PHOENIX – Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Michael Connor led a team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to review several civil works project sites Aug. 31 -Sept. 1 in northern and central Arizona.
Los Angeles District Commander Col. Julie Balten and District Civil Works Chief Darrel Buxton accompanied Connor to provide details on the flood mitigation, ecosystem restoration, water resiliency and economic impact the projects would have in their local communities.
“I wanted to highlight the projects, better understand the communities they benefit and emphasize the Corps’ support for this area,” Connor said. “This trip was all about looking at the various projects the Corps is involved in, ranging from pure flood-risk management to ecosystem restoration.”
Connor serves as the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army on the Civil Works program. His responsibilities include establishing policy direction and providing supervision of Department of the Army functions relating to all aspects of the Corps’ Civil Works program.
THE LITTLE COLORADO RIVER AT WINSLOW
The team met at the Winslow townhall before touring the Winslow Flood Control project. The project area includes about 4.3 miles of flood-risk reduction levees and improvements, located along the Little Colorado River near Winslow.
About 5,000 people who live, work and call Winslow home – along with critical infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, nursing homes and utilities, are located within a flood plain and are at the potential risk of flooding.
“The completion of this project will be a win for this community – not only by reducing the potential flood risk associated with the river, but also by creating stability, economic vitality and future growth for the area,” Balten said in an earlier statement this year.
The $65 million in funding for this project – announced by the Army in January – is being received through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act. The bill will provide full funding for the project to complete both its design and construction.
“We are going to reduce flood risk, protect supply chains, and remove invasive species to protect the people and infrastructure of Winslow while reducing flood insurance costs,” Connor said.
RIO DE FLAG IN FLAGSTAFF
After leaving Winslow, the team met with City of Flagstaff leaders to discuss the Rio de Flag Flood-Risk Management project.
“It will help save our homes and businesses,” said Flagstaff Emergency Management Director Stacey Brechler-Knaggs, following a meeting with the assistant secretary and the city leaders. “It will save our entire economy – the downtown corridor, hotels, restaurants and our regional hospital.”
After severe fires, the city and surrounding area have been subject to flooding from the Rio de Flag and Clay Avenue Wash tributaries. The plan for the project consists of channel modifications, bridge enhancements and detention basin and floodwall construction.
The LA District has been allocated $79 million in federal funds for the Rio de Flag project and plans to award the first construction contract for the Lower Rio de Flag and Clay Avenue Wash reaches in 2023.
KYRENE WATER FACILITY IN TEMPE
One day and 210 miles later, Connor joined Congressional Representative Greg Stanton of Arizona and other state and local leaders for a press conference regarding the Kyrene Water Treatment Facility in Tempe.
During the press conference Stanton announced $37 million in funding for the Kyrene project. He later thanked Connor and city leaders via Twitter, also writing “Our work is paramount in shaping a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The facility was opened in 1991 and was expanded in 2006, but it was subsequently taken offline in 2010 due in part to the recession. The project was established to allow the City of Tempe to collect, treat and use reclaimed water, allowing it to become more water resilient.
TRES RIOS WETLANDS NEAR PHOENIX
Following the press conference, Stanton and Connor met with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego to review project details for the Tres Rios Wetlands. The wetlands project is located southwest of the Phoenix metropolitan area in Maricopa County and includes an eight-mile reach of the Salt and Gila rivers.
“There are three benefits to the Tres Rios project – flood control, ecosystem recreation and public recreation,” Balten said. “We have already completed the flood-mitigation portion of the project.”
The design includes a constructed engineered levee and restoration of 1,200 acres of riparian and wetland habitats, as well as recreational development consisting of hiking trails, nature walks comfort stations and ramadas.
“The Tres Rios project is a perfect example of innovative, multi-faceted solutions that are critical to tackling the water resource challenges we have,” Connor said.
The project has been operating on yearly carryover funds that were allocated in 2010. The Tres Rios has also received funds in the FY22 appropriations bill.
For more information about LA District’s programs and projects, visit www.spl.usace.army.mil.