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W.C. Austin Project
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W.C. Austin Project History (61 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits
General Description

The W. C. Austin (formerly Altus) Project is in southwestern Oklahoma. The project is designed to provide water for irrigation to approximately 48,000 acres of privately owned land in southwestern Oklahoma, flood control on the North Fork of the Red River, an augmented municipal water supply for the city of Altus, fish and wildlife conservation benefits, and recreation facilities. Project features include Altus Dam, the Main, Altus, West, and Ozark Canals, a 221-mile lateral distribution system, and 26 miles of drains.

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The primary storage unit is Lake Altus, a reservoir formed by a dam across the North Fork of the Red River about 18 miles north of Altus, and by several earth dikes at low places in the reservoir rim. The Main Canal transports water from Lake Altus to the northern boundary of the project`s irrigable land. The North Fork of the Red River is crossed about midway along the length of the Main Canal by means of a concrete siphon. The terminus of the Main Canal at the northern boundary of the project lands forms a bifurcation from which a 270-mile-long system of canals and laterals,( including the Main Canal), distributes the water. The city of Altus receives a municipal and industrial water supply from the project.

Facility Descriptions

Altus Dam is a concrete gravity, partially curved structure faced with granite masonry except on the downstream face of the overflow section. The dam is 110 feet above foundation and 1,104 feet long. It contains 70,200 cubic yards of concrete and masonry. Incorporated within the dam section are both controlled and uncontrolled overflow-type spillways and an irrigation outlet works which delivers water into the project canal system. The 58,000-cubic-foot-per-second spillway is regulated by nine radial gates. Lake Altus has a total capacity of 154,092 acre-feet, of which 1,663 acre-feet are dead storage, 19,597 acre-feet are flood control storage, and 132,832 acre-feet are conservation storage. The last 10,000 acre-feet of conservation storage is reserved for municipal water for Altus. Appurtenant reservoir structures are Lugert, East, North, and South Dikes, located at low places on the reservoir rim. Lugert Dike, the largest, is 4,245 feet long and has a maximum height of 45 feet.

Canal and Lateral System

Altus water is delivered into the 1,000-cubic-foot-per-second-capacity Main Canal, which transports the water 4.2 miles to the northern boundary of the project`s irrigable lands. This canal crosses the North Fork of the Red River by means of a 10-foot 3-inch-diameter siphon, 1,920 feet long. Approximately 270 miles of canals and laterals, including the Main Canal, are required to serve project lands. The terminus of the Main Canal forms a bifurcation for diverting into the 21.7-mile Altus and the 11.1-mile West Canals, which serve the main delivery system. The 14.8-mile Ozark Canal branches off from Altus Canal.

Operating Agencies

The Lugert-Altus Irrigation District is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the project.

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Greer County was formed in 1886 by an act of the Texas legislature. At that time, the State of Texas contended that the North Fork of the Red River was the boundary between Oklahoma and Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court decreed in 1896 that Greer County belonged to Oklahoma. The present counties of Jackson, Greer, and Harmon were formed later from the original Greer County. The area was largely homesteaded prior to 1890. Most of the project lands were dry-farmed for many years prior to the construction of Altus Dam. Crop yields were good in wet years and poor in dry years. Irrigation of small tracts by private interests after 1927 demonstrated the value of irrigation.


Engineering investigations to determine the feasibility of developing an irrigation project in the area began in 1902, and continued periodically until 1937. During 1937, renewed interest in irrigation by local civic leaders and the State of Oklahoma resulted in further investigations by several Federal agencies. The efforts of these agencies were coordinated and the remaining investigations and construction preliminaries were conducted by the Bureau of Reclamation. A project planning report issued in December 1937 recorded the results of the investigations.


Construction of the W. C. Austin Project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of June 28, 1938 (52 Stat. 1215, 1219), and specifically by the President on February 13, 1941.


Construction began on April 21, 1941, but was interrupted by World War II. Work resumed on May 12, 1944, when the War Production Board lifted restrictions. The first section of canal lying within the project lands was completed on April 30, 1946. First water deliveries to project lands were made on June 19, 1946. Construction of the distribution system was completed in 1949. Main drainage features were completed during 1953. Several additional miles of drains have been constructed by the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District.

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The mean annual rainfall in the project area, although sufficient to grow fairly good crops, often is so poorly distributed that droughts are frequent. Irrigation supplements the inadequate rainfall, stabilizes the economy of the area, and permits a more diversified agriculture. Cotton is a major crop under irrigation, as it was under dry farming in the project area. Wheat, another major dry land crop, is being replaced by alfalfa, grain sorghums, potatoes, onions, and other specialty crops.


Lake Altus, in the scenic Quartz Mountains, offers year-round recreation. The south portion of the area adjacent to the reservoir is managed for recreation purposes by the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department. The north portion of the reservoir area is managed for wildlife benefits by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. This includes a total water surface area of over 6,500 acres, and a land area of over 4,000 acres.

The Quartz Mountain State Park is located at the west edge of the reservoir. Public recreation facilities of all types are available, including an 18-hole golf course, lodging, and grocery store, organized group camps, recreation-vehicle pads, tent spaces, two swimming beaches, boat launching ramps, trailer spaces, campgrounds, picnic areas with shelters and tables, drinking water, restrooms, hiking trails, and access roads with parking. Fishing and hunting are popular, as well as picnicking, sightseeing, and many water sport activities.

For specific information about Lake Altus click on the name below.

Lake Altus

Flood Control

Lake Altus, the primary storage unit for Altus Dam, has 19,597 acre feet of capacity assigned to flood control. The W.C. Austin Project has provided an accumulated $11,225,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.

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Last updated: Apr 05, 2013