This editorial appeared in The Fresno Bee.
The Obama administration dispatched Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to California on Wednesday to announce $260 million in economic stimulus funding for water projects. The most obvious question was how much would go to drought relief in the San Joaquin Valley, especially since Salazar was in California at the same time as the March for Water was being conducted on the Valley's west side.
The answer was a simple one from Salazar – the vast majority of this money won't be seen in the farmworker-dominated communities that are experiencing 40% unemployment because of drought conditions. But there was plenty of money for projects in Northern California for environmental uses.
No wonder so many San Joaquin Valley farmers, farmworkers and others in agriculture-related businesses are so angry with the federal government on the water issue. Officials in the Obama administration, including Salazar, don't understand San Joaquin Valley agriculture and don't seem to want to learn.
The four-day water march from Mendota to the San Luis Dam would have been the perfect opportunity for Obama officials to throw a little money the Valley's way to let residents know that the pain being felt in communities such as Mendota is acknowledged in Washington, D.C. The symbolism would have been significant.
Instead, Salazar stiffed the Valley's west side. This is one more indication of the region's lack of political clout. Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, said the federal stimulus money going to other water projects was "very disappointing." He should have said he was outraged, and the Obama administration had abandoned some of California's poorest communities by ignoring the west side in this round of stimulus payouts.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.