- San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley (pronEng|ˌsæn wɑːˈkiːn) refers to the area of the Central Valley of
Californiathat lies south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in Stockton. Although most of the valley is rural, it does contain urban hubs such as Stockton, Fresno, Visalia, Modesto, Bakersfield, and Merced.
The San Joaquin Valley extends from the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltain the north to the Tehachapi Mountainsin the south, and from the various California coastal ranges (from the Diablo in the north to the Santa Ynez in the south) in the west to the Sierra Nevada in the east. Unlike the Sacramento Valley, the river system for which the San Joaquin Valley is named does not extend very far along the valley. Most of the valley south of Fresno instead drains into Tulare Lake, which no longer exists on a regular basis due to diversion of its sources. Major rivers include the San Joaquin, Kings, and Kern rivers, all of which have been largely diverted for agricultural uses and are mostly dry in their lower reaches.
Hemmed in by mountains and rarely having strong winds to disperse
smog, the San Joaquin Valley has long suffered from some of the United States' worst air pollution. This pollution, exacerbated by stagnant weather, comes mainly from dieseland gasolinefueled vehicles and agricultural operations such as dairies and field-tilling. Population growth has caused the San Joaquin Valley to rank with Los Angeles and Houston in most measures of air pollution.Fact|date=April 2008 Only the Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles has worse overall air quality, and the San Joaquin Valley led the nation in 2004 in the number of days with quantities of ozoneconsidered unhealthy by the Environmental Protection Agency.Fact|date=April 2008 Groundwater purity is an ongoing issue in this valley including the Turlock Basin. However, it has been shown that San Joaquin County has better air quality than any other region in the San Joaquin Valley. It has also been shown that the Sacramento region has worse air quality, as does Stanislaus County.Fact|date=June 2007
Water pollution is another significant problem in the valley.
Soil salinationin heavily irrigated areas has significantly reduced the viability of some of the valley's most fertile tracts, especially those in the Tulare lake bed. Contamination of groundwater by leakage from manure pits at dairy farms and cattle feedlots has led to significant outcry.
The San Joaquin Valley has hot, dry summers and cool winters characterized by dense
Tule fog. The rainy season occurs from November through April.
National Weather ServiceForecast Office for the San Joaquin Valley is located in Hanford and includes a Doppler weather radar. Weather forecasts and climatological information for the San Joaquin Valley are available from its website at http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/hnx/.
Kevin Starrhas referred to the San Joaquin Valley as "the most productive unnatural environment on Earth."Fact|date=April 2008 By some estimates, fully 25% of the United States' agricultural production (as measured by dollar value) comes from California, and the vast majority of that is in the San Joaquin Valley.Fact|date=April 2008 Grapes—table, raisin, and to a lesser extent wine—are perhaps the valley's highest-profile product, but equally (if not more) important are cotton, nuts (especially almonds and pistachios), citrus, and vegetables. The J. G. Boswell Company's farming operation in Kings County is the largest single cotton farm in the world, occupying over 162 km² (40,000 acres). Certain places are identified quite strongly with a given crop: Stockton produces the majority of the asparagusconsumed in the United States, and Fresno is sometimes incorrectly credited as the birthplace of the raisin.
Cattle and sheep ranching are also vitally important to the valley's economy. During recent years, dairy farming has greatly expanded in importance. As areas such as Chino and Corona have become absorbed into the
suburbansprawl of Los Angeles, many dairy farmers have cashed out and moved their herds to Kings, Tulare, and Kern counties. Since dairy farms emit considerable quantities of methane and other pollutants, this has exacerbated the region's air quality problems. In addition, several high-profile incidents in which farmhands have drowned or suffocated in manure pits have led to calls to slow the proliferation of dairies in the region, with Kern County going so far as to declare a moratorium on new dairies in 2004.Fact|date=April 2008
Between 1990 and 2004, 28,092
hectares(70,231 acres) of agricultural land was lost to urban development in the San Joaquin Valley. ["Paving Paradise: A New Perspective on California's Farmland Conversion," American Farmland Trust, November 2007] In an effort to confront the problem of urban sprawl, the eight Valley counties are participating in a "regional blueprint planning process" that may result in denser developments and more public transportation. [Fresno Bee, December 30, 2007]
California has long been one of the nation's most important oil-producing states, and the San Joaquin Valley has long since eclipsed the
Los Angeles Basinas the state's primary oil production region. Small oil wells are found throughout the region, and several enormous extraction facilities – most notably near Lost Hills and Taft, including the enormous Midway-Sunset Oil Field, the third-largest oil field in the United States – are veritable forests of pumps and derricks.
