EPA Announces Rio Reimagined–Rio Salado Project As 20th Member Of Urban Waters Federal Partnership

By Tom Maxedon, Mark Brodie
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2020 - 2:49pm
Updated: Friday, September 4, 2020 - 11:04am

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Sustainability coverage is supported in part by Intel

Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis
Bret Jaspers/KJZZ
Stephen Roe Lewis in 2019.

Federal, state, local and tribal leaders Tuesday announced the Rio Reimagined-Rio Salado Project in Arizona as the 20th Urban Waters Federal Partnership location.

The late U.S Rep. Ed Pastor and the late Sen. John McCain worked in conjunction with stakeholders to make the designation a reality before they died but did not live long enough to see it come to fruition.

Speaking during a launch event hosted by Arizona State University, Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis indicated the designation is important to the lifeblood of the Valley as it unlocks more federal assistance and will enhance development and conservation.

“Restoring these rivers will not only reconnect people to these areas but help promote important conservation goals and provide economic revitalization opportunities along the Salt River and Southern Phoenix,” said Lewis.

The effort, led by ASU, covers nearly 60 miles between Granite Reef Dam to State Route 85 of the Salt River including the Rio Salado and Gila Rivers. It connects six cities and two Native American tribes, the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community. 

ASU President Michael Crow was not at the briefing but delivered recorded remarks. He said the university has a deep commitment to sustainability as a core objective.

“We have this unique opportunity as an institution to step up and to engage as a convener, engage as a source of data, understanding, ideas and creativity and take this beautiful landscape, this beautiful location and build the Rio Salado in a way in which it becomes the centerpiece of an ecologically balanced, sustainable community of millions of humans and an unbelievable vibrant ecosystem," Crow said. 

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler who appeared at the event said his agency “understands the importance of investing in projects that better connects people and communities to their water resources. Selecting the Rio Reimagined project will bring a strong and sustained federal focus to this waterway and the people it serves, which in turn will foster many great environmental and economic benefits.”

John Busterud, the agency’s Pacific Southwest regional administrator, echoed his chief’s statements. “The Urban Waters Federal Partnership designation will help promote enhanced water quality and access, reconnect communities to their waterways, and foster sustainable water stewardship and management," Busterud said.

Sen. McCain’s widow, Cindy, who is chair of the Board of Trustees of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU, said in recorded comments, “I have all the confidence in the world that John is here today smiling as we take this next step.”

To find out what the federal designation means for the future of the project, The Show spoke with Rosanne Albright, an environmental programs coordinator with the city of Phoenix.

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