By Bridget Binsbacher,
Mesquite District Councilmember

Even though it’s September, the temperature is still warm, and like many of you, our family is always looking for activities that we can enjoy outdoors. One of our favorite spots to cool off is Pleasant Harbor at Lake Pleasant. We are so fortunate to have a nearby destination like the harbor that offers something for every member of the family to enjoy.

Behind all the great sporting opportunities, there’s a wonderful history of the lake and the organization that owns and operates Pleasant Harbor – the Maricopa Water District (MWD). You’ll see from this complex story, Pleasant Harbor is the result of generations of real strategic planning, a vision for water conservation, and smart development to meet the needs of our community.

In the mid-1880’s, MWD’s predecessors set forth to bring water to the Northwest Valley to develop otherwise arid lands and create agricultural opportunities. The groundwork was laid and construction began on the facilities that were necessary to capture and transport the water of the Agua Fria River. Those facilities included Waddell Dam, which was recognized as the highest multiple arch dam in the world at that time; which created Lake Pleasant and the Camp Dyer Diversion Dam; which created Hank Raymond Lake and the Beardsley Canal, the major water transportation system that extends nearly 33 miles from Lake Pleasant to the most southern portion of MWD’s service area. Despite many challenges over the next four decades, including floods and a national depression, the perseverance, vision and foresight of its predecessors, became a reality.

The Maricopa Water District was formally organized in 1925 as a political subdivision, Municipal Corporation, and an irrigation and water conservation district under Arizona state statutes. The project, now known as Maricopa Water District, was successfully completed in 1927 as the only privately financed reclamation project of its kind. Through the years, additional water and power facilities have been constructed to meet the needs of its service area, including 100 miles of laterals and sub-laterals, power facilities, and an interconnect system, which enables MWD to take Central Arizona Project (CAP) water, or to transport it for others, as available.

In 1988, MWD entered into an agreement with the United States Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau), which provided for the Bureau to construct New Waddell Dam immediately downstream of Waddell Dam, tripling the size of Lake Pleasant and impounding CAP water from the Colorado River. MWD retained its storage right in the new Lake Pleasant for its Agua Fria River water and under a contractual arrangement with the Bureau, presently operates a portion of the New Waddell Dam facilities to deliver MWD’s water into Hank Raymond Lake. The Maricopa Water District continues to own and operate Camp Dyer Dam, the Beardsley Canal and its other water and power distribution facilities. In exchange for Waddell Dam and adjacent land rights, MWD received 225 acres of land and other compensation, and retained its water rights. MWD’s Board of Directors decided to reinvest the compensation in the 225 acres and develop Pleasant Harbor, which is complementary to the beauty and uses of the lake and provides our residents and visitors alike with a wonderful amenity to enjoy.

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