Jacqueline E. Timm

RIO GRANDE FLOOD CONTROL. Flood control on the Rio Grande, a turbulent stream subject to periodic floods, has brought a series of treaties and agreements between the United States and Mexico. The treaty of 1906 provided for the construction of Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico, which gave some protection. The Rio Grande Rectification Project of 1933 helped relieve the El Paso-Juarez valley of flood dangers. An act of Congress of June 4, 1936, authorized a canalization project between El Paso and Caballo, the American Dam and Canal, features of which were completed by 1947. In the lower Rio Grande valley considerable damage has occurred from periodic floods. In 1924 and 1925 bond issues of more than $3 million on a tax-remission basis were voted to build levees from Donna to Brownsville, but the 1932 flood demonstrated that levees built on the American side of the river only could not give sufficient protection. On September 3, 1932, the International Boundary Commission recommended the construction of floodways on each side of the river; both countries agreed, and American construction to include 300 miles of river and floodway levees, improvements, and control works was begun in December 1933 and completed in 1951. The treaty of 1944 provided for investigation and preparation of plans for flood-control works from Fort Quitman to the Gulf of Mexico. Under the provisions of this treaty, construction of Falcon Dam (see INTERNATIONAL FALCON RESERVOIR), eighty miles southeast of Laredo, was accomplished jointly by the United States and Mexico between 1950 to 1954. The United States share of the cost was $35 million. United States flood-control benefits by 1966 were estimated at $220 million. Construction of Amistad Dam and Reservoir , twelve miles northwest of Del Rio, was begun in August 1963 and completed in 1968; the dam was dedicated by presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gustavo Díaz Ordaz on September 8, 1969. The United States share of the cost was about $72 million, including rights-of-way and railroad and highway relocations. In combination with Falcon Dam the Amistad structure provided virtually complete flood protection from Rio Grande floods originating above Falcon Dam.


Jacqueline Eckert, International Law and the United States-Mexican Boundary Relations (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 1939). Leon Metz, "The Fight for Water-Elephant Butte Dam," El Paso Magazine, May 1984. John Peterson, "The Taming of the Rio Grande: Four Centuries at the Pass of the North," Heritage 9 (Summer 1991).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jacqueline E. Timm, "RIO GRANDE FLOOD CONTROL," accessed December 14, 2019,

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on May 9, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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