Elephant Butte Dam 100th Anniversary – Deputy Commissioner David Palumbo Remarks


Good afternoon everyone it is really an honor
to be with you all and this is where things happen in New Mexico and Texas. So again it
is very much an honor to be you all. Today I am hear in the absence of Commissioner
Estevan López, he wishes he could be here today and sends his regrets. As often with the Deputy and the Commissioner
we tag team things and divide and conquer so to speak. He was on to some other activities and asked
me to be here but to give his regards. So a few things about Elephant Butte Dam. Standing 301 feet tall, over 1600 feet long
Elephant Butte provides irrigation water to thousands of acres of farmland in southern New Mexico,
west Texas and the country of Mexico. It has a 21 megawatt hydropower facility and
as we have heard earlier today provides premier recreation ground for the area. If you turn back the clock 100 years building
the dam meant much more. The dam’s construction helped support an international
treaty, making it one of the first engineering solutions to resolve an international dispute. As Construction began more than just a dam had
to be built. First a work camp needed to be established,
parts of which are now known as the historic dam sites. Then came a 12 mile railroad connecting the
Santa Fe railroad line at Engle. Trains carried supplies to the camp and even
brought cars of visitors to see the construction under progress. For the dam itself, the concrete was carried
over a cable system powered by a 300 horsepower motor, large rocks were embedded into the masonry. By the summer of 1914, blocks of masonry about
100 feet long and different heights rose from the bed of the Rio Grande. The extraordinary crews who built Elephant
Butte worked day and night until the project was completed. At the end it contained over 600 thousand
cubic-yards of concrete. Looking at the photo displays around the area today
I can’t help but recognize the enormous achievement of the people who built this dam and I wonder
if they any inkling of an idea of the tremendous resource their work would provide to this area 100 years
later. That their dam would continue to meet the
purpose over all those years. Or that annual inspections would verify its
continued safe operation year-after-year. And I can’t say enough to all the folks who
spent time monitoring the health of all Reclamation’s dams, including Elephant Butte and it is really
a testament to the engineering and hard work of folks to maintain this in good condition and provide
safe and reliable storage for all of us. Today Elephant Butte Dam is equally important
in New Mexico, Texas and the country of Mexico. All of the people rely on the water it stores
and provides. Elephant Butte is a key delivery point between
New Mexico and Texas under the Rio Grande Compact. It is also the point where Elephant Butte
Irrigation District and EP #1 store their water for irrigation and also for delivery to
Mexico. Power generation, which did come later, as
well as recreation, are significant resources that the dam also provides. On some weekends in the summer, over 100,000
people use Elephant Butte Reservoir for summer holiday weekends. In conclusion as we celebrate today, we have
seen the impact the drought has had on Elephant Butte’s water level. When we were planning the event, we were wondering
was this going to be on the downstream or upstream side of the facility. I think both sides provide a great perspective
but it is good to be on the downstream, not necessary to look at the impacts of the drought
today. But we should recognize that the reservoir
is doing precisely what it was intended to do. For almost a decade of extreme drought it
has continued to supply water to New Mexico, Texas and the country of Mexico. We have had seen highs and lows at Elephant
Butte during its 100 year history, from the record lows of the 1950s to a full and spilling
reservoir in the 1980s. It has met its mission well during these past
100 years and I am confident it will continue to provide a stable water supply in this area
well into the future.

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