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LA District leaders tour Painted Rock Dam project

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District
Published March 26, 2021

GILA BEND, Arizona -- Col. Julie Balten, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District, and David Van Dorpe, deputy district engineer for the LA District, toured the Painted Rock Dam, a flood risk-reduction project located on the Gila River in Maricopa County near Gila Bend, March 24.

“The purpose of today’s visit is to see Painted Rock Dam and the flood control project area,” Balten said. “It’s a large flood control project that was designed to protect Southern Arizona, and, particularly, the City of Yuma.”

Painted Rock Dam is within the Gila River Drainage Basin and is operated by the Corps’ LA District. The dam consists of a debris pool, spillway, a gauging station and dikes, and is monitored by two dam operators.

“The team here is crucial to the flood control mission,” Balten said. “They live in this remote area to maintain and operate the facility 24/7.”

The Painted Rock Dam is operated on a prediction basis, which establishes the rate of release for flood waters from the dam, based on upstream and downstream conditions.

“Painted Rock Dam was built to protect downstream agriculture, Yuma and other towns along the way,” said William Kramer, one of two of the dam’s operators.

The dam has a drainage area of 50,800 square miles. Most of the year, its reservoir remains dry. Daily operations consist of maintenance, weather monitoring and assisting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Painted Rock is strictly for flood control,” said Donald “Donnie” May, a second operator at the dam. “We must coordinate with other dam and facility operators to regulate water flow. This dam is the last stop for most of Arizona’s water, before going into the Colorado River and into Mexico.”

Construction of the dam began in July 1957 and was completed in January 1960, at a cost of about $13.7 million.           

“After the tour, I think the colonel was pretty impressed with our operation,” May said.