Evaporating Atascadero Lake has economic and environmental consequences

Jul 2, 2014

A recent photo of Atascadero Lake
Credit John Zuchelli

Atascadero city officials announced earlier this week that the city's lake will likely go completely dry by the end of July.

Council Member Roberta Fonzi says the marine life is in danger, but filling the lake would cost upwards of $500,000.

City leaders estimate it will take another two years for the lake to refill naturally if rainfall levels return to normal.

"The fish will die, and we have dead fish there daily and they are cleaned up by city crews," said Fonzi. "We have asked if we could re-locate the fish to other places and we have been told by the department of fish and wildlife that that is not allowable."

While the fish suspected of carrying diseases will not be saved, the remaining turtles are being transported to the Atascadero Zoo.

The disappearing lake also has a fiscal effect on local business owners.

Patti Deirmenjian is the coordinator for the Pavilion on the Lake, and she says wedding bookings are down and she's had to disclose the state of the lake on the Pavilion's website to warn customers.

"Last year between January and June, the first six months of the year, I booked 15 weddings, and this year, the first six months, between January and June I booked 10 weddings," said Deirmenjian.

Once it's completely dry, Fonzi says they plan on dredging the lake bed to make it deeper which will help keep this from happening again.