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Atascadero’s dry lake bed provides rare opportunity for work 

Dry Atascadero Lake

Paul Murphy and Jon Trumbull stand at the back of the pavilion at Atascadero Lake. The dry lake bed is in the background.        Photo by Heather Young

Friends of Atascadero Lake, city work together to improve city’s jewel

Atascadero Lake is the city’s crowning jewel, a nature area attracting hundreds of people daily to walk, run or ride around the 1.1-mile-round attraction. That jewel, however, has disappeared.  A few weeks ago the lake completely dried up, leaving residents and lake lovers waiting for heavy rains to fill up it back up.

As the lake levels declined over the last couple year, lake residents and regular visitors got together to form Friends of Atascadero Lake, which recently became a 503(c)3 organization.

Dry Atascadero Lake

Atascadero Lake has dried up. Photo by Heather Young

“We had a neighborhood group meeting,” Friends Vice President Paul Murphy said. “[Friends of Atascadero Lake] formed to fix the problems with the lake, to restore it to its former beauty/value.”

Last year, the lake saw the die-off of the fish. This year saw the last of the water evaporate with low rainfall and the hot summer. Last fall the city of Atascadero dredged 7,000 cubic feet of the lake around the island at the corner of Lake View and Santa Rosa Road. On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Atascadero City Council could approve the dredging of 20,000 cubic feet of the lake in the deepest area near the corner of Lake View and Portola Avenue. Murphy said that how much is dredged depends on how much money is left and how long the rain holds out. The only time the dredging can occur is after Sept. 21 and until the first rain because of migratory birds.

The dredging, call sediment removal by the city, is estimated to cost up to $287,000 with the city manager having the authority — if council approves it — to add an additional $114,800 to the budget for additional sediment removal as time, budget and weather allow. The issue went before the council at its Sept. 9 meeting, but Murphy said there was something wrong with the bids, so it was not approved at that time.

“They have to start pretty quick,” Murphy said. “This is a rare opportunity to dredge the lake [bed].”

Murphy and Friends of Atascadero Lake Committee Chairman Jon Trumbull said that the reason to dredge the lake and make the deepest part of the lake deeper is that it will allow for more water, which makes the lake cooler and make it aerate more so the lake doesn’t stagnate. The dredging will allow for an additional 15 acre-feet of water. Additionally, the dredging will remove years of “muck” that has collected at the bottom of the lake, which promotes algae blooms, which also occur when there is a lack of oxygen in the water.

Trumbull said no records of a deep dredge have been found, though it is known that a shallow, general dredge did occur when the island was built in the 1950s.

In addition, Friend of Atascadero Lake has been working with Atascadero Mutual Water Company to come up with a solution to supplement the lake’s water levels during the hot months when evaporation is at its peak. A resident near the lake has offered to allow a well to be drilled, tapping into an aquifer that is only utilized by Santa Rosa Academic Academy.

But the well will not be used until after the lake has been filled by Mother Nature. At that time, the water will only be used to supplement the lake.

“The purpose of the well is not to fill the lake,” Murphy said. “God has to fill the lake.”

Murphy and Trumbull said the dry lake could be attributed to the fact that three wells that supplemented the lake have not operated in many years, as well as the lake fill line being obstructed, which brought water from Atascadero Creek. The repair of the fill line is also included in the item before the council on Tuesday, the total amount for both the dredging and fill line repairs is $470,000.

For more information about Friends of Atascadero Lake, go to its Facebook page or website.

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