people sitting spaced apart at press conference

Arizona's Rio Salado designated as 20th Urban Waters Federal Partnership project

Today, at an event hosted by Arizona State University, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler with Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar and other federal, state and local partners commemorated the designation of the Rio Reimagined-Rio Salado Project in Arizona as the 20th Urban Waters Federal Partnership (UWFP) location.

With this designation, federal, local and tribal partners will work together to improve surface water quality and foster a connection between the river and residents of the surrounding area — helping to strengthen communities, promote economic development and protect the river ecosystem as a valued natural and cultural asset.

“EPA understands the importance of investing in projects that better connect people and communities to their water resources,” Wheeler said. “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.”

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EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at San Tan Pavilion at Sun Devil Stadium on Tuesday, as the Rio Salado is the 20th site awarded the Urban Waters Federal Partnership designation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“The Department of the Interior plays a tremendously important role in urban and natural landscapes across all 50 states of our great nation,” Bernhardt said. “I am delighted to join in celebrating the designation of the Rio Salado as the location of the 20th Urban Waters Federal Partnership.”

“Water is life. The importance of this program to Arizona and the Phoenix area cannot be understated, and today’s announcement on Rio Reimagined is a step in the right direction in building partnerships on water. In Arizona and much of the West, water is often about fighting over rights and access; instead of fighting, today we can come together today to work to together to make both of those issues better. EPA’s leadership to bring this coalition together shows that this leadership knows how to find solutions and making progress possible for the people of Arizona,” Gosar said.

“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,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “This represents a major step forward toward EPA’s urban waterways goals in the Pacific Southwest region.”

“ASU has long championed the role that waterways can play in invigorating the economy, recreational options and overall quality of life in a region,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “We are proud to lead this ambitious endeavor to foster transformational connectivity and enhance Arizona’s natural beauty, sustainability, health and prosperity. The UWFP will empower river communities with the improved capacity, resources and expertise to yield success.”

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ASU President Michael Crow speaks during a video shown at the event. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“The Valley of the Sun exists because of Native American tribes who ingeniously transported water across the valley floor through an innovative canal system,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said. “The river helped to create our community, and we are thrilled that with this influx of resources, we can reinvigorate this area which runs through six cities and two tribal communities.”

Spearheaded by Arizona State University, the Rio Reimagined-Rio Salado project spans 58 miles of the Lower Salt and Gila Rivers. Local, federal and tribal partners will work collaboratively to achieve economic, environmental, health, wellness and recreation goals for the benefit of community residents. The designation will result in continued federal assistance through access to learning network resources, information on funding opportunities and technical assistance from federal partners. Inclusion in the UWFP will support existing efforts by the eight river communities and support these stakeholders in restoring their waterways in a way that creates diverse benefits for all.

Top photo: Neil Giuliano, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Leadership, speaks at San Tan Pavilion at Sun Devil Stadium on Monday, as the Rio Salado is the 20th site awarded the Urban Waters Federal Partnership designation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now