Long before Rep. Tom McClintock called the meeting to order inside Fresno's City Hall, dozens of demonstrators walked outside with signs reading, among other things, "No Water, No Jobs = Higher Food Costs."
McClintock, an Elk Grove Republican who is chairman of the Natural Resources Committee's Water and Power Subcommittee, then set the tone inside by saying the political "left" is pushing "politically motivated junk science" while attempting to "pit fishermen against farmers."
There were dissenting voices, but they were in the minority.
Larry Collins, a San Francisco-based fisherman and vice president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, found himself in the role of villain as he defended the endangered salmon and the federal government protections set up to help the fish.
Those protections at times mean water-pumping cutbacks from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. That means less water coming to Westlands Water District and other agricultural and urban water users south of the delta.
"The more water you take out of [the delta], the more you guarantee the death spiral of my industry," Collins told the lawmakers.
Collins then exposed the deep rifts between farmer and fisherman when he said he was up against "corporate billionaire agribusinesses."
Collins' comments weren't the only ones in opposition to the prevailing political theme of the day, but they were the most incendiary.
They earned hoots and boos from the audience, and made him a target of Rep. Devin Nunes, the Visalia Republican who went after Collins with many of his questions.
In the end, the entrenched and well-known positions were solidified.
Prominent west-side rancher John Harris said not much new was learned from the hearing, but he thought it was a success because it brought attention to the plight of Valley agriculture.
But there are challenges facing the elected officials as they look at the state's water delivery system and try to tweak it.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, pointed out that if Monday's hearing had been held in Stockton instead of Fresno, the message would have been completely different: Don't send the water south.
"We're going to have to find the middle ground here," he said.
Santa Fe Springs Democrat Grace Napolitano echoed Garamendi, stressing that nobody can get everything they want.
But inflammatory rhetoric was the order of the day.
Nunes said that Sen. Dianne Feinstein twice "lied" to him on the water issue, and said that nothing would be done to help west-side water users by Democrats who are in step with the "radical environmental element."
Part of the frustration dealt with the fact that west-side agriculture is still guaranteed only 75% of its contracted water amount, despite this year's huge rainfall totals.
There also was conflicting testimony, with some mixing delta water issues that affect the Valley's west side with those of the San Joaquin River, which is more an east-side issue.
Madera County farmer Kole Upton called for building a dam at Temperance Flat and then went far off topic in decrying the effect of California's proposed high-speed rail line on agriculture.
For most, though, the bottom line fit the hearing's pre-established topic: "Creating Jobs by Overcoming Man-Made Drought: Time for Congress to Listen and Act."