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Records of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District

 Collection
Identifier: WSLV

Scope and Contents

The Records of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District consists of documents dated 1887 to 1976, with the bulk falling from 1900 to 1930. The collection contains some records from the Farmers Union Ditch Company and the Farmers Union Irrigation Company but mostly encompasses records pertaining to district operations. Materials include meeting minutes, financial records, engineering reports, correspondence, legal documents, annual reports, election notices, contracts, clippings, maps, and photographs. The district retained the bulk of their annual reports, superintendent reports, water reports, crop reports, daily reports, maps, stock books, and most financial materials as well as general files dated past the mid-1970s.

Dates

  • 1887-1976
  • Majority of material found within 1900-1930

Creator

Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection. However, it is stored off-site, so advance notice is required.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.

History

The San Luis Valley Irrigation District has been delivering water to San Luis Valley farmers for over a century. Formed in 1908 with the intention of securing funding for large-scale irrigation projects, the district, based in Center, Colorado, manages the Rio Grande Reservoir near the river's headwaters in Hinsdale County.

In the arid San Luis Valley, farmers found it essential to work together to irrigate using canals and ditches. To this end, a group of men formed the Farmers Union Ditch Company in 1887 and began creating an irrigation system for the region. As a result of their junior water rights, the company, later named the Farmers Union Irrigation Company, began to explore the possibility of a reservoir at the Rio Grande headwaters in 1904. However, the U.S. Department of Interior denied their plans, and the company ran into problems acquiring adequate financing.

To solve their problems, the company turned to forming an irrigation district under Colorado's 1905 Irrigation District Act. This created a municipal corporation with the ability to issue bonds. The San Luis Valley Irrigation District formed on December 28, 1908, and included lands in Saguache, Costilla, and Rio Grande counties. All Farmers Union Irrigation Company assets were purchased and financing to fund the reservoir project began. Construction started in 1910, and water was first provided to residents of the valley in 1912. Two years later, by the end of the construction of the Rio Grande Reservoir (also known as the Farmers Union Reservoir), the San Luis Valley Irrigation District sold $700,000 in bonds.

Economic hardship fell on the district during the Great Depression. When at a meeting the inability to pay upcoming loan installments was discussed, there was a unanimous vote to raise the tax levy to generate funds. The payment was not made in 1932 and was called into question when asking to finance repairs on their infrastructure. During 1933 and 1934 the district had difficulty paying loans again, so members decided to work with the government's Reconstruction Finance Corporation to secure the bonds of shareholders.

Later decades brought the need for system repairs and improvements. This included transmountain diversion of water over Weminuche Pass in the 1950s and repairs to the Rio Grande Dam spillway in the 1970s. The San Luis Valley Irrigation District celebrated the centennial of Rio Grande Reservoir in 2012 and continues to maintain 135 miles of irrigation ditches and 60 miles of drainage ditches in Alamosa, Rio Grande, and Saguache counties.

Extent

10.5 linear feet (7 record cartons)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The San Luis Valley Irrigation District formed in 1908 to deliver water to farmers in Southern Colorado's San Luis Valley. The collection contains some records from the Farmers Union Ditch Company and the Farmers Union Irrigation Company but mostly encompasses records pertaining to district operations. Materials include meeting minutes, financial records, engineering reports, correspondence, legal documents, annual reports, election notices, contracts, clippings, maps, and photographs.

Arrangement

The collection arrived in good order, which was retained.

The collection consists of 2 series in 7 boxes:

Series 1: Files, 1887-1976

Series 2: Bound volumes, 1904-1927 and undated

Acquisition

The Records of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District was donated to the Water Resources Archive in November 2016 by Travis Smith, superintendent of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District.

Online Materials

Most of the documents in this collection have been digitized and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Processing

Processing was completed in March 2017. The collection arrived well organized and in good housing. Archive staff re-boxed it and removed some metal fasteners and self-stick notes.

Title
Guide to the Records of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
Prepared by Steven Emmen and Patricia J. Rettig
Date
Copyright 2017
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA
970-491-1844