$15M of state money is going to the San Joaquin River Conservancy, critics say timing is questionable

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MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – $15 million of state money was presented to the San Joaquin River Conservancy on Friday, the giant check presented by State Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula.

The conservancy is a 22 mile stretch of protected land along the San Joaquin River – from Friant Dam to Highway 99. The funds will keep parks open longer, help clear fire-prone vegetation, and be part of a larger effort to connect more people to the area.

“These funds can help us open up further,” said Arambula. “Large tracks that will make a significant investment into our children and families and will help us focus on our health and well-being.”

Arambula says the conservancy has up to 5,900 acres it can protect for public recreation, but only 1000 acres are being used so far.

“This opens up doors for access, these spaces being open for more hours, and even just undoing a lot of the damage done by record temperatures year after year,” said Reymar Catacutan with Fresno Boys and Men of Color.

For the staff at the conservancy, the funds will be able to set improvement projects into motion.

“The concept of ‘yeah we can come out and do things that we can’t do right now,’ said John Shelton, executive director of the conservancy. “Maintenance has been an issue. We’ll be able to do a lot more.”

But a key player in the conservancy feels the timing of the funds has political implications. Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi, who is also the chair of the San Joaquin River Conservancy board, said in a statement that he appreciates the funds but feels the state politicians behind the funding are doing this for personal interest.

I am glad that Assemblymember Arambula finally has an interest in the San Joaquin River, though I wish it wasn’t at the last minute once all the hard work has been done and with a willingness to sell our local interests to Sacramento for $15 million.

Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi

Karbassi also released a similar statement in June regarding the funding, saying the state funds coming to the conservancy erodes local control and is being used to make Gov. Gavin Newsom look favorable amid the impending recall election.

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