- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) - Standing at the foot of one of New Mexico’s most important pieces of water infrastructure, Gov. Susana Martinez and a crowd of state and federal officials marked the 100th birthday of Elephant Butte Dam.

The construction of the dam and the ability to store water in the reservoir has allowed for a century of irrigation in southern New Mexico, West Texas and Mexico.

Aside from creating the state’s largest lake, the towering concrete structure provides flood control for the lower Rio Grande and irrigation water to 178,000 acres of farmland throughout the region.

Martinez called the dam an impressive sight, at just over 300 feet high and more than five times as wide.

“It stores hundreds of millions of gallons of water and has helped to make southern New Mexico an agricultural powerhouse,” she said. “You know we love our Hatch green chile and it doesn’t water itself.”

She also mentioned the onions, pecan orchards and other crops that depend on water from the reservoir.

The dam also brings in tourism dollars from the boaters and other recreationists who frequent the lake, which Martinez described as one of New Mexico’s flagship attractions.

State parks officials said more than a million visitors were counted at Elephant Butte last year.

Wednesday’s celebration was followed by guided tours of the dam.

Congress authorized construction of Elephant Butte Dam in February 1905. The Bureau of Reclamation oversaw construction over a five-year period.

When completed in 1916, it was the second-largest dam in the world, surpassed only by the Aswan Dam in Egypt.

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