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Schwarzenegger declines to endorse lifting ESA protections

Wes Sander, Capital Press 4/17/09

< Protesters rally at San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, Calif., on Friday, April 17. Photo by Wes Sander/Capital Press

SAN LUIS RESERVOIR, Calif. - San Joaquin Valley farmworkers and their employers didn't hear what they wanted from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday.

The governor received a hero's welcome at a rally concluding a four-day march organized by the Latino Water Coalition. He declared the urgent need for an improved conveyance system for the state's water, leading the crowd of several thousand in chants of "We need water!"

But Schwarzenegger didn't advocate for the temporary lifting of federal protections for the endangered Delta smelt to allow more immediate pumping from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

"Today is about much more than just water, or about politics or about policies," Schwarzenegger said. "It is about our livelihoods, our environment, it is about the entire economy of the Central Valley, it is about the entire economy of the state of California."

Several hundred farmworkers, invoking labor leader Cesar Chavez and joined by farmers and ag supporters, began marching Tuesday in the valley town of Mendota. They reached the San Luis Reservoir Friday morning.

Schwarzenegger drew a connection between water shortages and the state unemployment rate, now topping 11 percent.

"This is unacceptable," he said. "It is not just because of the world economy being down. It is self-inflicted wounds, because we can't get our act together to create a water infrastructure that is for 38 million people, rather than for 18 million people."

In response to the governor's remarks, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, called on Schwarzenegger to resign from office.

"The governor's remarks today were little more than lip service; a rehash of what he has said on the subject for years," Nunes said in a statement. "By ducking the issue of Delta pumps, he demonstrated not only a total lack of understanding but a callous disregard for our communities." 

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, after a tour of the delta on Wednesday, ruled out lifting Endangered Species Act restrictions from the delta.

"That is not the solution here," Salazar said in Sacramento. "The solution that we're looking at is one that is going to have to be comprehensive in nature that takes into account the huge variations you're seeing in water supply."
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