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KERP and the Corps

Published Oct. 1, 2015

TUCSON, Ariz. — In 1966, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District constructed the Ajo Detention Basin where the present-day Kino Environmental Restoration Project lives.

The basin, in its original state, was effective at flood control, but provided no water harvesting or wildlife habitat.

In the mid 1990s, using the authority of Section 1135, Water Resources Development Act of 1986, that allows the Corps to plan, design and build modifications to existing Corps projects--or areas degraded by Corps projects--to restore aquatic habitats for fish and wildlife, a plan was formed.

"The Corps and stakeholders from Pima County and the Pima County Regional Flood Control District developed a plan for KERP," said John Drake, a senior civil works project manager. "The modified basin created native ecosystems that are environmentally sensitive." 

The project also added to the basin's flood control capacity and allowed for storm water harvesting to meet the irrigation needs of the Kino Sports Complex, Sam Lena Park and numerous sites along Ajo Way. The County estimates an average annual savings of $350,000 in irrigation costs since KERP's completion in 2002.

"The County is very progressive in managing the full purpose of the floodplain; flood conveyance, groundwater recharge and fish and wildlife habitat," added Drake.

KERP works in concert with other basins, like Rodeo, Kolb Road, Arroyo Chico and the Cherry Field complex that doubles as home to the Tucson High Magnet School's baseball and softball teams. The campus of THMS is also the site of the High School Wash Box Culvert inlet completed in April. This segment of the Arroyo Chico Multi-use Project greatly reduced the flood risk for more than 1,000 residential, commercial and industrial structures.