Valley water issues no laughing matter

July 10, 2009 

Paul Rodriguez is not taken seriously when he declares that people are more important than fish. It's too bad; you should lend the comedian your ear.

Although an unconventional point man, he can unite many people to a popular cause — getting irrigation water to West Side farmers while protecting the water rights of those in the east.

As the ad hoc leader of the Latino Water Coalition, Rodriguez promised a fight during the July 1 march in Fresno. Rodriguez claims the San Joaquin Valley as home. His mother lives on their 40 acres while his father is buried in Dinuba. He also loves salmon, especially with bagels and cream cheese.

Rodriguez scoffs at critics who say he and others are bought by "big agriculture," while being blackballed and persecuted by those same environmental quacks who control Hollywood and big entertainment. That alliance has more powerful bedfellows: Barbara Boxer, George Miller, Nancy Pelosi and many others.

Our watchdogs, the media, continually turn a blind eye to what is happening in our back yard. All cameras have been on Neverland, with continuous Michael Jackson coverage.

What about farmers and farmworkers who have the best soil in the world, but no water and no jobs? What about the higher food prices that will likely be coming when consumers can least afford it?

The Associated Press estimated attendance at the Fresno march at 4,000; I think it was double that. One senses from the scant reporting that the crowd was boosted by farmworkers paid to be there. (The media loves to provoke class and racial discord.)

Bad laws have done much to create this crisis. Farmers have conserved and implemented the latest irrigation technologies at great expense, only to be left high and dry by politicians. Farmworkers are also forgotten, as labor issues are trumped by environmental ones. Most lawmakers are not to be heard, probably held on retainer by environmentalists.

Bad laws can be amended or repealed. Bad science is more disappointing, as hard science is not used by courts or other branches of government. The National Marine Fisheries Service is concerned about killer whales, even though each whale consumes 250,000 pounds of salmon per year. Why turn off pumps in Tracy when orcas seem to be eating the benefits? After all, The Associated Press in May had reported in a microscopic article buried deep within The Bee (May 9, Page A-8): "the delta smelt may not be as affected by pumping as previously thought," according to Department of Water Resources.

The Two Gates project, if it proceeds, will only be an interim solution. We desperately need more water storage and a conveyance system that will actually be built. We need water, not federal disaster funds. With an economy in huge decline, we must have increased production and economic activity. If you want to eat, listen to Rodriguez, not Washington or Sacramento.

Michelena is a Patterson-area farmer who served as a visiting editor at The Bee earlier this year. Write him at columns@modbee.com.

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