Congressional Leaders Listen To Valley Water Plight

By: Liz Gonzalez

A standing-room only crowd filled the chambers of Fresno City Hall Monday, eager to give{} Washington lawmakers their two cents over the Central Valley's water crisis.

This meeting was different than previous forums about water. It featured members of the House Natural Resources Committeeincluding Visalia Congressman Devin Nunes.

"This is about the process. We want everyone to have an opportunity to speak to members of Congress, to take the message back to Washington," Nunes said.

The crowd at Monday's meeting was diverse; farmers and environmentalists were on hand, along with artists and businesspeople.

Westside Farmer Bob Diedrich showed up looking for answers on when he will receive more water. He grows processing tomatoes and other crops. He has 1,000 acres, but only farmed 300 last year. "I wanted to see if there is a glimmer of hope to help me out," Diedrich said. "It's frustrating. We're not getting anywhere."

Chris Acree, a self-described environmentalist with Revive the San Joaquin, told lawmakers he understood the plight of many, but asked lawmakers to fully study the issue before weakening the endangered species act.

"Legislation used as a hail mary pass for the last drop of precious water in the delta, especially in a drought year, is very damaging," Acree said.

This was the third time power players addressed the water crisis in a two-week span. Lawmakers say farmers aren't the only ones fed up.

"It is falling on deaf ears. That's why there hasn't been a solution," said Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah. He told those in attendance they should use this crisis as a call to action.

"Anything is possible... Everyone needs to go to their networks and associations outside of this area, this state, to tell them how bad this is. You have to get a mass of bodies to recognize there is a problem."

While all lawmakers present at the meeting were Republican, they say this was not intended to be a partisan hearing.

A seat was set aside for Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, in hopes the Obama-Appointee would attend or send a representative.

He did neither.