Allen Reservoir Failure Docs

Allen Reservoir Failure Docs

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Description: A meager collection of hard-to-find historical documents on the Allen Reservoir failure, a large earthen dam southwest of Thatcher AZ. The docs are of particular interest due to apparent spectacular prehistoric canals that preceded modern developments.

Author: Don Lancaster (Fellow) | Visits: 2830 | Page Views: 2980
Domain:  High Tech Category: Business Subcategory: history 
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Allen Reservoir Failure Analysis Docs
Don Lancaster Synergetics, Box 809, Thatcher, AZ 85552 copyright c2010 pub 10/10 as GuruGram #113 (928) 428-4073

There is a spectacularly failed and quite large earthen dam two miles Southwest
of Thatcher, Arizona called the Allen Reservoir. In doing some prehistoric canal research in the same area, I discovered that very little was known about who built this dam or why and how it failed. Despite it being only slightly more than a stone's throw from downtown, very few people even know the quarter mile long by thirty feet high dam site even exists, let alone its history. After several months of frustratingly negative research, I did manage to find some meagerly scant documents in rather obscure places. Which I have reproduced here as a historical record. Many thanks to Nicole Spence Gibson and Michael Johnson of the Arizona Department of Water Resources for their valuable input. The dam was apparently built in the late 1930's by the Soil Conservation Service, using PWA and possibly CCC labor. As part of The Gila Project. In 1948, the overflow pipe became clogged ( possibly intentionally ) and nobody bothered to fix it. The dam failed catastrophically twenty years later in the late 1960's after a heavy storm overflowed the emergency spillway. A second dam only a few miles downstream largely prevented any loss of life or significant property destruction. Curiously, the dam watershed is only a few square miles at most. And largely devoid of springs or mountain runoff. A restored prehistoric canal sourcing in Spring Canyon some four miles to the south might in fact have been its main water source during non-monsoon times. Here are some of the recovered docs...

-- 113 . 1 --

Don, We could only find a correspondence file, rather small, within our archived records for non-jurisdictional dams. Attached are scanned images from this file. The two plates I mentioned during our telephone conversation are not attached to this email. Technically, it's just one plate filed in duplicate, and showing the plan and profile of the structure before the breach. During our conversation, you had also inquired on the ownership of the dam. The correspondence indicates a Mr. Geral Claridge as the original owner. Good luck with your research. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. Regards, Nicole Nicole Spence-Gibson Engineering Section Arizona Department of Water Resources 3550 North Central Avenue Phoenix, Arizona 85012 (602) 771-8658 -----Original Message----From: Ragon, Rebecca AGC [] Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 7:03 AM To: Nicole Spence Gibson Subject: RE: Seeking info on an Arizona dam Nicole, Thank you very much for your help. Becky -----Original Message----From: Nicole Spence Gibson [] Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 4:40 PM To: Ragon, Rebecca AGC; don lancaster Cc: James Neely; Michael J. Johnson Subject: RE: Seeking info on an Arizona dam Becky, I'll be glad to assist. Don, I searched our database for Allen Reservoir. There were no listings under our jurisdictional dam safety program (our state's non-federal dam safety program), however, I found the name among the non-jurisdictional dams. The non-jurisdictional dams usually include the federal dams and/or dams that do not meet our height and storage criteria. The information we have on the non-jurisdictional dams are sparse and the data is usually not confirmed as we do not oversee them. The good news is there is a listing in Graham County

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and some files were sent to State Records. I'm in the process of obtaining these records to confirm that it is indeed the correct dam you are researching. Once verified, I will call you to make arrangements to view. Regards, Nicole

Nicole Spence-Gibson Engineering Section Arizona Department of Water Resources 3550 North Central Avenue Phoenix, Arizona 85012 (602) 771-8658 -----Original Message----From: Ragon, Rebecca AGC [] Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 11:14 AM To: Nicole Spence Gibson; Michael J. Johnson Cc: don lancaster; James Neely Subject: FW: Seeking info on an Arizona dam Nicole or Michael, See request below concerning old dam in Arizona. Can you help? Becky -----Original Message----From: don lancaster [] Sent: Tuesday, September 07, 2010 1:44 PM To: Ragon, Rebecca AGC; James Neely; Subject: Seeking info on an Arizona dam There is a large and spectacularly failed dirt dam 2 miles southwest of Thatcher, Arizona It appears on the topo map as "Allen Reservoir" Its GPS coordinates are approximately **32.8334 **-109.7937 I seem unable to find who built this dam why or when. Google links are uselessly misleading, especially the fishing info for a bone dry site. It does appear to be a federal project of the 1930's to 1950's, judging by its size. It is approximately 30 feet high by several hundred long and once stored many acres and acre feet. Its primary purpose may have been flood control. It washed out "many" years ago.
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I was unable to find it in your online directory. Local "Allen" family historians seem unable to provide a clue. It may be mentioned in any documents concerning endangered Central Dam which is two miles downstream northwest. The information is needed for archaeological research into some major prehistoric canals in its immediate area. The dam appears to straddle a canal without any regard to access. Proof of this is sorely needed. Can you help? -Many thanks, Don Lancaster voice phone: (928)428-4073 Synergetics 3860 West First Street Box 809 Thatcher, AZ 85552 rss: email: Please visit my GURU's LAIR web site at

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