Preserving the Source
December 2018, issue #49
Taking a step back to gain a new perspective can be highly informative. Fortunately, all kinds of perspectives are available at the Water Resources Archive, where any number of donors, researchers, and visitors bring their own views of water history and the resources we offer. Particularly enlightening, if not to say amusing, were KUNC Colorado River reporter Luke Runyon’s tweets after he visited us for the first time. His comment (above) on Colorado River Commissioner Delph Carpenter’s January 3, 1928, diary entry gives a refreshing take on history. Below, other new perspectives may intrigue you.
–Patty Rettig, Archivist, Water Resources Archive
Seventy years ago, these two river compacts were completed within months of each other. They applied to rivers on opposite sides of Colorado, thus involving different neighboring states. Each was conceived in the 1920s, put aside, and then given renewed attention two decades later when additional challenges arose. On the West Slope, the federal government provided some impetus for Colorado negotiating with four other states for one of the compacts. As a result, a number of water development projects could move forward (referenced in the image above). On the eastern side of the state, the other compact involved only one other state and principally focused on the operation of a new reservoir. This had the effect of reducing interstate litigation, though not entirely eliminating it.
Which two compacts are these?
Amassing Details of Arkansas Valley Irrigation Origins
Though Eastern investment helped construct Western irrigation systems, a collection on Colorado water history arriving from New York City is highly unusual. Also remarkable, the new collection supplements a collection we received last year, from Alaska.
The Arkansas Valley Sugar Beet and Irrigated Land Company (AVSBILC), incorporated in New Jersey in 1901, became a subsidiary of the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1910 through a chain of events involving a defaulted loan, a mix of investors, and an estate settlement. Ever since, Equitable, once the world’s largest insurance company, has stored the tens of thousands of pages of correspondence, meeting minutes, annual reports, financial ledgers, legal documents, maps, and photographs produced in the course of business between their New York office and the AVSBILC’s office in Holly, Colorado.
AXA Equitable, the company’s present name, donated these materials, accumulated in nineteen boxes, to the Water Resources Archive in the interest of increasing public accessibility. We were thrilled to receive them, in part because they shed a great deal of light on the photograph collection received in 2017 from a donor in Alaska, whose parents had been teachers in Holly. The materials also give detail to a fascinating story that has yet to be fully told.
Importantly, the AVSBILC owned the Amity Canal system and the Great Plains Reservoirs, thus dominating the lower end of the Arkansas River in Colorado. Equitable poured money into the AVSBILC to maintain those assets as well as others in the area, though lawsuits stymied their progress. Mutualization of the Amity-Great Plains system was one result of the litigation, with the outcome being the Amity Mutual Irrigation Company, which maintains its headquarters in Holly, Colorado, to this day.
Discovering the origins of this important irrigation system in the lower Arkansas Valley through these corporate records, accumulated from at least 1901 through 1966 when AVSBILC ceased, enables a deepened understanding of the external perspective of Colorado’s development. Researchers welcome!
The Year in Perspective
The work of the Water Resources Archive is only possible with the support we receive from sponsors and donors. With your help, this year we have employed three students, visited with the water community at eight conferences and one tour, hosted one film screening with 250 guests, and posted online nearly 25,000 digitized pages for remote accessibility. We received five new collections and additions to seven existing ones, totaling 153 boxes added to the Archive, or about 230 linear feet. We’ve completed our work on three of the new collections, as well as four collections donated earlier, adding up to seven new finding aids. We’ve assisted more than sixty researchers with water-related questions in person or via email, as well as hundreds if not thousands through our online resources.
All of this adds up to great success, and ongoing needs. Please consider including the Water Resources Archive in your year-end giving plans with a tax-deductible donation by Dec. 31. Your gift will help further our mission as we work on saving the past for the future!
Looking Ahead: Save the Date
Photos of an orange river caught everyone’s attention in 2015. Now, a new book examines the history of the Gold King Mine, water quality issues, and more. Plan to join the Water Resources Archive the evening of April 16 when we welcome to Fort Collins Jonathan Thompson, author of River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster. He will discuss his well-researched perspective with an associated slideshow in Colorado State University’s Lory Student Center Theatre at 7 p.m.
Gain new perspectives about these compacts through several of the collections in the Water Resources Archive, including the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family, the Ival V. Goslin Water Resources Collection, and the Papers of Arthur L. Littleworth. The Carpenter Papers in particular contain a 1924 proposal for an Arkansas River Compact and a 1929 “preliminary suggestion” for an Upper Colorado River Compact.
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This e-newsletter is created by Patty Rettig .
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