Does the Modesto Bee Really Favor Federal Assistance for the Valley?

Jose Hernandez

A recurring theme in Modesto Bee editorials over the years is the lack of assistance the San Joaquin Valley receives from our federal government. These editorials have always seemed ironic to those who’ve noticed the Bee’s consistent support for anti-government politicians like Jeff Denham.

Now the Bee has a chance to show its readers where it really stands on federal assistance. Federally mandated restoration of the San Joaquin River will pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the San Joaquin Valley economy. It will produce thousands of jobs. And once accomplished, restoration will provide even more jobs in the form of sustainable employment from revived fisheries and recreation. Jeff Denham is opposed to restoration of the San Joaquin River on grounds that’s it’s too costly.

No question it’s going to be costly to restore the river. Like most of our rivers, the San Joaquin has been abused and neglected for almost a century. The salmon and steelhead runs are devastated, the river is polluted, and until very recently, it ran dry for a sixty mile length. Just imagine deferring maintenance on anything for that period of time, let alone one of the most critical features of the Valley’s natural infrastructure.

Automobile owners and homeowners know that the price of maintenance grows exponentially the longer it’s deferred. There’s now no question that our rivers are severely impaired and desperately need attention. Restoration of the San Joaquin River provides a significant measure of that attention. If we delay now, it will only cost more to bring it to health in the future.

And while the restoration program isn’t perfect, it’s the result of eighteen years of litigation and three years of congressional adjustment. In that time farmers, fishermen, environmentalists and others all had their say. Newly elected Congressman Jeff Denham has now come along with a plan to overturn over two decades of planning and work dedicated to restoring the San Joaquin River to health.

Denham’s opponent, Jose Hernandez, recently voiced his support for the restoration project. “It’s one of the things that differentiates us,” said Hernandez, explaining his opposition to Denham’s position.

Valley leaders and the Modesto Bee need to stand up and applaud this opportunity to bring much needed federal support to a region desperately in need of jobs and economic stimulus. Silence is not an option. And those who support Jeff Denham need to quit complaining about the lack of federal assistance in the San Joaquin Valley.

About Eric Caine

Eric Caine teaches in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.