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Water Wars Wage in Fresno

Feb 4, 2009  KMPH Fox News26.

Water Wars Wage in Fresno




By Ashley Ritchie and Winston Whitehurst

Hundreds packed into Fresno State's Satellite Student Union Wednesday night for a verbal wrestling match. On one side of the ring were farmers; on the other side, environmentalists.

"This is what the environmental community has wanted to do. They want to take farming out of the Valley. And this is their way of forcing their issues upon our government and our legislators," Fresno County Supervisor and local farmer Phil Larson said.

"If you travel 200 miles north of here and have an audience of people, the general view would be why is Southern California and the Central Valley, Westside stealing our water?" Lloyd Carter, President of California's Save our Streams Council, said.

The main event was California's controversial water policy and where the precious and ever-waning resource should be allocated.

"Right now were in a terrible situation, in particular on the Westside, which will affect the whole area, in particularly Fresno County," Larson said.

"It takes $750 worth of retail water to grow $150 worth of wholesale cotton. That's just not rational," Carter said.

Farmers argue without water from the Delta, towns like Kerman and Mendota will dry up forcing thousands out of work and sending a ripple affect throughout the Valley.

Environmentalists, on the other hand, say the water could be best used in other areas. And according to one we spoke with, those who lose their jobs here, don't deserve them anyway.

"Their not even American citizens for starters. Do you think we should employ illegal aliens? What parent raises their child to be a farm worker? These kids are the least education people in America or the southwest corner of this Valley. They turn to lives of crime. They go on welfare. They get into drug trafficking and they join gangs," Carter said shockingly.

Recent rulings to restrict pumping from the Delta in order to protect the endangered Delta Smelt fish have local farmers asking why because protecting the fish means a drastic reduction in water around here.

But proponents of the ruling say it's an area that will dry up soon anyway.

"Do we really want to let the Delta die so a few hundred farmers on the Westside of the San Joaquin Valley can stay in production?" Carter asked.

Moderators say, whichever side of the issue you're on, it's a passionate one.

And though Wednesday's debate certainly doesn't solve the issue, it does open up the discussion.

Congressman Radanovich's bill to relax pumping rules in the Delta was introduced in Washington Wednesday.

Experts say, because of the growing water shortage, the Valley could lose about 40,000 agriculture jobs.

Radanovish tried to introduce a similar bill last year. But he hopes there's more support this time because of the poor economy and rising food costs due to the lack of water deliveries to Valley farmers.


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