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We now have a clear ‘San Joaquin County’ congressional district with reconfigured 9th

You may not have liked him but it when all things are considered Josh Harder representing South San Joaquin County and Stanislaus County in Washington, D.C., has been a fairly perfect fit.

If you strip away the acrimonious blue and red politics and get down to the nitty gritty, Harder not only represented arguably one of the most diverse and balanced regions in California in terms of party affiliation, values, ethnic makeup and workforces with a strong mixture of tech, agriculture and logistics workers but he also gravitated to the middle.

Those who slammed him for toeing the party line on purely political issues such as voting for fellow Democrat Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker were babbling nonsense. Individual members of Congress that want to benefit their districts can ill-afford to be lone wolves in a town drowning under a tsunami of party animals.

But when push comes to shove Harder has worked hard on issues that impact the daily lives of his 700,000 plus constituents.

Harder respects the axiom “all politics are local.” As such he stepped up his dogged pursuit of arguably the most critical issues facing the Northern San Joaquin Valley — water.

The federal government has a heavy hand in deciding the fate of the region when it comes to water.

The Bureau of Reclamation via New Melones Reservoir at times threatens to chip away at water rights secured and developed by local irrigation districts and cities long before the Franklin Roosevelt administration rolled out the Central Valley Project in the 1930s. Various federal agencies play key roles in Delta water movements as also as the ability for many in the Northern San Joaquin Valley to be protected from floods.

Harder has worked to move the Del Puerto Canyon project forward. It’s  a key reservoir to help Westside farmers and communities bridge droughts and growing demand on exported water from the Delta from large south valley farming interests and the Los Angeles Basin,

He also has worked to advance Sites Reservoir in Colusa County. The off-stream storage takes pressure off Sacramento River Basin water committed to south state urban uses and agriculture as a big part of its function is using excess winter precipitation it will store to address critical Delta minimum flows as well as fish flows during the non-rainy season and after the snowmelt.

In doing so, it reduces the potential for the state trying to hijack water from the irrigation districts that serve the farms and cities of the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

He also played a role in picking low-hanging fruit that allows the raising of the Los Vaqueros reservoir in Contra Costa County.

While Congressman Jerry McNerney — whose Stockton-centric district Manteca, Tracy, Ripon, and Escalon will officially be part of starting in 2022 — clearly supports and votes for water issues that address the interests of the region he is not manning the frontlines as Harder has been doing.

Harder is running for re-election in 2022 in the reconfigured district that includes his hometown of Turlock. If he gains re-election in the new 13th District his clear commitment to water issues will continue to benefit the entire region.

While losing Harder as our representative can be perceived as a negative, the new 9th District is a big plus.

What is now a Stockton-centric district that includes Lathrop and Lodi with parts of south Sacramento County including Galt and reaches as far west as Antioch is being transformed into all practical purposes a San Joaquin County District.

The inclusion of Manteca, all of Tracy, Ripon, and Escalon as well as continuing to include Mountain House and Lodi reflects the growing strength of the county as it is clear the re-districting process took growth patterns into consideration. In all likelihood Tracy, Manteca, and Mountain House intense growth patterns will continue along with Stockton’s slowed growth by the time 2030 rolls around the newly drawn district will need to shrink further in size and shed Lodi, Manteca, or Tracy to avoid dividing Stockton.

Even before the final maps were announced, the 2022 election in the 9th District was already shaping up with two key players — incumbent McNerney and San Joaquin County Supervisor Tom Patti. There are other possible people who could emerge as viable candidates including Assemblyman Heath Flora of Ripon who is being termed out.

Redistricting, by its very nature, is going to come up with some weird outcomes. It’s the nature of the beast given you have to balance populations. In order for that to work, more than a few logical groupings of communities are going to be torn asunder.

The big loser from that aspect is Lathrop. The city is being moved into the new 13th or what could be called the “Interstate 5 Corridor District”.

It is a district that features Lathrop in its northern extremity punching into the 9th District. Lathrop with River Islands is the largest planned community being developed in Northern California with 15,001 homes being populated with Bay Area refuges that by the end of the decade will be able to commute by rail to San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento.

In its southernmost reaches is Coalinga, the self-proclaimed “Earthquake Capital of California” laden with oil derricks and farms.

Granted the district includes Los Banos, Patterson as well as parts of Modesto and Turlock that are home to Bay Area commuters.

Joining Lathrop in the 13th will be rural south Manteca as well as rural south Tracy.

The three new districts — the 5th (much of the western slopes of the central Sierra plus eastern portions of Modesto and Turlock), the 9th and the 13th — still share a common thread of water issues tied to the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced watersheds as well as the Delta.

As such it would benefit each district for the region to have representatives in Congress of Harder’s caliber who work tirelessly to pursue solutions that urban, agriculture, and environmental interests can all buy into.


 This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at