Shell operates a major refinery in Bakersfield; it is currently (summer 2005) in the process of being sold to
Flying J, a Salt Lake-based firm that operates truck stops and refineries. The oil and gas fields in Kern County are considered to be in decline, and while no major discoveries have been made in the region for quite some time, the region retains more oil reserves than any other part of California. Of fields outside of the San Joaquin Valley, only the Wilmington Oil Fieldin Los Angeles County has untapped reserves greater than 100,000,000 barrels, while six fields in the San Joaquin Valley (Midway-Sunset, Kern River, South Belridge, Elk Hills, Cymric, and Lost Hills) each have reserves exceeeding 100,000,000 barrels of oil. [ [ftp://ftp.consrv.ca.gov/pub/oil/annual_reports/2006/0102stats_06.pdf 2006 California Department of Conservation, 2006 Oil and Gas Statistics] , p. 4]
Other major industries and employers
The isolation and vastness of the San Joaquin Valley, as well as its poverty and need for jobs, have led the state to build numerous prisons in the area. The most notable of these is Corcoran, whose inmates include
Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan, and Juan Corona. Other correctional facilities in the valley are at Avenal, Chowchilla, Tracy, Delano, Coalinga, and Wasco.
The only significant military base in the region is
Naval Air Station Lemoore, a vast air base located 25 km (15.5 mi) WSW of Hanford. Unlike many of California's other military installations, NAS Lemoore's operational importance has increased in the 1990s and 2000s. The other, Castle Air Force Base, located near Atwater was closed during the Base Realignment and Closureof the 1990s. Although both are in Kern County, Edwards Air Force Baseand China Lake Naval Air Weapons Stationare located in the High Desert area of that county.
United States Census Bureauissued a report entitled the American Community Surveyin 2007, which found that six San Joaquin Valley counties had the highest percentage of residents living below the federal poverty linein 2006. The report also revealed that the same six counties were among the 52 counties with the highest poverty rate in the United States. ["Fresno Bee," August 29, 2007]
Culturally, the San Joaquin Valley is quite different from much of the rest of California. Among well-populated areas, the San Joaquin Valley is perhaps the most conservative in California.Or|date=April 2008Fact|date=April 2008 For example, signs can be seen around Pixley and Hanford supporting leaving the
United Nations, and opposing abortion. Many commentatorsWho|date=April 2008 have noted the irony of the San Joaquin Valley's prevailing "small government" philosophy, given that its farm economy is the product of more than a century of expensive federal and state government projects and that cotton, one of its most important agricultural products, is heavily subsidized. While the importance of agriculture in the area can curb environmentalism, air pollutionis a serious and acknowledged problem in the area. Resentment of perceived condescension by Southern Californians and San Francisco Bay Arearesidents is a recurring theme in the valley's politics, occasionally manifesting itself in laws such as Kern County's 2005 ban on the importation of sewage sludgefrom urban counties.Fact|date=April 2008
Several prominent California politicians have come from the San Joaquin Valley. California state senator and unsuccessful 2002 gubernatorial and 2004 senatorial candidate
Bill Joneshails from the Fresno area as does former California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante.
