PHOENIX, Ariz. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District’s Arizona-Nevada Area Office hosted members of the USACE Headquarters’ Environmental Advisory Board during a two-day visit to the Phoenix area Feb. 13 and 14.
“I know you’re all experts in your respective fields, and I’m excited to have you all here,” said Col. Mark Toy, the LA District commander, as he greeted the members. “I’m really glad you’re here because you are going to see the crown jewel out here. That’s the Tres Rios Ecosystem Restoration Project.”
None of the eight board members are members of the Corps of Engineers. The Board was created by the Chief of Engineers, Lieutenant General Frederick J. Clarke, in 1970, to give outside, expert and independent advice on environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers. Throughout its history, the Board has served the Corps as a vehicle of communication to reach out and build partnerships, understandings and cooperation with the Environmental community, and public at large.
“I think it’s great that they came here to see the work we have done,” said Mike Ternak, the Sustainable Engineering Program Manager for South Pacific Division. Ternak is based in Phoenix. “They can take what they see up to the Headquarters level and let the right people know about the initiatives we’ve started here, and they can apply a lot of the lessons we have learned here to projects around the Corps.”
The members visited several environmental restoration projects throughout Phoenix during their time in the Valley of the Sun. One project was the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area. The Corps of Engineers became involved with the project in the 1990s when the City of Phoenix requested a restoration study of the Salt River. The Corps worked with the City of Phoenix to revitalize the river corridor. Today, the area hosts more than 200 species of migratory birds and has an array of recreational options for residents and visitors.
On the second day of their visit, the members of the Board had the opportunity to see the “crown jewel” project in the Phoenix area -- the Tres Rios Ecosystem Restoration Project in Phoenix’s West Valley. The project uses highly-treated effluent from the 91st Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant to create nearly 500 acres of wetland. The project also consists of a flood protection levee, effluent pump station and riparian corridors for native species. The project is ongoing, pending funding. The City of Phoenix is working on putting in the passive recreational aspects, so the general public can use the trails in the overbank wetlands area.
Their final destination was Luke Air Force Base. There, the group met with Lt. Col. Chad Bondurant, the commander of 56th Civil Engineer Squadron, 56th Fighter Wing and members of his staff. They had the chance to view the work the LA District is doing on the base in preparation for the arrival of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The team also had the chance to visit the site of an archeological excavation on the base.
The excavation came about when the base was planning to put in a solar array. Shortly after beginning the study on the site, the Luke team discovered a site they said is of great significance to Arizona and the nation. The site, according to archaeologists, contains human dwellings dating back to 3,000 BC. Archaeologists say the area shows signs of the shift from a hunter-gatherer society to one based in agriculture and represents a “seminal period” in human development.
“I know you have all seen some pretty amazing projects during your tours,” Toy said as the EAB members returned to the Area Office for their working meeting on Valentine’s Day. “I want to thank you for coming, for taking your time, and I’m glad you were able to get a better understanding of just how much these folks out here in Arizona do for the Corps and for the country.”
The team will participate in a public meeting Feb. 15 with USACE Commanding General Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick in downtown Phoenix.