Fresno Hosts Water Forum

January 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Fresno was the first stop for a statewide push to educate voters on a comprehensive water package.Organizers of Friday's forum believe an $11-billion dollar water bond would help the state deal with an on-going drought. They said their objective was to educate the public.

At times the water forum at the Exhibit Hall Downtown had the feel of a celebrity roast for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Comedian turned water activist Paul Rodriguez said, "I have gotten to know him as a man and we've had conversations - through an interpreter - because neither of us speak English apparently."

Lt. Governor Appointee Abel Maldonado also credited the governor for his work with the bond. Maldonado said, "When we would storm out and say we're not getting what he wants or they're not getting what they want, he kept us at the table - you are not leaving until we get it done."

But people came to learn more about a very serious issue.

In November, they'll vote on a comprehensive water bond which would rebuild the state's aging water system and increase storage.

Work on a temporary solution for moving irrigation water from the delta to west-side farms has been delayed. The two-gates project would have diverted endangered delta smelt around pumps. Some had harsh words for U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League said, "Mr. Salazar does not have a real concern for what is happening here. I think he's only worried about maybe promoting himself to a bigger position."

Mario Santoyo of the Latino Water Coalition explained, "The two-gates was probably the last little light of hope to possibly provide some water to the valley because it would isolate the smelt at certain times."

Even if winter storms pad the state snowpack, Santoyo said farmers on the west side still wouldn't benefit. Santoyo said, "It really isn't going to matter how much water makes it into the delta. If you can't pump it out, you're not gonna get it."

The comprehensive water package includes four policy bills and a bond measure. It has drawn opposition from fiscal conservatives and environmental groups.