One of our favorite cat fishing spots in the desert is located at the Drop 3 Hydroelectric Plant found on the All American Canal that runs along the international border between Mexico and the U.S. Located southeast of El Centro, California, the hydroelectric plant was completed just prior to U.S. involvement in WWII as part of F.D.R.’s wide reaching public works program. An enigmatic, massive concrete and glass block structure, the plant contains all the utilitarian hallmarks of depression-era architecture designed and executed by the WPA. Sand blasted and polished concrete surfaces are used throughout the various structures. Rounded concrete beveled corners and edges, along with liberal use of polished chrome, brushed steel and aluminum railings, plus the addition of four huge green glass block windows harks back to the best in Streamline Style structures.
After the events of 911 the whole area was hijacked by the Department of Homeland Security. Because of it’s location virtually right on the international border, the entire canal was considered a high security threat and fortified accordingly. New fences with razor wire were installed in addition to high-powered halogen lights on towers for increased night-time illumination. So for about the last ten years the place as been strictly off-limits. I’m happy to report that after the recent realignment (in which the canal bottom was sealed in concrete instead of sand) of the All American Canal, visitors’ can once again visit Drop 3 and reach the various spillways that allow fishing.
Survival and development in the Imperial Valley has always been dependent on water and its availability. The quest to bring water from the Colorado River to irrigate land in Imperial Valley began in the 1850s. However, it was not until 1901 that the California Development Company contracted to build a canal (the Alamo Canal) to deliver water by gravity flow from the river to the southern end of the valley. The Alamo Canal’s diversion point was a short distance north of the Mexican border near Pilot and most of its length ran through Mexico before it re-crossed the border into the Imperial Valley.
Through this gravity-flow canal, Colorado River water is conveyed to the head of the Imperial Irrigation District’s system at Drop No. 1. Several main canals branch off the All-American: the East Highline, Central Main and Westside Main canals. Service to Imperial Valley is provided from these three main canals or from the tributary lateral canals that they supply. In total, the Imperial Irrigation District controls and maintains 1,675 miles of irrigation canals in the Imperial Valley. In addition, the Imperial Irrigation District’s distribution system also includes ten reservoirs, with a total storage capacity of more than 3,300 acre-feet.
The first hydroelectric plants on the All-American Canal were completed at Drops 3 and 4 in 1941 and a Drop 2 hydropower facility was installed in 1953. The Pilot Knob Hydro Plant was built on a bypass channel between the All-American Canal and the Colorado River, and went into operation in 1957. The Drop 5 installation was completed in 1982 and the Drop 1 and East Highline Turnout hydro plants were commissioned in 1984.
Drawing of the Day ~ “Walking with Ernie #2″ ~ Drop 3, All American Canal