Fresno 'dam train' billboard: Water before high-speed rail

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- One day after a Fresno City Councilmember's billboard makes its debut off of Highway 99, he's getting a lot of feedback from fellow politicians and the general public.

"I've had an almost overwhelming positive response, it's just crazy the amount of people that say that sign's fantastic," Brandau said.

"It symbolizes in one picture the frustration and the anger of thousands of people in the valley," said fellow Fresno City Councilmember Lee Brand.

The words, 'Dam' and 'Train' are bold, and the sign is straightforward.

Given the severity of the drought, Brandau is asking Governor Jerry Brown to put water issues, like the construction of Temperance Flat Dam, before the High Speed Rail.

"I'm not saying don't do the train, scrap the train, any of that stuff," said Brandau. "I'm simply saying you're putting a lot of energy into the train. Can you put as much or equal energy into water?"

Brandau says it was worth his energy to pay $3,000 for the sign using campaign funds. He says people are out of work and without water, and water problems will only get worse.

But Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea says it's not a zero-sum game. "Life is not that simple," Perea said. "You can have both because we need both."

But he likes where Brandau is headed, towards getting city council to join the county's drought declaration.

"I think by this discussion, we now have a commitment by the councilman to take that resolution to his board and council for approval by him and the mayor," Perea said. "I think that's a win all the way around."

The ultimate win for Brandau is to have a talk with the governor.

In response to the billboard, the Governor's Office said in part: "This is the definition of a false choice. California is a growing state that must fix its aging transportation and water infrastructure....both are a priority."

In a way Brandau says he's already won because the billboard has started a conversation.

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