Longtime agreement keeps J.G. Boswell Company land dry in the old Buena Vista Lake bed in Kern County

April 19, 2023
by Lois Henry
The Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area isn't actually in the old Buena Vista Lake Bed. The old lake bed stretches out to the south, beyond the BVRA lakes in this photo. Lois Henry / SJV Water
Lois Henry

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The old Buena Vista Lake bed in Kern County will remain mostly dry and continue being farmed by the J.G. Boswell Company despite the coming, epic snow melt.

But unlike in Kings County where Boswell has been taking heat for continuing to farm parts of the old Tulare Lake bed while others have been flooded out, there likely won’t be much controversy over the Buena Vista lake.

That’s because back in 1964 the famed Miller & Lux company paid big money to keep a vast slice of Buena Vista Lake bed dry in perpetuity.

That was about 10 years after the Army Corps of Engineers built Isabella Dam and the Kern River rights holders had to start paying the bills.

The bulk of the old Buena Vista Lake bed is south of Cells 1, 2 and 2R.

So, Buena Vista Water Storage District sold bonds to pay its share, nearly $1.5 million ($14 million in today’s dollars).

To repay those bonds, the district assessed a single landowner – Miller & Lux. Even more specifically, it assessed the land within what was known as Cell No. 3 in the Buena Vista Lake bed.

Cell No. 3 covers about 18,000 acres of the old lake bed, which is south of what is now the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area southeast of Taft.

In exchange, Miller & Lux agreed that the district could put water on other portions of the lake bottom, known as Cells 1, 2 and 2R. Combined, those cells cover about 5,169 acres and can take up to 33,457 acre feet of water.

But Cell No. 3, was off limits.

“From and after the date hereof District agrees not to store and shall have no right to store the waters of Kern River or other waters on Cell No. 3 and hereby releases and relinquishes any easement or right which it may have to make such storage.”

Pretty cut and dried.

It wasn’t until later in the 1960s the Boswell company began leasing and then bought land in the Buena Vista Lake bed.

Meanwhile, the old Tulare Lake bed continues to fill chunk by chunk as Boswell farms tomatoes in the far southern sections of the lake bottom, which other farmers contend should have been flooded first.

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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