The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003 Page: 377
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Restoring the Oldest Water Right in Texas
project might impact the physical integrity of the ditch, as actually
happened a year later when bulldozers buried a portion of the old San
In a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers on July 15, 1958, the
SACS president informed the corps that its board of directors had
adopted a resolution calling for the restoration of gravity flow to the
acequia serving its property. The society reminded the Corps of
Engineers of the local as well as national importance of the historic
San Juan Acequia and called on the San Antonio River Authority to
preserve the natural life of the acequia for posterity.21 In reply the dis-
trict engineer from the Army Corps of Engineers accepted responsibil-
ity for having designed and constructed the new river channel in coor-
dination with the SARA's decision to relocate the San Juan Dam. In
the view of the Corps of Engineers, however, pumping water from the
low-fixed dam as proposed by the San Antonio River Authority was
entirely feasible and more cost-effective when compared to other alter-
natives. Providing gravity flow into the San Juan Ditch would require
"very expensive modification to allow the project to fulfill its flood-con-
trol mission."22 In its own reply to the SACS the San Antonio River
Authority defended its decision not to construct a dam that would
have allowed gravity flow into the San Juan headgate to continue; this
objective would have required a dam of such a height that it would
have "completely upset the hydraulics of the flood prevention project,"
and caused flooding in San Antonio city streets during future storms.
The management of the river authority indicated that it would explore
other methods to maintain the flow in the San Juan Ditch and not to
destroy its "historical value and beauty."2
The San Antonio River Authority cut off direct access to the river by
the San Juan Acequia on March 25, 1958. Its first remedy was to install a
temporary pump from the relocated channel to the headgate two hun-
dred feet away. For several months the SARA tried to allay the concerns
of the irrigators by stating that the agency's solution called for a low-fixed
dam that would impound enough water in a pond to allow the pumping
operation to continue on a permanent basis. When an exchange of let-
ters during the summer months failed to satisfy the irrigators, the SARA
filed a class suit on August 20 in the Bexar County District Court against
"Reclaiming the Missions," San Antonio Conservatzon Soczety News, 35 (Mar.-Apr., 1999), 3-6.
2' W Grant Bechtel to R. B. Crockett, Army Corps Resident Engineer, July 15, 1958, San Juan
Acequia folder (SACSLA).
22J. H. Hottenroth to W. Grant Bechtel, Aug. 8, 1958, San Juan Acequia folder (SACSLA).
23 Frank T. Drought, chairman, board of directors, San Antonio River Authority, to W. Grant
Bechtel,July 28, 1958, SanJuan Acequia folder (SACSLA).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003, periodical, 2003; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/m1/445/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.