Tom Sawyer Lake: CSD is working hard to solve the problem | News

In January 60 years ago, the developers, then known as Oak Noor’s Ranch, were proud to fill a 12-acre lake “using water available from one of the many wells in the vast area.” I brought it and announced it.

By 1969, the new owner had announced $ 200,000 in an improvement on what was then (and now) known as Golden Hills. An article in the San Fernando Valley newspaper was accompanied by a photo of a rider now known as Lake Tom Sawyer. A sailing ship skimming the surface of an enlarged lake on a horse in the foreground.

In the 1960s, the lake was abundant in fish, golfing, swimming (in the pool of a country club), “lasting miles”, and hunting as part of life in a parcel just west of the city of Tehachapi. , Fishing and boating were promoted. Bridle trail with shadow. “

Named after a literary character, the lake was reminiscent of the dream the developers were selling with the land. A laid-back life in this country with plenty of recreational opportunities.

Unfortunately, the dream has become a little nightmare. The developers were not prepared to maintain continuous amenities. The golf course was eventually closed and the land, including the lake, was purchased by the Golden Hills Community Services District in 2014.

The abandoned clubhouse has been demolished and the trail provides access to the former golf course, which is now a natural park.

When CSD bought the property, Bill Fisher, general manager, told Tehachapi News that rehabilitation of Lake Tom Sawyer, which has been plagued by the stinking algae growth cycle in recent years, is one of its top priorities. rice field.

“We are working hard to restore Lake Tom Sawyer, but it will take time,” Fisher said in 2014. “This is a big project and needs to be done correctly. There is no quick solution.”

It may have been a 10-year understatement.

Eight years later, the lake was the subject of discussion at the district board meeting on April 21st.


As with many concerns in and around Tehachapi, the problem with Lake Tom Sawyer comes down to water.

The developers boasted of filling the lake from a well in 1962. It was three years before the formation of the Tehachapi-Cummings County waters, perhaps before the Tehachapi basin was pumped and dried to everyone in the area. However, Kern County was still in the dark ages of environmental regulation, and throughout the 1960s, a significant amount of land development was allowed without much consideration for future water demand.

Eventually, the new water district took action with the full support of the community at the time to organize water rights and bring water from state water projects. Golden Hills continued to grow with the golf course still active. 1990s.

Most (but not all) of the lake and Golden Hills CSD are within the boundaries of the arbitrated Tehachapi basin. In addition to purchasing, the district has also worked hard to expand its original groundwater rights by purchasing and leasing others to support continued development. Expensive imported water for charging and future use.

Tom Sawyer Lake was originally supplied by Freshwater Creek, but around 1983, the sanitary company Obtained mitigation measures for transporting treated wastewater. Water is stored across the golf course and can be used for irrigation of the golf course.

After the golf course was closed, AB Land Development bought real estate and the lake water was no longer used for irrigation. At about the same time, the stream was detoured, according to court documents.

The lake’s water stagnated and became spicy, and neighbors complained to the authorities, resulting in a Khan District Attorney suing the landowner and sanitation company around 2004. Among other government actions was a 2012 order from the California Regional Water Quality Management Commission. Call on the sanitation company to stop draining the wastewater into the lake.

A 2014 engineering report, partially funded by the Water Quality Commission, states that Lake Tom Sawyer is a designated wetland and Bright Creek historically circumvents the lake before detouring for road construction and other projects. It states that it was flowing.

As reported by Tehachapi News in June 2019, CSD reported that a project launched in October last year at a cost of just under $ 28,000 made a difference.

Wells owned by the district known as poor wells have been restored, and the water pumped from the wells into the lake resulted in higher water levels and less odor.

Unfortunately, recent analyzes of lake water show elevated levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, among other concerns, as reported at a meeting on April 21 by Susan Wells, CSD’s general manager. I did. Consistently test your drinking water within the limits of the state guidelines.

Deputy General Manager Christopher Carlson said water quality issues seem to be related to weather conditions (dry vs. wet) and wastewater from septic tanks. Wells are tested monthly for coliforms and E. coli. According to him, there is a one-month delay, after which problems occur and the wells need to be sterilized with chlorine, pumped and retested.

Possible solutions

Continuing to use poor wells to water the lake is one major advantage for the district. That is, the well is outside the arbitrage area (in the water district). This means that the district is free to pump from it without worrying about going beyond it. Water right.

However, due to the water quality issues noted, continued use will require an additional investment of approximately $ 15,000 to include permanent automatic chlorination monitoring and related enhancements.

And instead of pumping to the tank and then pumping to the lake, by piping the wells directly to the lake, the district can water the lake all year round and adjust the levels as needed. , Can be tailored to your fire protection needs — and potentially use lake water for future irrigation of natural parks.

However, staff noted that, in addition to the additional investment, there is no guarantee of success and the current connection of the well to the district’s water system will be eliminated.

According to Wells, the other option is to do nothing or consider using a professional lake management service. One of the informal quotes she received is the lake, in addition to the initial processing costing about $ 135,000 and the maintenance cost of $ 50,000 a year.

The board did not make a decision on April 21, but discussed in detail the value of Lake Tom Sawyer to the community, as well as the value of being able to use water from poor unarbitrated wells.

Claudia Elliott is a freelance journalist and former editor of Tehachapi News. She lives in Tehachapi and can be contacted by her email:


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