Valley growers hopeful president offers drought solutions

FRESNO, California

President Obama is coming to the Valley visit to get a closer look at the effects three years of drought have had on central California farms. This year is shaping up to be the driest on record.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said, "The situation with the drought in California is quite serious and the president is concerned about it."

V-22 Osprey aircraft and military helicopters are in place at Fresno-Yosemite International airport awaiting the president's arrival aboard Air Force One.

Kerman farmer Paul Betancourt said the president's visit will help focus the nation's attention on the impact of California's drought.

For years, farmers on the Valley's west side have seen water deliveries reduced because of restricted pumping in the delta due to environmental concerns.

Betancourt said, "The feds have us all tied in knots and the president's the guy's to untie the knots. What we really want is a long term solutions to our water problems. This isn't a one year problem."

An exclusive Action News poll conducted by SurveyUSA showed just 13 percent of people felt the president's visit would help with drought solutions "a lot." 40 percent said it would help a little while 45 percent said President Obama's visit would not help at all.

But many farmers will struggle without new solutions.

Friant Water Authority general manager Ron Jacobsma said, "We're faced with zero supplies. We have never had that before so it's a tremendous challenge and we need some relief not only in the form of rain and additional precip but also from a regulatory perspective where past policies and past practice have really created a problem for us."

The president will be accompanied by Fresno Congressman Jim Costa, US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer - who propose a bill offering 300 million dollars in drought relief and flexibility in federal pumping.

A republican proposal authorizes dam construction and a repeal of the San Joaquin River restoration. They're two different approaches. Valley farmers hope the president can help both sides find common ground.

President Obama will spend about three hours in the Valley before he departs on Air Force One to Palm Springs.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.