Frequently Asked


What communities are involved in the Rio Reimagined project?
The Rio Salado Project is a partnership between the eight primary Valley community stakeholders along the river corridor – Buckeye, Goodyear, Gila River Indian Community, Avondale, Phoenix, Tempe, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and Mesa. Elected leadership of these communities signed a ‘Statement of Intent’ document at the Project Launch event on March 30, 2018 that expresses their intent “to establish and form a working group to fuel the project and aide in the overall planning, review and approval process for the project.” A comprehensive public forum process is envisioned to include valuable public input from all stakeholders of our community.

A Project Working Group was formed in 2017 with representation from municipalities, tribes, SRP, State and Federal agencies and has been meeting regularly to collaborate on early planning initiatives. Presentations and ‘best practices’ discussion with leadership of precedent projects (Trinity River Authority, San Antonio River Authority, Los Angeles River, etc.) were scheduled for Working Group education. Earlier this year, three “Zone” subcommittees focused on geographic focus areas (West / Central / East) were formed to provide more intensive planning structure through monthly meetings.
What is Arizona State University’s (ASU) role?
In Spring 2017, the late U.S. Senator John McCain asked his friend and colleague Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, to bring ASU’s research expertise, strength of organization and experience with large-scale urban planning projects to the Rio Reimagined project. ASU’s University City Exchange office, under the leadership of Wellington “Duke” Reiter, has worked with U.S. Senator McCain’s staff to convene community leadership, research valuable precedents, organize federal agency resources and guide river communities in the formation of a non-profit organization. The Rio Reimagined project belongs to the river communities that will determine the scope, deliverables and promise of our environmental future.


What are the Project boundaries?
Initial project boundaries extend approximately 55+ miles long by one mile wide [or half mile each side of the centerline of the river corridor] and encompasses 78,000+ acres extending from SR-85 to Granite Reef Dam. The Project’s Zone Subcommittee have identified specific focus areas, with transition areas between the zones, to assist in programming and planning efforts.
What is in the river today?
Over the past four decades, the Valley communities, with many local, state, and federal government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, have engaged in efforts to revitalize the Rio Salado and its watershed. The Cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa have invested in parks, bike paths, bridges, river improvements, and other projects. In addition, previous efforts included six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects focused on flood control, ecological restoration and recreation including the El Rio Watercourse Master Plan, Tres Rios Habitat Restoration and Wetlands, Rio Salado Oeste, Rio Salado Phoenix, Rio Salado Tempe and Rio Salado Mesa of which some have been implemented and others are still in a planning phase. The most notable of the projects implemented to date is the Tempe Town Lake which has contributed recreational amenities, public art, cultural amenities, riparian habitat, economic development supporting tourism, employment, housing and stimulating the tax base. Another significant environmental asset is the Tres Rios Environmental Habitat Restoration project rehabilitating nearly 700 acres in and around the Salt River, restoring 52 acres of vital wetlands - the fourth largest constructed wetland in the U.S., and additional riparian habitat which attracts significant global ecotourism. The Tres Rios project created a mutual relationship between the renewed wetlands and the joint municipal participation in a nearby wastewater treatment plant supporting our thriving communities.


What are the primary objectives of a project plan for the river corridor?
A project plan for the river corridor will integrate multiple objectives such as public open space, environmental and water quality, housing, transportation, economic development, workforce development, community sustainability and resilience as well as others. Revitalization could include a vibrant program determined through a strategic public outreach and stakeholder engagement process. The next phase of the Rio Salado focuses on the opportunity to coalesce a grand, comprehensive vision for the River that embodies the future economic, social and environmental vitality of our communities as well as cultivates a progressive identity for our River and its watershed. The following principles will serve to guide the future of this project:
  • Establish a Multi-Jurisdictional Vision for the Future
  • Reconnect the Community to the Water & its Origin
  • Restore the Value of the River & Adjacent Sites
  • Feature Impactful & Instructive Sustainable Elements
  • Build an Unprecedented Regional Destination
  • Be a Catalyst for Economic Growth and Inclusion
  • Establish the Highest Design Expectations


What are the primary challenges of a project plan for the river corridor?
There are many challenges, some known and many unknown at this time. Challenges (and opportunities) are invested in four main areas of the project: Water, Funding, Community and Economic Development. The role and capacity of water is unknown at this time. Our intent is for the project to be ‘water positive’, guided by long-term sustainable principles that balance the Valley’s resources and growth. With respect to funding, it is safe to say that big government, sole-source project funding is unlikely. We expect that funding sources (government, philanthropic, corporate and institutional) will be varied and will require entrepreneurial approaches and strategic exploration. The planning process must also include an accurate representation of our diverse community. Participation of stakeholders from all communities affected by the revitalization of the river corridor is critical to the social equity and inclusivity that will ensure project success.
Can water be obtained to create public water amenities similar to Tempe Town Lake?
Theoretically, it is feasible to establish bodies of water in various configurations within the river corridor, however any water strategy will need to be balanced within existing State Legislation existing and future municipal demands, population growth projections, CAP and SRP policies and arid sustainability strategies. In addition, they would need to address major water sources - potable and non-potable, which involve complex social, political, technical and economic challenges and constraints. Consideration for an approach to the resulting increase in water demand from adjacent new/proposed development would also affect domestic demand which would need to be balanced through CAP allocations.

What's Next

What are the next steps?
Since the Launch of the Project just a few months ago, this long-term urban planning effort has received tremendous support and enthusiasm from the community. Project stakeholders are now carrying on the challenging and time-consuming work of a comprehensive visioning framework process that will define a master plan for the Rio Reimagined.

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