The Fight for Water Continues in Fresno

By Norma Yuriar and Winston Whitehurst

Fresno, Calif.{} (KMPH News) - On Wednesday afternoon thousands of California farmers and farmer workers will once again raise their signs and their voices.{} The fight for more water continues in downtown Fresno with a noon rally and a march.

"It's our way of life we have to protect that along with the food supply of the U.S.," said Central Valley Farmer Shawn Coburn.

On Tuesday, Coburn joined other farmers, water activists and Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to encourage the public to attend the rally.

"There is no more pressing issue for the city of Fresno in the long range than the issue of water," said Mayor Swearengin.

Organizers are preparing for ten thousand people.{} The big concern the Mayor says in the one hundred degree heat.

"We encourage everyone to come, but we also want people to be careful, we know it's going to be very hot Wednesday," said Swearengin.{} We are encouraging people to bring umbrellas, water, chairs what ever they need to endure the heat."

Comedian Paul Rodriguez, head of the Latino Water Coalition will lead the march from Fresno City Hall to the Federal Building, prompting several street closures;{} P Street between Fresno and Tulare will close starting at 8am.

"We are asking people to park in the Convention Center garage which is at O Street and Inyo or in our Promenade lot which you can enter on R Street and Inyo," said Fresno City Department of Public Works Director Patrick Wiemiller.

The massive rally calling for a comprehensive water plan comes two days after six busloads of farmers marched in downtown San Francisco over the water issue.{} On Sunday Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was also in Fresno to listen to the valley's needs and announce water pumps in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta would be turned on by Wednesday, the same day as the rally.

"That's totally coincidental," said Coburn.{} "Secretary Salazar did not come here and magically turn the pumps on, that was scheduled to happen and that water is already spoken for."

Coburn says its part of the 2009 water delivery to the west side and other California cities.

"The pumps were scheduled to come on July 1st with the verbiage of the smelt biological opinion," said Coburn.

The order protects threatened fish and cuts the water supply to Central Valley farmers.

"The intent of the rally is to continue keeping the issue alive in the media and in the public eye," said Mario Santoyo with the Latino Water Coalition.{} "That's the only way both the valley and the state of California are going be able to reach a resolution."

Wednesday's rally is also expected to draw several Hollywood celebrities, but organizers say the real stars will be the farmers and farm workers personally affected by the water shortage.