The mythical Barkley family of The Big Valley - an ABC TV series that ran from 1965 to 1969 - would recognize much of the terrain of their beloved eastern San Joaquin County.
Wide open spaces with gently rolling land as it nears the foothills is still much the norm today.
Unfortunately the Barkeys - depicted as Stockton’s most powerful and rich family 140 years ago - probably wouldn’t flinch at the amount of violence and crime in their beloved county seat.
But what they would be astounded at is how detached the Board of Supervisors can be about what the Barkley clan knew was one of the most, if not the most, critical county asset - water.
More than 70 percent of the fresh water used in California passes through the San Joaquin Delta of which almost all is encompassed within county boundaries.
Every plan advanced to address the Golden State’s thirst for water that involves the Delta would drastically alter the way of life - and farming - in San Joaquin County. Farming is by far the No. 1 employer in San Joaquin County. Various water movement alternatives could drastically alter much of western San Joaquin rendering it useless for farming. Studies have shown the biggest long-term threat to agriculture in San Joaquin County isn’t growth but potential solutions to the state’s water mess that would sacrifice this county for the faucets of South California and the Bay Area as well as the corporate farms of the South San Joaquin Valley.
Despite this county’s health being tied directly to water rarely - if ever - any more do you see a candidate for supervisors, the California Legislature or Congress emerge that actually is versed in water issues beyond the usual sound bites.
Congressman Jerry McNerney, who has served the district fairly well, is a case in point.
When he was asked a question about the Delta and federal water policy after being elected, he openly admitted he knew little on the subject but promised to be a quick study. Unfortunately, McNerney stuck to the national political script and did not engage anywhere close to what was needed to protect the county.
Now he wants to represent a Congressional district that encompasses the bulk of the county minus Manteca, Ripon, and Tracy. The federal government has a major role in the Delta. We need an advocate for San Joaquin’s water interest and not simply an echo.
McNerney unfortunately is not any different than any other candidate when it comes to water. They are so focused on the political issues du jour that they pay little attention to water issues whether it is at the county, state or federal levels.
The last real champion of San Joaquin County water interests was Linden farmer Mike Machado who served in the Assembly and State Senate. He was one of the primary architects of two water bonds that have allowed California as a whole to keep functioning when it comes to water.
Machado is a Stanford University economics major who knows how to work the crowd in Sacramento. Getting everyone on board when it comes to any water issue in California is a major accomplishment.
As things stand now, there is no Mike Machado on the horizon.
That doesn’t bode well at all for San Joaquin County’s future.