Ethnic and cultural groups
While the "barrios" of
East Los Angelesare California's most famous areas dominated by persons of Mexican ancestry, both first-generation Mexican immigrants and well-established Chicanos are important populations in the San Joaquin Valley. Since the onset of the " bracero" program during World War II, virtually all of the agricultural workers in the region have been of Mexican ancestry. Ethnic and economic friction between Mexican-Americans and the valley's predominantly white farming elite manifested itself most notably during the 1960s and 1970s, when the United Farm Workers, led by César Chávez, went on numerous strikes and called for boycotts of table grapes. The UFW generated enormous sympathy throughout the United States, even managing to terminate several agricultural mechanization projects at the United States Department of Agriculture. However, from the 1970s onward, farmers have mostly hired illegal immigrants, preferred for their willingness to work longer hours for lower pay. Today, Chicanos are somewhat better integrated into the valley's economic framework.Fact|date=April 2008Or|date=April 2008
European and Asian groups
The San Joaquin Valley has—by California standards—an unusually large number of European, Middle Eastern, and Asian ethnicities in the heritage of its citizens. These communities are often quite large and, relative to Americans immigration patterns, quite eclectic: for example, there are more Azorean Portuguese in the San Joaquin Valley than in the Azores. Many groups are found in majorities in specific cities, and hardly anywhere else in the region. For example,
Assyriansare concentrated in Turlock, Dutch in Ripon, Sikhs in Stockton and Livingston, and Yugoslavs in Delano. Kingsburg is famous for its distinctly Swedish air, having been founded by immigrants from that country. Ethnic groups found in a broader area are Portuguese, Armenians, Basques, and the " Okies" who migrated to California from the Midwestand South. In recent years, large numbers of Pakistanis have settled in Modesto and Lodi. In addition the late 1970s and 80s saw an influx of immigrants from Indochinasettling in Stockton, Modesto, Merced, and Fresno. The Filipino Americanpopulation are concentrated in Delano and Lathrop.
These cultures are often the result of established ethnic communities and groups of immigrants coming to the United States at once. This is in part due to the founding of religious communes in the San Joaquin Valley: for example, the first permanent Sikh
Gurdwarawas made in Stockton in 1915.
Okies and Arkies
The Depression-era migrants to the San Joaquin Valley from the South and Midwest are one of the more well-known groups in the Central Valley, in large part due to the popularity of
John Steinbeck's novel " The Grapes of Wrath" and the Henry Fondamovie made from it. By 1910, agriculture in the southern Great Plainshad become nearly unviable due to soil erosion and poor rainfall. Much of the rural population of states such as Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansasleft at this time, selling their land and moving to Chicago, Kansas City, Detroit, and fast-growing Los Angeles. Those who remained experienced continuing deterioration of conditions, which reached their nadir during the drought that began in the late 1920s and created the infamous Dust Bowl. (Small cotton farmers in states such as Mississippiand Alabamasuffered similar problems from the first major infestation of the boll weevil.) When the onset of the Great Depression created a national banking crisis, family farmers—usually heavily in debt—often had their mortgages foreclosed by banks desperate to shore up their balance sheets. In response, many farmers loaded their families and portable possessions into their automobiles and drove west.
Taking Route 66 to Barstow or Los Angeles and crossing the Tehachapi or Tejon passes, they began new lives as fruit and vegetable pickers on truck farms in the San Joaquin Valley. Having gone from the relative independence of
homesteadingto a condition that was essentially peasantry, many of them lived in squalid agricultural camps and were deeply unhappy with their economic plight; domestic disputes, crime, and suicide were rampant, and occasional riots broke out. New Dealmeasures alleviated some of these problems, albeit belatedly: by the time that "The Grapes of Wrath" drew public attention to the Okies' plight, many of them had already left the valley. Those that didn't were assimilated into California culture and society where they and future generations became noted tradesmen, educators, legislators and professional business people.
Many of the Okies and Arkies left the San Joaquin Valley during World War II, most of them going to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego to work in war industries. Many of those who stayed ended up in Bakersfield, which became an increasingly important center of oil production after major Southern California oil fields such as Signal Hill began to dry up. Their influence remains strong: Bakersfield resembles a
West Texastown such as Midland or Lubbock far more than it does anywhere else in California. Country musiclegends Buck Owensand Merle Haggardcame out of Bakersfield's honky-tonkscene and created a hard-driving sound that is still deeply associated with the city.
