Maricopa & Taft have energy cred

Maricopa and nearby Taft, members of the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Partnership, boast a long history in the energy sector. Both sit on the eastern border of the Carrizo Plain National Monument and in what was once a bustling oil patch. This time of year, minus the rusting remnants of oil field activity, winter rains have colored the flat lands and accompanying rolling hills to look quite a bit like the southern portion of Denali Park. Likewise, the region has a sleepy feel. But no ambling brown bears.

A Sominex scenario wasn't always the case. Maricopa once had a gusher spewing oil uncontrolled for about two years. The well was capped in 1911 after creating a massive lake. Lakeview No. 1 spewed an estimated 9 million barrels, only 4 million of which were recovered.

Maricopa has some newer wells and active pumps, but few associate the town today with black gold or Texas tea. That may change. There have been reports of interest in drilling in or near the monument, but the company has encountered stiff opposition.

A bronze plaque memorializes the site. Bill Rintoul, late columnist for the Bakersfield Californian, wrote: "a short side trip off Highway 33 just north of Maricopa, along the old Taft-Maricopa Highway, leads to the oil-hardened, sand-bagged crater that marks the Lakeview gusher. The Trout Stream has long since dried."
Photo: Courtesy U.C. Berkeley Archives