Conchas Dam added to national registry

By William Thompson

It’s official: Conchas Dam is a historic place.
The dam was entered into the National Registry of Historic Places on May 22, according to a letter received by Gary Cordova, the dam’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager.
“Being part of the national registry will preserve the heritage of Conchas Dam and the work that went into Conchas Dam during its construction from 1935-1939,” Cordova said. “It also preserves the heritage of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District, which helped provide irrigation water from Conchas Lake. The dam, if it is well-maintained, should last at least 200 years.”
Not only is the dam now preserved for the future by federal law, but also the administration buildings and cottages and embankments will be preserved far into the future due to the dam’s placement in the national registry.
Cordova said he and other corps of engineers personnel have been working since 1997 to get the dam added to the national registry.
“We had to document the history of the Conchas Dam project,” Cordova said. “We had archaeologists and natural resources personnel working on a packet, which we sent to the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The state department of cultural affairs then sent our information to Washington, D.C.”
In a press release from the state department of cultural affairs, the construction of Conchas Dam is said to have highlighted the cooperation between state government and Washington officials including President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Conchas Dam not only changed the landscape, but the way government operated in New Mexico,” said state Historic Preservation Officer Katherine Slick. “Its Art Deco styling and means of construction represent a significant architectural and engineering achievement.”
The dam’s 70th anniversary celebration will be held at Conchas Dam on July 29. The official plaque designating the dam a national historic place will be placed on the west side of the corps of engineers administration building at 10 a.m. that day.
The public is invited to the anniversary celebration, which will include free tours of the dam, a barbecue luncheon and screenings of vintage films of the construction of the dam.