A Wonderful Waterpower - Hydroelectric Power at Fossil Creek - 100 Years
The photo exhibit that opened Memorial Day, 2001, at the Pine-Strawberry Museum traces the history of the Childs-Irving hydroelectric system from its conception almost 100 years ago to the present day.
In 1900, rancher Lew Turner filed the first claim to the water rights of Fossil Creek in central Arizona and the unusual springs that continuously produce 43 cubic feet of water per second. He planned to divert the water to generate electricity to sell to the numerous mines in Yavapai County’s Bradshaw Mountains and Black Hills. Engineers reported a potential head of 1600 ft. over a distance of 10 miles from the springs to the Verde River.
On March 28, 1908 The Arizona Power Company began construction of the Childs plant. A 40-mile wagon road was built from Childs to Mayer, Arizona, the nearest railroad station. The labor force consisted of 600 men and 400 mules hauling more than 150 wagons. In 1916 construction of the second hydroelectric plant at Irving was completed.
For more than 90 years, the water of Fossil Creek had been diverted by a system of pipes and flumes from its natural course to power the turbines of the Childs and Irving hydroelectric plants. During this time Fossil Creek had been reduced to a mere trickle, compared with the normal one million gallons per hour flow once witnessed by early inhabitants of this region.
On December 31, 2004, APS, the current owner of the hydroelectric system agreed to decommission the hydroelectric plants and the diversion of Fossil Creek's waters.
On June 18, 2005, full flow was restored to Fossil Creek. In a special ceremony at the Irving Power Plant APS President and CEO Jack Davis, accompanied by representatives of several other conservation partner organizations, flipped an oversized light switch that signaled closure of the diversion flume at an upstream dam. The closure allowed nearly 29 million gallons of water a day from Fossil Springs to return to their historic channel through one of Arizona's most unique riparian areas.