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Posted 6/24/2013

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By Ronnie Schelby
Albuquerque District Public Affairs

On June 13, 2013, Abiquiu Lake and Dam in Northern New Mexico proudly celebrated its 50th anniversary of the building of the Dam. Approximately 70 people gathered at Abiquiu to join the celebration.

The day’s events began with Karlina Martin, daughter of Karl Martin, chief, lake operations branch, singing a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. The ceremony continued with a number of guest speakers discussing various aspects of Abiquiu Dam, past and present.

Eric Garner, current lake operations manager, began the program by outlining important historical information about the dam. Lt. Col. Gant, Commander, Albuquerque District, followed Ranger Garner.

“I am so honored to be celebrating this event today,” said Gant. “Standing here with all of you in this beautiful setting, I know that this is truly God’s country,” she said.

Other speakers participating in the ceremony included retired ranger and local legend around Abiquiu Dam, Phil Martinez, who reminded everyone of the beauty and deep cultural roots surrounding the dam. While a ranger at Abiquiu, Martinez was responsible for many outreach programs. One of the most influential accomplishments was establishing the bilingual water safety program which is now used Corps wide.

The audience was then treated to a discussion from Jimmy Hurt, former Abiquiu Lake operations manager. Hurt reflected on many of the memorable events which occurred at the Dam between1960 and 1970.

After the official ceremony, the anniversary was also marked by placing items in a time capsule. The time capsule was then sealed and will be opened in 2038 (25 years). Among the items placed in the capsule was a map and photos of the lake; an official Corps of Engineers’ ranger badge; a copy of the district newsletter, the Rip Rap; and local seed pods. Gant personally participated by placing an Albuquerque District coin into the capsule.

Construction of Abiquiu Dam began in 1956. Limited flood control operations began in 1962; the dam was completed February 5, 1963, at a cost of $21.2 million.

Abiquiu Dam is an earth embankment structure 354 feet high, 1,800 feet long, and contains 11.8 million cubic yards of fill. The dam forms one of the largest lakes in New Mexico with a full storage capacity of 1,535,300 acre-feet of water. The dam's primary purpose is flood control, but is also is used for irrigation, municipal water storage, hydroelectric generation and recreation. The lake provides irrigation water to some of the oldest irrigation acequias in the country, some dating back more than 400 years.

The Abiquiu staff is involved in several yearly activities, including the Annual Eagle Watch program. The purpose of this watch is to collect data to assist in the national and local tracking of the birds’ numbers. This year, 17 eagles were counted by the staff and volunteers. The staff has been recognized on numerous occasions for national outreach programs such as bilingual water safety, environmental education and volunteer opportunities. Last year, the staff directly provided programs to over 19,000 individuals, including 4,000 students throughout rural northern New Mexico.

Abiquiu continues to be one of the top recreation destinations in New Mexico. Activities include boating, camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking and swimming. During this season of extreme drought, Abiquiu Lake is still fully functional.

Abiquiu also has a robust volunteer program with 275 volunteers providing 687 hours of volunteer labor this past year. In dollars, these volunteer hours are equivalent to almost $15,000. The staff at Abiquiu also participates in National Public Lands Day. Volunteer attendance is usually around 100 individuals, which makes Abiquiu the largest volunteer turn out activity for National Public Lands Day in New Mexico. These activities rely heavily on volunteers who give their time to assist in all of these important events.

Abiquiu staff continually works to establish excellent working relationships with their neighbors and stakeholders for today and for future. Partners like Ghost Ranch, the Abiquiu Land Grant, the Wildlife Center, the Old Spanish Trail Association, several youth groups and countless others have helped pave the way for the shared stewardship role of our natural and cultural resources for generations to come.

Another important factor in being a good neighbor is reaching to help others when needed. During FY 2011, the Abiquiu Maintenance Staff provided assistance to the Santa Clara Pueblo in the aftermath of the Las Conchas Fire. The fire was the most devastating in New Mexico State history and posed a dangerous erosion problem for the Santa Clara Canyon and the Pueblo. The Abiquiu Crew assisted in the cleanup and stabilization of areas most susceptible to high erosion.

“This 50th Anniversary celebration is truly a joyous day to remember,” said Gant. “The staff at Abiquiu continues to protect its surrounding citizens and neighbors from flood events, meet diverse water resource demands, steward natural and cultural resources, and provide safe recreation. Congratulations to all of you contributing staff members, stakeholders and neighbors of Abiquiu Dam, both past and present. Your hard work and dedication is what has made this day possible. We are all looking forward to celebrating here on the 75th Anniversary in 2038,” she said.

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