Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Buckeye Canal: A Weird Corner of History

While looking around for possible irrigation for my planned orchard of rare fruit-plants, I came across this odd little piece of history -- on the website of the Buckeye Water Conservation and Drainage Department, if you please!  It's a long tale, so I'll be copying it in sections, starting here:


            Although not widely known, the history of the Buckeye Canal reflects a dramatic story in the history and development of the arid regions of the American West.  Land and water form the sum and substance of the history and those who sought to acquire private land and put scarce and unpredictable amounts of water on it for beneficial use formed the essence of this history. 
It all started with a vision, shared by Malin M. Jackson, Joshua L. Spain, and Henry Mitchell, of a wonderful opportunity to utilize the abundance of water.  They discovered this water flowing 23 miles west of the junction of the Agua Fria River and the Salt River, situated in the central part of Maricopa County. 
In 1887 development work began on the irrigation system that was to supply the necessary water for what became known as the Buckeye Valley.  Despite economic and environmental challenges of enormous proportions, this enterprise, ultimately, turned once desolate acreage into highly productive agricultural land.
The system was first operated as a corporation serving as a common carrier from the date of construction until 1907 when negotiations were completed whereby the Valley land owners purchased the irrigation works outright.
            The Buckeye Irrigation Company, which, in 1907, after twenty years of fits and starts, emerged from the hopes and dreams of various irrigation speculators and would-be entrepreneurs, played the central role in this story of private capital harnessing the natural resources of the American West.  The struggles against alternative periods of flood and drought, economic downturns, and fiscal uncertainties, combined with shifting federal land and water policies, led Buckeye Valley settlers to seek their own solutions to securing, preserving, maintaining and delivering water to their agricultural lands. 
            For many years all of the water for irrigation of the approximately 20,000 acres of developed land was supplied from the regular flow of the Gila River, which drains more than half of the State, and is the largest stream in the State except for the Colorado River.  However, due to the many dams and up-stream users, irrigation wells had to be drilled to supply adequate water needed for all the land.  At the present, some of the water supply is being purchased as effluent from the City of Phoenix and others; thus, effluent, stream flow and pumps together provide the water to meet all the demand.
            We want to give homage to Malin M. Jackson, Joshua L. Spain, and Henry Mitchell for their foresight, determination and courage in developing the Valley irrigation system later known as “The Buckeye Irrigation Company.”  We also want to recognize our forefathers who pioneered in the development of the Valley and through their perseverance, founded the present Valley towns and communities that are good friendly places to enjoy life.

More to follow.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(


Anonymous said...

Is that the one that goes through Phoenix? Madeleine was out in Phoenix for a while, and she talked about walking along a canal, which surprised me as I had not known of any such thing.

Leslie Fish said...

Actually, there's more than one canal that goes through Phoenix; the Hohokam Indians, who lived here before the Navaho, were farmers -- and they created the first irrigation canals in the valley. The early White settlers simply expanded the old Hohokam canals. IIRC, the Buckeye canal was the first totally new canal in the district.