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Urban Waters Partnership

Program Updates - Rio Reimagined



  • Collaboration in the West Reach - coordination and collaboration in the West reach of Rio Reimagined is progressing through the combined river restoration mission of the El Rio Steering Committee (Avondale, Buckeye and Goodyear as well as AZ Game and Fish Dept. and MCFCD) and the Lower Gila River Collaborative.EXIT

  • American Institute of Architects - Phoenix Metro Annual Design Competition – the local professional chapter of architects completed the second of three years of competition focused on design concepts for the Rio Reimagined. 

  • Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) – the local ULI Chapter will begin a 3-year TAP series in 2020, with a planning workshop scheduled for this Fall with a focus on the west reach of the river.


Base Meridian Wildlife Area River Clean-up Sponsored by Microsoft and Waste Management February 2020

Working with Microsoft and Waste Management, ASU facilitated the first phase of this effort by removing trash, waste and other foreign, deleterious manmade materials discarded by human impact to improve security, visibility, public safety and access to the area. Participants included 60 community volunteers, 4 instructional organizations, 3 corporations and two public agencies.

The Base Meridian Wildlife Area [BMWA] is comprised of 200 acres of river and adjacent riparian habitat at the confluence of the Salt River and Gila River just west of the Phoenix metropolitan area. BMWA contains primarily all riparian habitat in and along the river and its associated upland banks. The area consists of riparian vegetation assemblages of cottonwood, willow (Salix sp.), invasive salt cedar (Tamarix sp.), seep willow, desert broom (Baccharis sp.) and mesquite (Prosopis sp.) as well as many other native herbaceous and woody species. Many riparian obligate wildlife species inhabit the area including several sensitive, threatened and endangered species. This wildlife habitat area is a valuable public, natural desert riparian area which is readily accessible to the regional and urban metropolitan area community as a passive recreational asset. It is also critically sustained in our arid environment with the reclaimed water discharge from the upstream Tres Rios constructed wetlands from a Waste Water Treatment plant supported by combined local municipalities. Lastly, it is one component of the larger Lower Gila Important Bird Area of Arizona which provides an abundant ecosystem to support a key Southwest migratory flyway as well as nesting habitat.

Base Meridian Wildlife Area Leave No Trace Hot Spot by REI - February 2020

Through the Rio Reimagined stakeholders and the Lower Gila River Collaborative - its partner agencies and organizations, REI spearheaded a grant with the Leave No Trace for Outdoor Ethics Hot Spot at the Base Meridian Wildlife Area. The Leave No Trace grant provided programming over the course of two weeks including a diverse range of activities and training for various community partners and stakeholders presented by the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers.  In collaboration with The Arizona Game and Fish Department and REI invited community members, river stakeholders and key staff engaged in public outreach, education, interpretation, outdoor leadership to participate in a sessions for LNT principles and techniques, river clean-up, and environmental stewardship / education. The grant coincided with an annual two-day spring nature festival – Tres Rios Nature Festival, featuring recreation activities, education programs, music and food on the banks of the Gila River.

Salt-Gila River Clean-up Sponsored by River Network | Ball Corporation

The Ball Corporation joined forces with the River Network, to support the Rio Reimagined and the City of Phoenix as well as other community partners for a Fall 2020 litter cleanup and recycling along the confluence of the Salt and Gila rivers adjacent to the Tres Rios Wetlands and the Base Meridian Wildlife Area. Arizona State University is facilitating the clean-up effort to raise the awareness of the benefits of recycling while creating opportunities for community members to restore their local waterways and preserve the burgeoning ecosystem within a key designated flyway. River Network, with its vast grassroots network of river protectors, serves as the connector for these relationships. ASU and its work on the Rio Reimagined became a natural choice for the clean-up, with a history of initiating the Rio Salado Project and foundation for restoration projects within the river corridor. Timeline: Fall 2020


USGS Cooperative Matching Funds | CMF:  

