Water racing through a wash following a heavy rain is not usual in the desert. But it’s hard to imagine that the communities along Queen Creek actually faced serious flood problems from overflow years ago. The impacts were highlighted in a report by the Queen Creek Flood Control Project, and submitted for a War Department Hearing on October 6, 1937.
One local farmer reported, “On Sept. 16th, 1925, a flood came down over this entire acreage, three feet deep, damaging 210 acres of cotton… In March 1926, the water came down over new plowed land, ready to plant, washing same, had to relevel, costing $250. Last part of July 1930, had a crop of hay out, and ready to bale; was a total loss due to flood of 250 ton of hay at $7.00 per ton. Then in Sept. of 1933 water run over these tracts, which was in alfalfa, three feet deep, washing ditches and scalding out alfalfa, causing me to reseed same at a cost of $10.00 per acre.”
Another farmer was very detailed about his losses from the July 1936 flood: 1 sack chicken feed, $1.50; 1 sack cotton seed meal, $1.46; 4 hens, $4.00; ½ ton baled hay, $4.00; 1 acre alfalfa killed by flood, $25.00; 10 tons hay in windrow washed away, $50.00; 30 tons hay in windrow ruined by standing water, $90.00; 10 acres cotton damaged @ $10 per acre, $100.00; and, 1 ton useable fertilizer washed out of stock pens, $1.00.
Although surveys were completed prior to WWII, the War Department’s United States Engineer Office didn’t release their flood control report until February, 1946. It concluded that despite previous efforts to redirect overflow, a serious flood problem still existed; that adequate flood control could be provided by a dam and basin; that water could then be released from the flood control basin at a reduced and more nearly uniform rate; and, that the flow would be extended over a longer period, thus increasing natural recharge of the underground basin. The resulting recommendation was that the United States adopt a project for construction of a dam and basin for flood control at the Whitlow Ranch site on Queen Creek, Arizona; that the United States pay the entire first cost of the flood control dam and basin estimated at $1,561,000 for construction and $84,000 for relocation of existing utilities; that the United States maintain and operate the improvements at an estimated cost of $7,800 a year; that local interests adjust all claims concerning water rights arising from the improvements, and hold and save the United States free from all claims from damages arising from construction and operation of the works; and, that Federal funds sufficient to complete the flood control improvements be made available in one allotment.Despite all of the improvements made dating back to the early 1900s and the additional engineering recommendations authorized in accordance to the Flood Control Act of June 22, 1936, the area still experienced flooding for many years to follow.