians. Over four days, tractors, produce trailers and semi-trucks with large signs will lead the way. In addition, marchers will display visible signs and boisterously bring attention to the march, particularly as it passes alongside the busy West Side freeway, Interstate 5. The March for Water will march along a portion of Highway 152 just east of San Luis Dam and conclude with a massive rally at San Luis Reservoir on April 17th.

The Schedule:

Tuesday, April 14
8-9 a.m. – Rally in Mendota, Calif., at Rojas Pierce Park (Derrick and Belmont avenues). 9-4 p.m. – March eight miles along State Highway 33 to Firebaugh, another hard-hit Fresno County community.

Wednesday, April 15 and Thursday, April 16
9-4 p.m. – March north from Shields Avenue along Interstate 5 into Merced County and then alongside Highway 152.

Friday, April 17
9-10 a.m. - Start at the interchange of State Highways 152 and 33, west of Los Banos, Calif., and march along portions of Highway 152 toward San Luis Dam. At 11 a.m., conclude with a rally at the Romero Visitors Center, looking down upon San Luis Reservoir.

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