Phoenix Lake

A $4.1 million contract for the long-awaited dredging of Phoenix Lake reservoir, identified as necessary more than 15 years ago, has been awarded to Steve Manning Construction, Inc. of Redding.

The work may begin in June.

The Tuolumne Utilities District board and administrators had to place awarding of the contract on hold last month due to a bid protest. On April 14, Ed Pattison, the TUD general manager, rejected all bids and later re-issued a request for bids. Before Pattison’s announcement, the board was going to consider awarding a $4.2 million contract to KW Emerson, Inc. of San Andreas.

In spite of the delay, TUD officials hope to have Phoenix dredged out this year.

The five members of the TUD board — Barbara Balen, Jeff Kerns, Ron Kopf, Ron Ringen and Bob Rucker — voted unanimously to award the contract to the Redding-based company on Tuesday in a specially scheduled online board meeting this week.

Phoenix Lake is a reservoir, not a natural lake. A dam was built in the 1850s to enable hydraulic mining during the aftermath of the Gold Rush. The original dam was destroyed in 1862. The dam that created Phoenix the way it looks today was completed in 1880, according to the California Division of Dams Safety.

The reservoir has a surface area of 88 acres when it’s full. It used to be able to hold up to 900 acre-feet of water. Sedimentation, meaning mud and rocks that naturally flow into the lake, has filled up about a third of the reservoir over many decades and it has reduced its capacity to about 600 acre-feet.

Phoenix is the primary drinking water source for Sonora, Jamestown, Scenic View, and Mono Village. Phoenix Lake water rights and facilities, and portions of the reservoir, are owned by TUD. Reduction in storage capacity has led to degraded water quality, warm water temperatures, low dissolved oxygen, stagnated standing water, proliferation of invasive aquatic vegetation, and emergence of seasonal taste and odor compounds, all complicating the water treatment processes, TUD staff said.

Residents who live at and near the reservoir may see dredging preparation and dredging as soon as June, depending on weather conditions, a spokesperson for TUD said in an announcement Thursday.

“During the construction phase of the project, the lake water level must be kept as low as possible to allow the lake bed to dry,” TUD staff said. “This will allow the contractor to excavate and haul the dry soil out of the reservoir and place it on the adjacent Indigeny Apple Ranch Orchards to the north of the reservoir.”

The Phoenix Lake Preservation and Restoration Project is intended to restore water storage capacity by removing accumulated sediment, and improve water quality through retention of particles, increased water depth, better circulation patterns, enhanced aquatic habitat and wetlands functions.

The need for dredging Phoenix has been widely recognized for at least a couple decades. In 2004, local residents formed the Phoenix Lake Taskforce, the original driving force behind a successful application for a planning grant from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy to develop the Phoenix Lake Preservation and Restoration Plan.

Contact Guy McCarthy at or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.