Water Quality Data Collection in Support of Flood Control District of Maricopa County’s Gila River Vegetation Management Plan Phase 1 - The USGS AZ Water Science Center has matched $90K funds with the Flood Control District of Maricopa County’s $90K [$180K total]. Together this Cooperative Matching Funding will support a regional greenway by enhancing environmental quality, building cultural identity, restoring wildlife habitat, and providing an economic catalyst along the Rio Reimagined river corridor. The Flood Control District of Maricopa County’s (MCFCD) Gila River Vegetation Management Plan provides a focus for proactively removing non-native salt cedar (tamarisk) trees along the flood plain of the Gila River and replacing with native species such as mesquite. Water-quality data will be collected to better evaluate and guide water resources within proposed restoration areas, native riparian plant selection, and maximize the benefit of restoration actions and resource investment. Timeline: March 2020 to Sept 2020

AZ Department of Forestry and Fire Management Support Through an Urban Community Forestry Grant:

West Mesa River Community Heat Action Project [$25K] – the Greater Mesa Community Development Organization has partnered with City of Mesa, Arizona State University, Maricopa County Dept. of Public Health, Arizona Sustainability Alliance, Salt River Project and TNC for heat action planning, mitigation and pilot project implementation in key West Mesa river neighborhoods. Timeline:  Jan 2020 to Jan 2022 [2years]

US Environmental Protection Agency technical assistance and grants

  • Opportunity Zones Initiative Technical Assistance [$50K] – The US EPA’s Office of Community Revitalization has designated funding for an EPA contractor-led technical assistance program on Opportunity Zones along the Rio Reimagined ExitSalt/Gila river corridor to advance community economic development resources, tools within the vision, goals, and projects of Rio Reimagined municipal and tribal communities. This pilot project will be one of a handful of nationwide pilots that will help inform the EPA on what assistance is most useful to multiple communities with Opportunity Zones. Timeline: Spring to Fall [FY 2020]
  • Green Infrastructure for 2020 Maricopa County FEMA Multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Planning Grant [$75K] - EPA, FEMA, City of Phoenix, City of Tempe, and Flood Control District of Maricopa County are jointly integrating Green Infrastructure/Low Impact Development strategies (GI/LID) into their local hazard mitigation plan updates for the 2020 Maricopa County Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan. A planning workshop was held for local governments and interested experts in December to identify local challenges, priorities and strategies. Timeline:  Spring 2019 to Spring 2020

Bureau of Indian Affairs Support:

  • Reserve Treaty Rights Funding – the Gila River Indian Community Department of Environmental Quality are working on Hazardous Fuels Mitigation which includes invasive species removal and habitat restoration projects through the end of 2021 including partners AZ Game and Fish Department and a diverse set of corporate and non-profit partners such as Team Rubicon. Timeline: FY 2017 – FY 2021 [4 years]



  • Tempe Town Lake 20th Anniversary – the City of Tempe celebrated the renowned community asset with riverside festivities in November 2019. In support of the City of Tempe, we provided sponsorship for the event, media and communications as well as a public presentation on the history of ASU’s Design School as a catalyst for early river revitalization, decades of municipal capital improvements and the current focus for the Rio Reimagined – The Rio Salado Project.


  • Local Foods Local Places [$60K] - the City of Phoenix implemented an Office of Sustainable Communities grant. The city of Phoenix worked closely with residents and community groups in South Phoenix to pursue a more equitable, community-driven approach to activating a city-wide food action plan at the neighborhood level. The plan will be folded into other initiatives in the area, including creating a strategy for equitable transit-oriented development and restoring and improving access to the Rio Salado (Salt River). Timeline: FY 2018 - Complete

  • Rio Salado Oeste Area Land Use Technical Assistance Grant [$60K] – the City of Phoenix received funding for a community workshop on redevelopment strategies within the Rio Salado Oeste area of the river corridor. Community concepts and priorities identified during the workshop will inform the City of Phoenix Planning Department regarding planning for the reach of the river between 19th and 83rd Avenues. Timeline: FY 2018 - Complete