Rio Reimagined, Metro Phoenix Urban Waters Federal Partnership
Gila River Indian News
Local leaders and stakeholders met Feb. 22 at the Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix for a roundtable discussion on the Rio Reimagined Project, which helps protect, restore and revitalize more than 50 miles of the Salt and Gila Rivers.
Federal, state, local and tribal officials attended, including U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, Sen, Kyrsten Sinema, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, Rep. Greg Stanton, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis.
Forged by the late Sen. John McCain in 2017, the Rio Reimagined Project has a long list of goals, according to the EPA’s website, including restoring ecosystem functions, fostering climate adaptation and urban resilience, and more.
The 58 miles of rivers serve six cities and two tribal communities in the valley: Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, Avondale, Goodyear, Buckeye, the Gila River Indian and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community.
The event also highlighted the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, which brings 15 federal agencies together to work collaboratively with communities and partners to connect with their waterways and environment to improve them.
Funding from the recent bipartisan infrastructure and investments act, led by Sen. Sinema and shaped by Sen. Mark Kelly, will help tribes across the state.
“Our historic investments will strengthen water systems, update critical infrastructure, and create jobs,” said Sinema.
Sinema helped secure the funding to complete all currently authorized Indian Water Rights Settlements, including building out the infrastructure needed for the Southern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement with the Tohono O’odham Nation, completing GRIC’s water rights settlements and funding the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Water Rights Settlement.
“The water funding in the bipartisan infrastructure funding is historic and will have an immediate impact in the Community by accelerating irrigation projects that will create around 200 jobs,” said Gov. Lewis.
In addition to fully funding Indian Water Rights Settlements, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs law provides $3.5 billion for Tribal water and sanitation infrastructure and resiliency and $2 billion to expand high-speed broadband in tribal communities.
Following the discussions, Audubon staff gave officials a tour of the Rio Salado habitat restoration area that provides a lush riparian corridor along five miles of the Salt River.