Centennial Time Capsule Completes Journey

Capsule delivered, with new contents, to Roosevelt Dam

Roosevelt Dam during the Centennial celebration

Photo by Andy Towle. |

Roosevelt Dam during the Centennial celebration


An iPod

A Diamondbacks ticket.

Slivers of copper.

A copy of Arizona Highways.

A telegram from John F. Kennedy.

What links this odd collection?

They all went into a time capsule commemorating the 100th anniversary of the project that made Phoenix possible — and continues to cast its long shadow over Rim Country.

Officials this week slipped that time capsule into a nitch in the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Whoever’s left standing will pull it out and scratch their heads about the contents on the dam’s 150th birthday in 2061.

Many of the items focus more on water policy issues than on popular culture. The capsule replaces the original version installed in 1961, but then opened in the spring of 2011.

The federal government built the dam in 1911, the first in a series of reclamation projects that transformed the west. Farmers in the Phoenix area lobbied for the dam to provide flood control and irritation water. The water from the dam sustained farmers for decades, but now mostly supports the subdivisions of the nation’s fifth largest city.

The project had a huge impact on Rim Country as well. Congress created the Tonto National Forest at the same time, mostly to protect the water rights for the Salt River Project, which operates a chain of Salt River reservoirs, including Roosevelt. As a result, SRP effectively owns the rights to surface water throughout Rim Country.

During the run-up to the Roosevelt Dam Centennial in March 2011, Salt River Project invited employees and customers to contribute ideas via Facebook and e-mails for the contents of the new capsule centered on the theme: “How water and power influence our lives in the desert we call home.”

Currently, background information, diagrams and pictures related to the time capsule are on display at the Tonto Basin Visitors Center. Eventually, there will be a permanent display at the dam lookout point, said Ileen Snoddy, community outreach representative for SRP.

“We felt the time capsule would be a great way to preserve the history of this great area of Arizona,” said Snoddy. “The items in the time capsule capture the spirit of SRP and of water reclamation in Arizona. It’s exciting to imagine what the reaction will be at the 150th anniversary in 2061.”

Among the items included in the new time capsule:

• Copper shavings from the 1961 time capsule

• A digitized Roosevelt Dam Centennial video

• Paper SRP power and water bills

• A cell phone, iPod, music CD, movie DVD, incandescent light bulb

• Arizona state quarter

• Aerial photo of metro Phoenix

• Arizona Diamondbacks baseball ticket from March 18, 2011, game

Before it was sealed in April, the Centennial time capsule and its new contents were on display during the spring and summer of 2011 at Phoenix-area museums.

Also on display on the centennial museum tour were items from the first Roosevelt Dam time capsule, which was embedded in the dam in 1961 as part of the Golden Jubilee celebration. Some of the items from the time capsule marking the first 50 years included:

• A telegram from President John F. Kennedy

• A roster of people present at the Golden Jubilee on March 18, 1961, and a copy of the official invitation to special guests and dignitaries

• Articles of Incorporation and bylaws of the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association

• Bylaws of the Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement and Power District

• A copy of the Kent Decree, which has done much to set the pattern of water rights

• Roster of SRP employees in 1961

• SRP’s 1961 Annual Report

• April 1961 Arizona Highways magazine titled “Water and the Thirsty Land”

• Two proclamations by Phoenix Mayor Sam Mardian

Jr. and Arizona Gov. Paul J. Fannin declaring March 18, 1961, as the Theodore Roosevelt Dam Golden Jubilee

Dedicated in March 1911, Theodore Roosevelt Dam is the cornerstone of a system of waterways managed by SRP that has served as an economic catalyst in creating the Phoenix metropolitan area. Hydroelectric power from the dam and the reliable water supply it provided helped grow the Valley’s rural areas into one of the more prosperous communities in the Southwest.


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