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Mulholland, William

Mulholland, William, 1855–1935, American engineer, b. Belfast, Ireland. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1877, becoming a laborer for the local water company. Despite his lack of formal training, he eventually became head of the city's water department. Mulholland supervised the building (1908–15) of a 233-mile (375-km) aqueduct from the Owens River in the Sierra Nevada to the city, supposedly to supply the city's growing needs. Subterfuge was used to acquire the water rights, allowing the city to block Owens Valley irrigation project, and much of the water went not to Los Angeles but the San Fernando Valley, where speculators had acquired land in anticipation. The aqueduct also sparked the Owens Valley war, in which farmers angered over the loss of irrigation water dynamited sections of the aqueduct in the 1920s. Mulholland resigned in 1928 after the collapse of the city's St. Francis Dam in the Santa Clara Valley, which killed hundreds and flooded some 140 sq mi (360 sq km).

See biography by C. Mulholland (2002) study by L. Standiford (2015).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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