Fishermen vs. Farmers plays out in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

A crowd of farm workers holding signs demanding more water gathered outside the hearing, which was held at Fresno City Hall.

Republican Congressman Tom McClintock called the hearing to focus on jobs some claim were lost because of environmental restrictions on pumping water from the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta.

Tom Birmingham, of the Westland's Water District made the case. "In the San Joaquin Valley we have lost in excess of a million acre feet of water annually under the biological opinions and the Central Valley Improvement Act."

But Westland's call for more got water a gruff response from salmon fisherman Larry Collins. "The rhetoric coming out of the west side of this Valley is almost as toxic as the agricultural wastewater polluting our Delta and Bay. It isn't much fun being downstream from the millionaire corporate agri-businesses."

Republican Congressman Devin Nunes was a guest of the committee. Many in the crowd cheered as he criticized Collins, and Democratic leaders, saying they were all in league with radical environmentalists. "Don't be fooled. There is nothing that Senator Feinstein or Senator Boxer or President Obama are going to do for this area. "

Democratic Congressman Jim Costa who serves on the subcommittee joined his Republican colleagues in blasting federal restrictions on water but urged bipartisan cooperation.

"If we get past our partisan differences and quit politicizing these issues I think we can take care of our long term needs."

Other Democrats on the Subcommittee, Rep. Grace Napolitano and Rep. John Garamendi were skeptical of farm claims. Garamendi used charts and graphs to show the decline in the Salmon population. Napolitano questioned the level of losses agriculture claims to have suffered during the drought.

Republicans on the committee are expected to introduce legislation to restrict enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, and to roll back provisions of the legislation to restore the San Joaquin River.

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