San Angelo Project History

The Concho River area was first settled around 1870 by cattlemen and followed soon after by farmers. Although much of the area is still devoted primarily to grazing, most of the land now cultivated was first broken and farmed between 1880 and 1910. The last of the State-owned lands went into private ownership soon after 1910. In the 2000 census the City of San Angelo was estimated to have a population of 88,439. Except for San Angelo the Concho River watershed is still sparsely settled. The City owes its origin to the establishment in 1868 of the Fort Concho military post, for protection against Indians. The settlement which became San Angelo developed at the same time across the North Concho River from the military post.

Construction of the first major water project in the area was begun by the Corps of Engineers. In 1939, the Corps of Engineers reported favorably upon the construction of the O.C. Fisher Dam and Reservoir on the North Concho River for the primary purpose of flood control. Construction of the reservoir by the Corps of Engineers was authorized by the Congress in the Flood Control Act of August 18, 1941, and construction of the reservoir was completed in 1952.

Subsequent to the 1939 report by the Corps of Engineers, Reclamation initiated investigations for developing an irrigation plan for using Concho River water in excess of the municipal and industrial needs of the area.

Reclamation completed a draft of a report on the North Concho Unit of the San Angelo project in July 1946. This report set forth a plan for irrigating 12,000 acres of land. During the discussions of this plan with local interests and the Corps of Engineers in June and July 1946, the City of San Angelo requested that a portion of the conservation storage be reserved to furnish municipal and industrial water to the City. The investigations by Reclamation were then directed primarily toward determining the amount needed by the City and the water supply that would remain available for irrigation use.

In September 1954, the San Angelo Water Supply Corporation, acting for the City, asked Reclamation to reopen the investigations of the water resources potential of the Concho River to recognize recent local developments. The Reclamation studies which resulted proposed a dam and reservoir on Middle and South Concho Rivers at the Twin Buttes site that could offer virtually full regulation of the South and Middle Concho watershed above Nasworthy Reservoir. The reservoir was projected to yield, when operated jointly with the O.C Fisher Reservoir, sufficient water to meet all foreseeable municipal requirements and also provide sufficient water to irrigate 10,000 acres of land.

On the basis of these findings, the San Angelo Project was authorized for construction. Construction of Twin Buttes Dam was begun in 1960 and completed in 1963. Construction on the main canal and lateral was done at the same time; all facilities were complete in 1963. After a soil survey of the entire area determined what land was irrigable, the land owners were contacted and it was then determined who would be willing to repay the United States Government for the construction of the canal. The direction of the canal was determined based on the surveys taken by the Soil Conservation Service and somewhat on the willingness of the willingness of individual farmers to agree to repay the Federal Government for construction of the irrigation facilities.

Following completion of construction, severe drought conditions prevailed in the Twin Buttes Dam watershed until April through August 1971, when above normal rains broke the drought and brought substantial inflow to Twin Butts Reservoir. The San Angelo Project original brought 10,000 acres of land under irrigation: however, because of the severe drought conditions experienced following completion of construction, it was not possible to start irrigating until March 1972. Before the first irrigation water was delivered, the farms generally had rows laid out on the contour. When the irrigation began the rows were changed to parallel to accommodate flood irrigation and some terraces had to be removed in order to irrigate the fields properly.

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