Exploring Topaz Lake’s early beginnings
May 18, 2006
In a search for items to place in the “Remember When” column that appears every Wednesday in the B section of The Record-Courier, I came across several interesting articles on the early beginnings of Topaz Lake. It was fun for me to find some of the first accounts of how our beautiful lake came into being.
According to an article that appeared in the newspaper March 31, 1905, “The government has offered to furnish $200,000 for the purpose of erecting storage reservoirs to hold sufficient water to irrigate all the cultivated lands along the Walker River, provided that the farmers form themselves into a Water Users Association, binding themselves to repay the government for the expediters in the erection of the reservoir. The farmers are to convey to the government, all their water, ditch and dam rights and that they furnish all rights of way and other necessaries required by the government. It is stated that with the signatures of, from 80 to 90 percent of the land owners, the government will begin active construction next September.”
But apparently this generous offer from the government didn’t set well with the farming communities of Antelope, Smith and Mason Valley who were all dependent on the water coming from the west Walker River.
On April 7, 1905, in bold headline type on the front page, The Record-Courier reads, ‘Rickey will build large reservoir’ and the story followed:
“The Hon. T.B. Rickey has under contemplation, the erection of a large storage reservoir at Alkali Lake to store flood waters of the Walker River. It is estimated that the reservoir to be erected at that place will hold enough water to irrigate all the land in Smith Valley and probably a considerable amount of land into Mason Valley.
“Mr. Rickey has had engineers working on the project for some time to definitely determine the cost of the undertaking and the probable storage capacity of the reservoir. It has been estimated that by the building of a dam at the mouth of the canyon, that the water can be backed up as far as the state line with an average depth of 80 feet. It is also estimated that the amount of water that annually goes to waste during the flood season of the Walker is more than what is necessary to bring the storage capacity of the Alkali Lake reservoir to its fullest extent, with an ample supply over the amount that would be stored to irrigate all the lands cultivated until the dry season which begins about the middle of July.
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“At present the government has an option on the site but with the suit that has come up among the farmers of Smith and Mason valleys it is likely that the government will make no use of the site. It seems that only a portion of the land owners are willing to enter into an agreement with the government by deeding over their water rights until the project has been paid for.”
So the early beginnings of what is now Topaz Lake was a project that T.B. Rickey put into motion.
Now with what is happening in our community: It seems that the Topaz Ranch Estates Community Cleanup Day and the Topaz Ranch Estates Volunteer Fire Department annual fundraising barbecue and dance have been scheduled for the same day, June 3 and both were set to take place in the same location but there seems to be a workable solution to what could have been a conflict in events. The cleanup project, under the direction of Ole Chavez, will have its collection point set up at the Topaz Ranch Estates Open Bible Church building site next door to the TRE Community Park Building.
“This might not be such a bad idea,” said TRE Volunteer Fire Chief Coreen Hutchison. “No one should have to go home and cook after working all morning on the cleanup, so now they can just come to the barbecue, then rest and relax to the sounds of some great music.”
The community cleanup day starts at 7 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. The TREVFD barbecue/dance will be from 2-8 p.m., at the TRE Community Park building.
Until next week … Keep on, keepin’ on.