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TCCWD celebrates 50th anniversary of the world's most powerful water-lifting system

On Nov. 14, Tehachapi-Cummings County Water District (TCCWD) held a celebration for the 50th anniversary of water flowing into the J.C. Jacobsen Reservoir, or as we know it, Brite Lake.

Brite Lake is part of the world's most powerful single-lift water importation system, which continuously pumps water 2,000 feet uphill at up to almost 2 million gallons per minute through the Tehachapi mountains from the bottom of the Tejon Pass, or the Grapevine. At the ceremony, the water importation system was dedicated as the Robert J. Jasper State Water Project Importation System.

Robert (Bob) J. Jasper was TCCWD's first General Manager and employee, and he understood Tehachapi's need for water importation when he first started TCCWD in 1962. Jeff Jasper, his son, recalled at the Nov. 14 celebration event that, "Our dinner conversations revolved around the dire need for water."

Bob could see the impact of increased farming and settling in the Tehachapi mountains on local water sources and knew it wasn't going to be sustainable. He and his partner Carl came up with a system plan to pump water from Tejon Pass and into Brite Lake.

When Bob and Carl took the water importation system idea to Sacramento, it was met with great criticism to the point that Carl simply walked out. Their project was both ambitious and costly, and Sacramento representatives didn't share the pair's concern over Tehachapi's water supply. Neither one disposed to give up easily; they brought their idea to D.C. instead, where the cowboy-boot clad committee head, upon hearing their presentation, looked them up and down and said, "I like your sound. We're going to take care of you."

Since the first water splashed into Brite Lake at 2:18 p.m. on Nov. 14, 1973, Tehachapi has seen a population increase of over 800%. When built, the water importation system was the world's most powerful water lifting system, and the amazing engineering feat continues to serve growing demands with no issue. In addition to the population boom, agriculture and wine industries have grown substantially, particularly since Tehachapi Mountain's official AVA designation, and the importation system continues to deliver.

At the 50th anniversary celebration, multiple state representatives came to give accolades to TCCWD in honor and recognition of Tehachapi's incredible water importation system. Supervisor Scrivner's office presented a signed certificate of recognition to TCCWD. Congressman McCarthy's representative gave an award in Bob Jasper's name for his invaluable service to the community of California's 20th congressional district. Lastly, representatives for Senator Grove and Assemblyman Fong jointly presented a State Resolution, meaning information on the day of water first flowing into Brite Lake is now cataloged in the state's official historical records.

A custom plaque, awaiting the arrival of its base, will be placed next to a tree-shaded bench on the shore of Brite Lake, creating a small area of contemplation and remembrance in Bob Jasper's name for making a reality what TCCWD President Robert Schultz called, "Without a doubt, the greatest thing to ever happen to Tehachapi."