Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/56

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50
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
CONTROL OF THE COLORADO RIVER REGAINED

By CHARLES ALMA BYERS

LOS ANGELES, CAL.

THE Colorado River, creator of the much-discussed Salton Sea, has at last been captured. Its waters, always of uncertain quantity and consequently often threatening, no longer are poured into Salton Sink by way of a river-like irrigation ditch, but instead flow peaceably into the Gulf of California as in the days before man had tampered with it for irrigation purposes. And incidental to the river's capture, Imperial Valley, that new agricultural region rescued by irrigation from the Colorado Desert, an area lying below the level of the sea, and a region that is some day destined to become worth millions of dollars, is no longer in danger of being inundated by the murky waters of this treacherous "yellow dragon" and consequently wiped practically out of existence.

The going astray of the Colorado River, and the trouble incidental thereto, which was described in The Popular Science Monthly some months ago, has occasioned much study and deep concern by engineers all over the country, and has attracted the attention of the heads of two governments—the United States and Mexico. It has created an inland sea in Salton Sink, adjacent to Imperial Valley, that covers about 400 square miles, destroyed the works of the New Liverpool Salt Company, caused three different removals of several miles of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and necessitated the expenditure of many thousands of dollars towards its control, besides threatening to submerge the Imperial Valley, several small cities of considerable importance and a number of rich mineral deposits.

The trouble with the Colorado River, it will be recalled, began in September, 1904. The California Development Company, promoters of the Imperial land colony, needed more water for agricultural purposes than their old irrigation ditch was then supplying, and to remedy the shortage an incision was made in the banks of the river at a point about four miles below the old tapping point, and below the international boundary line between the United States and Mexico. A flood in the river soon cut this new channel so deep as to place the flow beyond control. Gradually this ditch was eroded into a river that at times carried the entire flow of the Colorado River, sometimes amounting to 40,000 second feet of water, and poured it into Salton Sink.