The Valley water master and the owner of a Little Tujunga Canyon ranch will appear before a Superior Court judge today in a proceeding that could determine whether the ranch can continue to rely on well water.
At stake are not only the rancher's water rights, but public access to Little Tujunga Trail, which allows horseback riders, runners and bicyclists access to Angeles National Forest, said Fritz Tegatz, owner of the 660-acre Middle Ranch, which houses more than 150 horses, two families and boarders.
"The worst-case scenario is [Superior Court Judge Ricardo Torres] tells me not to use any water from wells," Tegatz said. "The best case is he could say I can't be stopped from pumping water."
Tegatz said that since 1986, city Department of Water and Power officials and the office of the court-appointed water master wavered on whether he can pump water, then informed him in May he could not.
Jerry Gewe, city water resources engineer, said the DWP supports water master Mel Blevins' decision that Tegatz cap his wells. Blevins could not be reached Tuesday.
Tegatz said that if he caps his wells, he must close a ranch facility that houses horses used primarily for trail riding.
If that happens, Tegatz said he would have little incentive to continue maintaining the nearby "Little T Trail"--more than a mile of private pathway on the land used for free by the public to enter the Angeles National Forest.
"It's quite a commonly used trail," said John Barnes, president of the Valley Horse Owners Assn.
"This access is the only one near a freeway or road."