Each year, Valentine’s Day marks another reason to celebrate Arizona Statehood. That’s right: Arizona’s birthday happens to fall on Valentine’s Day.
The road to becoming a state was a long one for the Grand Canyon State, which spent nearly 50 years as a U.S. territory. President William Howard Taft admitted Arizona to the Union on Feb. 14, 1912. The Salt River Project (SRP) and the construction of a large storage dam in the Tonto Basin played a vital role in paving the way.
Labor of love: bringing water to a growing population
Nearly a decade prior to Arizona statehood, the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association formed in 1903. Made up of landowners and farmers living in the Salt River Valley area, the association was created after President Theodore Roosevelt signed the National Reclamation Act into law in 1902.
The National Reclamation Act funded projects via government loans, and it helped growing populations bring water from natural sources. Alas, SRP was chosen as one of the first five of these federal reclamation projects.
Related: Check out a recent video from a spillway test at Roosevelt Dam.
Helping to build Arizona’s future
Around this time, the need to store water from the Salt River was becoming more important. Settlers in the Valley had discussed it for many years leading up to the turn of the century. With the money from the Reclamation Act, that long-awaited dream became a reality.
A complex system of man-made waterways, or canals, was already present in the Valley. Therefore, the completion of the dam was the “missing piece” for the growing region.
Over the next several years, the construction of the dam took place. It was dedicated in 1911 and named Theodore Roosevelt Dam. This was to honor the president who had brought reclamation to the West on a grand scale.
Shortly after, the dusty town we now call Phoenix started to develop into a bustling metropolis. Roosevelt Dam also provided better protection from destructive flooding of the Salt River. As the area grew for both farming and business, stability and evolution were key for the soon-to-be state.
A lasting impact on Arizona statehood
The completion of the dam was so important to Arizonans, it made its way into the design of the state’s Great Seal. A dam and storage reservoir are central on the seal, accompanied by representations of the state’s “five C’s”.
What are Arizona’s 5 C’s and how do they show on the seal?
- Copper: represented by a miner
- Cattle: represented by a herd of cattle
- Climate: represented by the sun coming up over the mountains
- Citrus and cotton: represented by lush irrigated fields beneath the reservoir
At the end of the day, SRP is proud to be a part of Arizona statehood history since 1903. By being good stewards of precious water in the desert, we continue to look forward to providing state 48 with one reliable future.