The California real estate boom that began in the late 1990s has significantly changed the San Joaquin Valley. Once distinctly and fiercely independent of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the area has seen increasing exurban development as the cost of living forces young families and small businesses further and further away from the coastal urban cores. Stockton, Modesto, and Tracy are increasingly dominated by commuters to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and the small farming towns to the south are finding themselves in the Bay Area's orbit as well. Bakersfield, traditionally a boom-bust oil town once described by urban scholar
Joel Kotkinas an "American Abu Dhabi," has seen a massive influx of former Los Angeles business owners and commuters, to the extent that gated communities containing million-dollar homes are going up on the city's outskirts. Wal-Mart, IKEA, Target and various large shipping firms have built huge distribution centers at the far southern end of the valley, lured by the convenience of Route 58 and the region's low wages. Further integration with the rest of the state is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
The town of Mountain House is one of the latest planned communities in the valley. Its master plan envisions a city with a population of 43,000 before 2015.
Quay Valleyis proposed to be an even larger new city that would be located on about 12,000 acres in the southern part of Kings County [http://www.quayvalleyca.com] . A population of 150,000 is estimated at project build-out. Proponents describe Quay Valley as a sustainable model city that would maximise use of solar power. They make the claim that Quay Valley residents may never see an electric bill.
The San Joaquin Valley is home to several institutions of higher education, the most well-known being California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) and University of the Pacific. The
University of California, Mercedcampus began classes in 2005. Other than Fresno, the California State Universitysystem also maintains campuses at Bakersfield (CSU Bakersfield) and Turlock (CSU Stanislaus). There are numerous community colleges as well.
Interstate 5 (I-5) and State Route 99 (SR 99, or just "99") each run along the entire length of the San Joaquin Valley. I-5 runs in the western valley, bypassing major population centers (including Fresno, currently the largest U.S. city without an Interstate highway), while 99 runs through them. State and federal representatives have long pushed to convert 99 to an Interstate, although this cannot occur until all of the portions of 99 between I-5 and the U.S. 50 junction are upgraded to
State Route 58 (SR 58), which is a freeway in Bakersfield and along most of its route until its terminus in Barstow, is an extremely important and very heavily traveled route for truckers from the valley and the Bay Area who want to cross the Sierra Nevada and leave California (by way of Interstate 15 or Interstate 40) without having to climb
Donner Passor brave the horrendous traffic congestion of Los Angeles. Proposals have also been made to designate this highway as a western extension of I-40 once the entirety of the route between Mojave and Barstow has been upgraded to a freeway. This would provide an Interstate connection for Bakersfield, currently the second-largest U.S. city without an Interstate.
Other important highways in the valley include State Route 46 (SR 46) and State Route 41 (SR 41), which respectively link the
California Central Coastwith Bakersfield and Fresno; State Route 33, which runs south to north along the valley's western rim and provides a connection to Ventura and Santa Barbara over the Santa Ynez Mountains; and State Route 152 (SR 152), an important commuter route linking Silicon Valleywith its fast-growing exurbs such as Los Banos.
Amtrakprovides rail service through the San Joaquin Valley. There are also plans for a high-speed railline that will link the valley with San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego. While many valley politicians and businesses are eager supporters of the line, eager to provide better connections to the larger and wealthier cities to the north and south, large and vocal factions in cities such as Modesto and Stockton have opposed the line due to adverse impacts such as increased noise. Even if the project were to be approved, construction would likely not begin until 2010 at the earliest.
A now large port for oceangoing cargo ships is present in Stockton, which is connected to the
San Francisco Bayby way of a deepwater channel along the San Joaquin River Delta. Congestion at the Port of Los Angelesand the Port of Long Beach, which together account for the majority of container traffic in the United States, has led to calls for further development of the port.
Unlike the Sacramento River, the San Joaquin River has never been navigable much past Stockton. This was a significant factor in the San Joaquin Valley's slow 19th-century development.
San Joaquin Valley Fever is an older term for what is more properly known as
coccidioidomycosis, a fungal infection caused by "Coccidioides immitis".
Cities and counties
Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants
Cities with 20,000 to 100,000 inhabitants
Cities With Fewer Than 20,000 Inhabitants
List of counties
Other related articles
List of California rivers
San Joaquin (soil)
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