1953 Mr. John Bryant was recruited as the District's Chief Engineer from the Region 6, Bureau of Reclamation office in Billings, Montana in July 1953. His first priority was to construct a series of six earth fill dams in the hills south of the city of Riverside to control hazardous flood waters emanating therefrom. Harrison and Woodcrest Dams were completed in 1953, and all six were in place by 1960. In addition, Pigeon Pass Dam above Sunnymead was completed in 1957.
1955 In 1955, Ordinance 460 made the District responsible for ruling on the level of flood protection to be provided on new subdivisions. Riverside County became the first in the state to require 100-year flood protection on new land divisions. Since then 100-year protection has become standard throughout the state and the nation and was also adopted in the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. Therefore, in 1955, to facilitate its responsibilities under Ordinance 460, the District embarked upon an ambitious program of mapping its entire area at a scale of 1" = 200' with 4' contours, by using the new technology known as Photogrammetry. Ground control surveys and mapping was initially done by a private photogrammetric contractor providing maps covering one square mile each.
1956 The Santa Ana River levees through the city of Riverside became the first Federally funded District project in 1956. The levees were designed to protect the city from severe flood damage similar to that experienced in the flood of 1938. The project increased the budget from $890,000 in 1955-56, to $3,440,000 for 1956-57. The salary item in the 1956-57 budget was $78,000 for a staff of 14, including a Chief Engineer, four Civil Engineers, one Hydrographer, one Right of Way Agent and one Draftsman.
1957 By 1957, staff growth prompted a move from the courthouse to 2,300 square feet of rental space in the Schacker Building, a block away at 9th and Orange Streets. Also in 1957, the District became the first public agency to set up an in-house division of photogrammetry to produce maps using aerial photography. The average cost for contracted work had been $1,000 per square mile (per map) excluding ground control. The new division was able to produce one square mile of mapping, including ground control, for $355.
1960 The State Division of Highways, in constructing Highway 60 through Riverside, severed about 15 acres off the north end of Fairmount Park golf course which became surplus property. The District purchased the parcel, bounded by Highway 60, Market Street and the Santa Ana River levee, for a modest $28,000. Armed with this choice land parcel, the District proceeded to design, and put out to contract, a 10,500 square foot office building at its present location. Thus the District was to have the first home of its own.
1961 District workloads increased substantially between 1957 and 1961, requiring a staff increase from 14 in 1957 to 55 in 1961, and the newly completed office building was occupied in February 1961.
1962 Completed in 1962, the San Jacinto River levee project was designed and constructed with Corps of Engineers funds and consisted of five miles of levee along Bautista Creek and the San Jacinto River in Zone 4. The District provided funds for right of way, utility relocations and bridges. These local costs were reimbursed to the District by the state.
The District began using electronic distance measuring (EDM) devices in 1962, significantly speeding up survey distance measuring. An EDM could accurately measure one mile or 20 miles in just minutes. With conventional transit and steel tape, a like survey line would take hours, and if the line of sight needed clearing of brush and trees, it could take days.
1963 The District maintenance force was originally headquartered on County Road Department property in San Jacinto and much of its work in the early years was along the San Jacinto River in Zone 4. In 1963, a 50' x 100' concrete "tilt-up" building was erected at District headquarters in Riverside and the maintenance function moved there.
On October 18, 1963, Orange County Water District filed a lawsuit against virtually all Santa Ana River Basin water users upstream of Prado Dam, except the San Jacinto River Basin tributary to Lake Elsinore.