Watering the Land:
The Turbulent History of the Carlsbad Irrigation District
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Since passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, governmental agencies have attempted to mitigate damage to historic properties caused by Federal projects. Triggered by Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act, this mitigation has often translated into important photographic and graphic documentation. Such was the case for the Bureau of Reclamation's Carlsbad Project located on the Pecos River in Southern New Mexico.

In 1987, the Bureau of Reclamation constructed a new massive earth-fill dam between Avalon and McMillan Dams, two technologically impressive structures that are part of the Carlsbad Irrigation District National Historic Landmark. Brantley Dam and its enormous reservoir eliminated the need for water storage at McMillan Dam. As a consequence, McMillan Dam was breached and water will eventually inundate the historic site.

Carlsbad Irrigation District. (click on image for a PDF version)

In order to provide a lasting visual record of the historic reclamation project prior to the construction of Brantley Dam, the Bureau of Reclamation asked the Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the National Park Service to prepare a Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) of the Carlsbad Project. Watering the Land — The Turbulent History of the Carlsbad Irrigation District, represents this National Park Service preservation effort. The documentation, including large-format, archival photographs, history, and measured drawings, will eventually be archived within the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

The Historic American Engineering Record was established in 1969 by the National Park Service, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Library of Congress. The purpose of the Federal program is to record the Nation's historic engineering, industrial, and transportation resources. Under the tripartite agreement, the National Park Service administers the HAER program with funds appropriated by Congress and supplemented by outside donations. The Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the National Park Service is responsible for preparing and reviewing HAER documents in a 16-state region encompassing Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

HAER projects, by their very nature, involve a number of persons possessing diverse professional backgrounds. The Carlsbad Project was no exception to this pattern. Mark Hufstetler and Lon Johnson wrote and researched the history of the reclamation project. While many of the photographs in the project are historic, the contemporary photographs were taken by Fred Quivik and Lon Johnson. James R. McDonald and Paula Albers delineated the measured drawings. Jed Howard, vice president of the Southeastern New Mexico Historical Society, Carlsbad, New Mexico, kindly donated the majority of the photographic portraits.

Funding for the project was provided by the Upper Colorado Regional Office of the Bureau of Reclamation. Wayne Prokapetz, Regional Archaeologist for the Bureau of Reclamation reviewed the manuscript, assisted in obtaining research materials, and greatly facilitated management of the project in general.

Many National Park Service persons within the Rocky Mountain Regional Office contributed their time, effort, and ideas to this project. Michael D. Snyder, Associate Regional Director, and Dr. Robert L. Spude, Chief of the Division of National Preservation Programs, provided support and direction. Gregory D. Kendrick, Chief of the History Branch, wrote the introduction and edited the HAER manuscript into a readable book. Historians Christine Whitacre and Lysa Wegman-French provided technical support. Special thanks are also offered to Richard M. Kohen for his excellent book design and layout.

Robert M. Baker
Regional Director
Rocky Mountain Region
National Park Service

July 1993

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Last Updated: 01-Feb-2008