Working on the Levees: The Civilian Conservation Corps, the Rio Grande Rectification Project, and the Making of the United States-Mexico Border

By Joanne Kropp.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Rio Grande in the El Paso, Texas/Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Rio Grande Valley has a long history of human use, from prehistoric to modern times. Formal irrigation began in the 1600s, mainly for viticulture and fruit trees, changing to cotton in the 1800s. The Rio Grande was subject to bed shifting, flooding, and drought that, after 1848, affected the location of the international boundary. During the Great Depression the US and Mexican governments sponsored conservation projects to provide jobs and to increase agricultural production. The Civilian Conservation Corps came to El Paso in 1936 for flood control and soil conservation work as part of the Rio Grande Rectification Project, which was part of interstate and international agreements to more equitably divide and distribute water between the US and Mexico. Rectification permanently established the US-Mexico border. Improvements to irrigation and flood control increased agricultural acreage along the river on both sides. Chemical fertilization caused heavy metals accumulation in the soil, and more canals meant the elimination of some native plants, fish, and bird habitats. Today, the El Paso/Juárez metropolitan portion of the river is not a natural environment but a cement canal lined with border fences, which has changed immigration patterns.

Keywords: Water, Law, Social Impact

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies, Volume 11, Issue 4, December 2016, pp.1-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 895.479KB).

Prof. Joanne Kropp

Senior Lecturer, PhD Candidate, Entering Student Program, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA