Jeff Denham must go. There are countless reasons why he must go, but they can be summed up in his unrelenting assault on public values and public resources.
Once in Washington D.C., Denham became yet another point man for corporate America—one of his first acts as a newly elected congressman was an attack on the “Wild and Scenic” status of the Merced River.
Denham’s latest effort is devoted to overturning the federal ruling that restored water to the San Joaquin River and ordered reintroduction of historic salmon runs. Denham opposes restoration on the grounds we can’t afford it. This is like saying we can’t afford to clean up the air we breathe, despite its ill effects on our health and farm economy.
Like all Valley rivers, the San Joaquin once flowed cold, clear, and clean. Now it is too often tepid, turbid, and toxic. What was once a living river is now close to death and in fact has run dry for a sixty mile gap for the last six decades.
Denham, like all too many of today’s politician’s, is waging war on public resources. The ruling Denham is trying to overturn is the result of eighteen years of litigation and three years of congressional debate. As is fitting in deliberation about a public resource, multitudes of interests were addressed, from agriculture through fisheries to wildlife. Restored flows will serve all these interests.
Salmon runs are only one of many benefits of a living San Joaquin River. The San Joaquin Valley is in dire need of parklands and public recreation facilities. It has one of the lowest ratios of parkland to population in the state. Restored flows on the San Joaquin will provide opportunities for fishing, boating, hiking, wildlife appreciation, and more.
President Obama’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative features the San Joaquin River as a high priority. Jeff Denham is attempting to deny Valley citizens the many benefits of river restoration and appears to prefer a dead pipeline to a living river.
In a region that has been called, “The Valley of the Poor,” and, “The Appalachia of the West,” public resources are especially needed and appreciated. Rivers have long provided refuge and recreation for Americans from all walks of life, and have been gathering places where all can celebrate and share in the wealth of our natural heritage.
Rivers are key elements of our natural infrastructure. Unfortunately, we’ve neglected our natural infrastructure as much or more than we’ve neglected our roads, levees and bridges. Without needed maintenance and upkeep, we face dire consequences, and the price will only grow as the years pass.
Former astronaut and Valley farmworker Jose Hernandez is running against Jeff Denham. The San Joaquin Valley needs to send a powerful message to those who would jeopardize our public resources. Hernandez will bring a much-needed perspective to our nation’s capital and prove a far better defender of our public heritage than Jeff Denham, who has proven to be yet another water-carrier for corporate America.