A Look Back in History: Pescadero Creek Operations in the Late 19th Century

In 1911, Spring Valley was still in high acquisition mode for water rights. The letter below is addressed to John E. Behan who was Secretary and Assistant Manager of Spring Valley Water Company (SVWC) at the time.

This letter and the sequence that follows illustrate the quest for details on the Spring Valley Water Company’s operations at Pescadero Creek. This waterway is a major stream in Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties. At 26.6 miles, it is the longest stream in San Mateo County and flows all year from springs in the Santa Cruz Mountains, letting out into the Pacific Ocean at Pescadero. This year-round resource must have been quite valuable to a company (SVWC) ever-widening its control over regional water.

August 21, 1911

The letter above from W.B.L. or W.B. Lawrence, Superintendent of Peninsula Operations for some time. W.B.L. was back at it nine days later, with an inquiry (letter on next page) to one J.L. Moore, presumably the foreman referred to in the previous letter. The destination is Capitola, California, south of Santa Cruz. Lawrence is hoping to skirt the process of digging through paper if first-hand memory can serve the purpose.

August 30, 1911

Apparently, Mr. Moore’s memory was quite sufficient, as you will see in the next letter in this sequence. But first, Lawrence sends a warm and grateful letter back to Moore. (Moore’s original was not found in the “Coast Streams” folder.)

He also seems to be responding to a return inquiry of Mr. Moore’s, who, it appears, would like to be in the employ of Spring Valley Water Company once again. Unfortunately, Spring Valley is “running along at a minimum expense” in the summer of 1911. And there is no open position “that would be satisfactory.” But Lawrence assures Moore that the latter is in the former’s thoughts. And that Moore would be considered if a vacancy “that would be satisfactory” arose.

September 7, 1911 Acknowledgement and Commiseration

Lawrence’s closing remark might be meant to reassure. He notes that the Pescadero location remains as it was when Moore was working there, i.e., no new operations.

Regarding the inquiry of John E. Behan that was re-capped in the August 21st letter, Lawrence has some answers at long last.

September 7, 1911 – the Big Reveal

Almost a month had passed since their initial exchange — referenced in the August 21st letter as having taken place on the 9th of that month. Mr. Moore had recalled the year the dam was built, the size of the tract, and not just the year but also the date the dam washed away.

He recalled details on the installation of the tunnel and dam as well as when the diversionary tunnel was completed and when the water was “turned through” it.

Also, he recalled the costs of building the dam and tunnel broken out into component elements. He even noted that a keeper was stationed at the site until well after the dam washed away and included the keeper’s salary. Lawrence relayed all this to Behan, who, one can imagine, was well satisfied.