[box type=”alert” border=”full” icon=”none”]Closed-captioned video of the Feb, 4, 2009, water forum (not including the Q-A session) is available at: www.csufresno.edu/polysci/about/news.shtml.[/box]

A public debate on water policy in California and the Central Valley will be moderated by U.S District Judge Oliver Wanger at 7 p.m. Feb. 4, at California State University, Fresno. Agricultural and environmental advocates will face off on the issues.

The debate, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Satellite Student Union (2485 E. San Ramon Ave. at Maple Avenue). It is sponsored by Fresno State’s Political Science Student Association and the Political Science Department.

As the presiding judge for the Eastern District of California, Wanger has ruled over most of the major water cases recently in the Valley, including the controversy over preserving Delta smelt in the Sacramento Delta. Wanger will provide brief opening remarks, said Dr. Thomas Holyoke, a political science professor who is coordinating the event.

Holyoke said the debate will focus on Valley East Side, West Side and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta issues.

“The single most important public policy problem confronting California’s Central Valley today is the availability of water,” Holyoke said. “The declining snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, the falling groundwater table and decisions to restore Chinook salmon in the San Joaquin River and smelt in the Delta will most likely mean considerably less water in the future for Valley agriculture.”

He said the issue also is forcing state and local policymakers to develop a broad new policy to strike a balance between supporting the agriculture economy and ensuring the quality of water and the environment that depends on it.

The forum will also provide an opportunity for the public to express its concerns, Holyoke said.

Valley agricultural community participants are:

  • Thomas Birmingham, general manager and general counsel of the Westlands Water District,
  • Kole Upton, former chairman of Friant Water Users Authority
  • Jim Beck, general manager of Kern County Water Agency

Representing environmental concerns are:

  • Lloyd Carter, board member of the California Water Impact Network and Revive the San Joaquin and president of California Save Our Streams Council
  • Michael Jackson, board member of California Water Impact Network and former counsel to California Sportfishing Protection Alliance and Regional Council of Rural Counties
  • Bill Jennings, chairman of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance

Free parking will be available in Lot P at Barstow and Maple avenues and in Lot J off of Woodrow Avenue.

For more information, contact Holyoke at 559.278.7580 or by e-mail at tholyoke@csufresno.edu.

Debate Issues

Valley East Side — Who is likely to win and lose in Congressional efforts to restore the San Joaquin River? The return of salmon, groundwater recharge, potential loss of water for agricultural irrigation, new recreational opportunities, new freshwater for the Delta, groundwater banks, county of origin and watershed of origin statutes, irrigation districts selling water to Valley cities, and the possibility of a new dam at Temperance Flat.

Valley West Side — Potential damage to agriculture, loss of jobs, dwindling water supplies, Westlands Water District’s claim to San Joaquin River water through a county of origin statute, drainage and selenium problems, and a proposed settlement through federal legislation.

Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta — Collapse of the smelt population, fragile levees, Northern California users’ concerns, potential impact on Native American tribes and re-emergence of the peripheral canal proposal to route water form the Delta to the Valley and Southern California.