Wanger asked the group, "If this is your existence how can a fish or an environmental interest balance against human health?"
Oliver Wanger spoke in Madera not as a federal judge but as a private citizen.
He explained to farmers how the Endangered Species Act and biological opinions determine his rulings on whether Delta pumps can operate.
Wanger said, "The evidence, the science was incontrovertible. In fact, when the cases were tried in my court everybody admitted and agreed that the smelt was in danger."
Judge Wanger said the water issue can't be solved in his courtroom. The problem, he explained, lies with the government. Wanger said, "There's only one place the problem can be solved and congress can't even agree on when they're in session and when they're not."
Judge Wanger's explanation he is bound by the law struck a chord with many who disapprove of his rulings.
Farm labor contractor Piedad Ayala said, "Even though our community was really depressed and really mad and upset with him, we started to see where the real problem is today."
Wanger told those in attendance, "We can't write the law. We can't re-write the law. We can only follow the law."
Outside the forum, Congressman Devin Nunes said he'll soon introduce the California Water Reliability Act.
Nunes said, "It creates a waiver for the pumps to run until a bypass is built. It will waive federal regulations so that Temperance Flat and other water projects can be built."
Nunes would also like to re-write the San Joaquin River settlement.
Judge Wanger calls the water problems "complex beyond belief."
Some farmers said they were surprised to hear how open he was about the issues.