Rancher Ordered to Cap Wells on His Land

A judge ordered Little Tujunga Canyon rancher Fritz Tegatz on Wednesday to cap wells that supply water to his property by late September.

Tegatz, owner of the 660-acre Middle Ranch, said the order could lead him to close a trail on his property currently used free of charge by the public to access the nearby Angeles National Forest.

The Department of Water and Power and Valley water master Mel Blevins--a court-appointed official who oversees matters related to water rights--have maintained that water on Tegatz's property belongs to the city.

"We haven't decided whether or not we want to appeal," said Tegatz, who bought his ranch in 1986.

Blevins said other landowners in the canyon will also be asked to cap their wells.

In a related lawsuit, the city still seeks payment from Tegatz for water used since 1986. Blevins said it is his opinion that if Tegatz complies with Wednesday's ruling, "Los Angeles will forgive" Tegatz and drop the lawsuit.

Superior Court Judge Ricardo Torres allowed Tegatz three months to comply so the rancher can seek other supplies, via pipeline or trucks, the parties involved said.

Tegatz said installing a line to remote areas of his ranch might cost more than $1 million. If he closes a horse-boarding facility due to the expense, Tegatz said he would have little incentive to maintain nearby Little Tujunga Trail that crosses his property.

Horse enthusiasts worry about losing access to trails in Angeles National Forest, said John Barnes, president of the Valley Horse Owners Assn.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World