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Adobe Dam and ACDC protect historic site

Published Oct. 23, 2015
Adobe Dam and the Arizona Canal Diversion Channel built in the 1980s have done much to protect historic sites and metropolitan Phoenix. The dam in northwest metro was built near Skunk Creek and the Hedgpeth Hills. It is the present day home of Arizona State University’s Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve with art work dating from 700 years ago to roughly 7000 B.C.

Adobe Dam and the Arizona Canal Diversion Channel built in the 1980s have done much to protect historic sites and metropolitan Phoenix. The dam in northwest metro was built near Skunk Creek and the Hedgpeth Hills. It is the present day home of Arizona State University’s Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve with art work dating from 700 years ago to roughly 7000 B.C.

During construction of Adobe Dam some artifacts were temporarily moved to protect them during construction. Archeologists were onsite to supervise their care and return to the present day Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve. The Arizona State University Center for Archaeology and Society curates the preserve.

During construction of Adobe Dam some artifacts were temporarily moved to protect them during construction. Archeologists were onsite to supervise their care and return to the present day Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve. The Arizona State University Center for Archaeology and Society curates the preserve.

PHOENIX -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District and stakeholder Flood Control District of Maricopa County completed Adobe Dam in 1982 to protect local communities from storm flows along Skunk Creek, in northwest metro.

Because of the Hedgpeth Hills petroglyphs, the project incorporated guidelines from the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The Act states in part, "the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people."

"We had archeologists on-site supervising the care of the petroglyphs," said Mike Ternak, the Corps embankment engineer in 1982. "Each boulder was wrapped and carefully moved, ultimately to a warehouse, during construction of the dam."

According to an Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change brochure, only boulders from where the dam intersected with the hills were moved. The remainder of artifacts at the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve are in their original location along the preserve's trail. DVPP is operated by the ASU Center for Archaeology and Society.

In addition to the dam, the Arizona Canal Diversion Channel was built to intercept flood flows from the north and move them to New River and ultimately the Agua Fria River. Before ACDC, flood flows from irrigation channels built in the 1880's would overtop causing severe flooding in the city of Phoenix.   

"When we built the dam there was virtually no development downstream or upstream of the dam," said Ternak. "Today the area downstream of the dam is highly urbanized."

Corps records indicate that the June 22, 1972 flood is the largest pre-ACDC flood for which a detailed record of damages is available. The 1972 flood caused roughly $11 million in damages, $61 million in today's dollars.

Ternak adds, "Adobe Dam is a perfect representation of how a flood control project can allow for low flood risk development and provide recreational opportunities. The area upstream of the dam is a wonderful recreation area that includes a model airplane airfield, a kart racing track, a paintball complex, a golf course, ball fields, and a water park."