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Conference aims for single vision for San Joaquin Valley
San Joaquin Valley
The eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley are San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern.

Elected city and county officials from throughout the eight-county region will gather in Manteca to discuss common issues as part of a process aimed at forging a single vision for the San Joaquin Valley.

The April 24-26 San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Conference at the Great Wolf Lodge will tackle issues like high-speed rail, air quality, ground water and economic growth.

The San Joaquin Valley includes:

*The eight counties of San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Kern.

*Roughly 11 percent of the state’s population or 4.4 million people.

*The vast majority of the $51 billion worth of farm production that makes California by far the largest agricultural state in the country.

*Around 27,000 square miles —a sixth of California’s land mass of 163,696 square miles — including nearly 8,000 square miles of farmland.

*Four of the state’s 20 largest cities: No. 5 Fresno with 544,410 residents, No. 9 Bakersfield with 407,615 residents, No. 11 Stockton with 322,120 residents, and No. 19 Modesto with 218,771 residents.

In the San Joaquin Valley common issues include:

*The fact the valley consistently heads — or is at the top of the list — for various categories of air quality issues.

*Being the overall the most economically challenged region in the state with federal studies over the years depicting it in many ways as the new Appalachia.

*Being one of two regions in California with areas showing muscular growth despite it slowing down elsewhere or stagnating.  The South San Joaquin County area shares that distinction with the Inland Empire — San Bernadino-Riverside counties – in Southern California.

*Being home to the largest growth of super commuters — those that travel 90 minutes to work each way often five day a week — in the nation.

*Dropping ground water levels to the point many areas have experienced subsidence in excess of 20 feet.

The San Joaquin Council of Governments is hosting the 16th annual conference being staged by the San Joaquin Valley Regional Planning Agencies Policy Council.

Breakout sessions  focus on:

*The cutting edge diverging diamond interchange design of which the first in California opened in Manteca in 2019 at Union Road and the 120 Bypass. The second and third diverging diamond interchange are moving forward in Tracy near the International Business Park and on Hatch Road at Highway 99 in Ceres.

*High speed rail and valley rail enhancements that include extending ACE service to Modesto and Sacramento, Valley Link service from Lathrop to Dublin/Pleasanton where it connects to BART and upgraded Amtrak service through the valley.

*Finishing the upgrades to Highway 99 through the San Joaquin Valley.

*Affordable housing and forging partnerships.

*The Stockton Grade separation for the Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroad crossing and how it will benefit the valley.

*The future of regional housing  policy in California.

*Various sessions sharing how to work with key funding and regulatory agencies at the state level.

The keynote speaker is San Joaquin County native Jose Moreno Hernandez who is an engineer, former NASA astronaut and currently serves on the University of California Board of Regents.

Hernandez was born in French Camp, worked with his family a growing up in farm fields,  has lived in Manteca, and owns a winery in Lodi.

Also speaking is Manteca Mayor Gary Singh among others.