All-American Canal System recognized as national historic landmark

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Monday, the All-American Canal and Imperial Dam System was recognized as a national historic civil engineering landmark by the American Society of Engineers, local water users and dignitaries. Pictured unveiling the plaque, are, from left: Douglas J. Nicholls, Mayor of Yuma, Norma Sierra Galindo, President, IID Board of Directors, Michael D. Norris, Deputy Manager, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Mark W. Woodson, 2016 President, ASCE, Tomás Oliva, Senior Field Representative, Imperial County for U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (CA-51) and Tom Davis, Manager, Yuma County Water Users’ Association.

YUMA — Eighty-two years after ground was first broken 20 miles north of here to construct Imperial Dam and the All-American Canal waterworks, Imperial Irrigation District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and local dignitaries gathered to commemorate the water delivery system as a national historic civil engineering landmark.

The distinction was made by the American Society of Civil Engineers, San Diego Chapter during ceremonies Monday.

The All-American Canal System, which includes Imperial Dam operations, is the largest water supply and irrigation canal in terms of capacity in the nation, serving the Yuma, Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley areas.

In the Imperial Valley alone, the All-American carries an average of 2.6 million acre-feet of water, supports one of the richest agricultural areas in the world that provides the bulk of the nation’s winter vegetable crop and generates renewable energy for the desert southwest through six hydroelectric facilities.

Considered to be an engineering marvel even by today’s standards, the All-American Canal System, which was conceived and developed in the depths of the Great Depression, “is one of the pre-eminent water supply systems in the world,” said Norma Jean Mattei, Ph.D., P.E., F.SEI. F. ASCE, 2017 president of the ASCE. “It provides a safe and reliable source of irrigation water for over one-half million acres of year-round agricultural production and provides domestic water for over 150,000 residents.”

Nearly 80 years after entering service, the dam and canal system “continues to perform well beyond expectations,” added Norma Sierra Galindo, president of the IID Board of Directors. “Reliability enhancements, operational storage improvements and power generation efficiencies incorporated into the original design, make this water delivery system so important to the lives of a tremendous number of people across our harsh desert region. We will forever be indebted to the original team of engineering geniuses who had the foresight and flexibility to design a system to reliably bring water to the valley.”

Imperial Dam, the All-American Canal and the Gila Headworks are operated and maintained by Imperial Irrigation District with costs shared by Reclamation, Coachella Valley Water District, Yuma County Water Users’ Association and other water users.