The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District has awarded an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 contract to begin restoration of the Va Shly'Ay Akimel Salt River Ecosystem, between the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Mesa, Ariz.

The $645,000 contract funds Phase I of the project, approximately 2.5 miles. The Va Shly'Ay Akimel project will restore the riparian ecosystem to support native vegetation and wildlife. J2 Engineering and Environmental/Stanley Consultants received the award, announced July 17. The project runs 14 miles between Granite Reef Dam and the SR 101 freeway.

"We're very happy to be able to continue on this vital project," said Mike Ternak, project manager for the district. "In conjunction with the other projects we have in the Phoenix area, the Va Shly'Ay Akimel project will benefit both the environment and the local community for generations to come."

"This will be a huge wildlife corridor," said Aaron Allan, a landscape architect with J2. "We'll be getting rid of invasive species and providing some public access for educational programs."

The design of Phase I calls for several pools in the river bed connected to form a continual flow. The water for the flow will come from two main sources - the Price Drain and the Cypress Drain. The water from the Price Drain will be pumped north to flow southward; and the water from the Cypress Drain will flow through a demonstration wetlands and feed into the Phase I section through a gravity-fed pipe.

Having the water pumped from the Price Drain back into the river will be a boon to the City of Tempe, said Mike Lopez, assistant project manager for Stanley Consultants.

"The water is kind of a nuisance for Tempe," Lopez said. "It goes out of the drain and ponds behind the edge of Tempe Town Lake. One of our goals is to solve that problem."

As the water is pumped away, the town lake can better regulate the water in its basin. The project will also help establish a functional floodplain that mimics the Salt River's natural processes, and provide passive recreation opportunities.

"We found out the funds had been programmed for the area at the end of April," said City of Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. "Now that we have a contract awarded and a contractor continuing work on the project, I look forward to seeing the positive results. Both the city and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community will benefit greatly from this project"

The plan includes the following measures:
Aca,!Ac Reshaping of abandoned quarry pits and the river channel to provide a low-flow channel and terraces
Aca,!Ac Construction of new water conveyance channels, irrigation diversions, pipelines, spillways and/or groundwater wells to bring surface water and/or ground water to the river to nourish vegetation planted along the river
Aca,!Ac Construction of a grade control structure across the channel at the abandoned Gilbert Road quarry
Aca,!Ac Passive recreation consisting of approximately 5.1 miles of multi-use decomposed granite trails, parking lots with trailheads, rest stops and interpretive signs.

U.S. Representative Ed Pastor has worked consistently to ensure funding for the Va Shly'Ay project has remained a priority in Congress. He said he is glad ARRA funds have been awarded to continue work on this project and others in Arizona.

"It's good to see the Corps of Engineers continue to work in partnership with the city of Mesa and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on this important project," Pastor said. "Investing stimulus funds to secure work for local companies on projects like this one is how we can make appropriate use of resource dollars available to us."

U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell said the project is vital to the city's future - both in economic and in environmental terms.

"As anyone can tell you, water is probably one of the most valuable commodities in the area," Mitchell said. "Having the river flowing again can help bring businesses back to the area, as we've seen happen along the Rio Salado restoration project, and it can bring back riparian areas, as we've seen along Rio Salado and the Tres Rios project in the West Valley."

One of the visions of the landscape architects working on the project is a mesquite bosque. "The mesquite bosque is one of the rarest ecosystems," said Allan. "All this river used to be a great area for the mesquites."

Ultimately, the four phases of the Va Shly'Ay Akimel project will connect with other ecosystem restoration projects across Phoenix to create a river system more than 30 miles long.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16