ELEPHANT BUTTE, N.M. — Elephant Butte Dam officially turns 100 years old Sunday and officials are celebrating with everything from tours of the towering structure to a fireworks show and pie-eating contest.
Neal Brown operates Elephant Butte Lake’s three marinas and the Dam Site Recreation Area. He told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/2dQNe80) that it’s fitting to celebrate the dam’s centennial because it has had a lasting impact on the state.
“All over southern New Mexico, people have benefited from the dam, not only from flood prevention but also through irrigation” and recreation, Brown said.
The celebration started Friday and runs through next week. Events are being held in locations around the reservoir.
When completed in 1916, Elephant Butte Dam was the second-largest dam in the world, surpassed only by the Aswan Dam in Egypt.
The dam provides flood control for the lower Rio Grande and irrigation water to 178,000 acres of farmland in New Mexico and Texas. It also created the state’s largest lake and has been a playground for boaters, anglers and hikers for decades.
Congress authorized construction of Elephant Butte Dam in February 1905. The Bureau of Reclamation oversaw construction of the dam over a five-year period.
During construction, two towns sprang up: one where workers lived and merchants set up shop and another above and east of the dam site where administrators and other officials were housed. There also was a hotel on the hill.
At the height of the project, about 4,000 people occupied the towns.
Brown’s company, Lago Rico Inc., has been working to preserve many of the buildings that were built by Civilian Conservation Corps crews in the 1930s, most of which make up the Elephant Butte Historic District.
Federal and state officials along with representatives of the International Boundary and Water Commission and local irrigation districts plan to gather next week to celebrate the centennial.
There will be more tours of the inside and top of the dam and a special plaque will be unveiled on Oct. 19.