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History of CCID

1860-1930 Bensley, Lux, Miller, and the Mendota Canal

In 1866, John Bensley helped form a corporation to build an irrigation and barge canal system connecting Tulare Lake Basin with the San Joaquin River at Mendota Pool. Their further plans were ambitious: building a canal system connecting the Mendota Pool with the Sacramento, San Joaquin Delta, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

In order for the newly formed corporation to succeed it needed assurances that irrigation water could be sold from the canal system as it traversed the valley floor. By the early 1870's, the Miller & Lux holdings had control of much of the land immediately to the north of the Mendota Dam site, forcing the company to strike a deal with Miller & Lux.

In 1871, Miller & Lux subsidized the canal company in exchange for a discounted price on irrigation and livestock water. This same year also witnessed the construction of the first permanent dam facility at the Mendota Pool, which impounded the entire flow of the San Joaquin River and Fresno Slough, diverting these to the headworks of the newly constructed Main Canal.

Unfortunately, the canal company never proved to be a financial success, but a new opportunity was on the horizon. As shareholders rapidly divested themselves from the company, Miller & Lux stepped in to purchase a controlling interest and immediately began a campaign of canal construction. From the early 1870's through the 1920's, nearly all construction of what is now the Central California Irrigation District occurred.