Rio de Flag Project Receives Reauthorization Funds of $102.9 Million

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City of Flagstaff • January 3, 2017 • News Release

FLAGSTAFF, AZ – On December 10, 2016, the Rio de Flag Flood Control project received $102 million in reauthorization funds from the Water Resources Development Act of 2000 (WRDA 2000.)

This new $102.9 million reauthorization for the project was recently sent to the President for his signature. As an authorized project the Rio de Flag construction funds may be received which indicates the project will be completed in the next five to seven years.

A significant flood event would directly affect more than half of Flagstaff’s nearly 70,000 residents and would result in damages to approximately 1,500 structures valued at over $450,000,000. Implementation of the City’s Downtown and Southside Redevelopment Initiative are entirely dependent on the completion of the Rio de Flag Project. In addition to flood damage reduction, other benefits include elimination of mandatory flood insurance and restrictive floodplain management regulations.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) feasibility report proposes to contain the 100-year flood event through construction of 1.6 miles of flood control channel improvements, a 72-acre detention basin, property acquisition, utility relocations and three new bridges.


See the original news release here.

Flagstaff Trailheads: Get ready to Make a Difference

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Arizona Daily Sun • October 11, 2016 • Special to the Daily Sun by Jack Welch

They say the eating of crow is the price one (that would be me) pays for the continuous support of the baseball team from their long-ago hometown. In my case, the St Louis Cardinals.

Am I finally over my zeal for the Anheuser-Busch boys of summer? They didn’t even make the playoffs this year. And far worse, finished second to the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs! Oh, the despair!! Will my aching heart ever mend? The next thing you know they’ll be brewing Budweiser beer in Brussels. What? The Cardinals aren’t even owned by the Busch family anymore? Arghhhh!

Back to the verbal consumption of the smaller, lesser-beaked, raven-like blackbird. Since moving to Flagstaff I have heckled my friends with known ties to the Windy City Cubbies about the annual collapse of their team. I must admit it’s been a joyful experience. My being right year after year has evolved into a treasured annual event. But now it’s time to consume a humble, but rather fowl, pie. The following is my crow-munching paragraph of capitulation.

A slight tip of my redbird cap to the team that plays home games in Wrigley Field. We devoted Cardinal fans, however, are counting on you to not allow the possible winning of a baseball World Series to become a disagreeable habit. Once every century is enough euphoria for Chicago folks. And, as an ardent Cardinal supporter, all I can say is, “Wait ’til next year!”

Now, the real reason for this column. One of the city’s newest employees is Margaret Twomey. Called Maggie by her many friends, she’s now the volunteer and events coordinator for the Flagstaff Sustainability Department. In that capacity she’ll manage the Community Stewards Program for the FUTS and city parks plus coordinate events like Earth Day, The Flagstaff 15-Minute Makeover and many other such activities.

My friend Maggie is an outdoor person with a bachelor of science degree in recreation, parks and leisure with a sports management emphasis. She’s a hard-working volunteer herself as I learned when she and husband Bill painted the inside of the Arizona Trail/Flagstaff Loop Trail tunnel under Highway 89 at Townsend-Winona Road. Together, they turned a dark underpass into a bright passageway.

Her fun-loving personality is well known and she’s a strong athlete. I’ve seen her ride a bicycle up the steep Forest Avenue hill between Fort Valley Road and Beaver Street and then pedal up the next difficult section between Turquoise and Gemini Drive.

Maggie will be organizing, along with the Natural Channel Design Company and Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, the annual Flagstaff Make a Difference Day on Saturday, October 22nd. They need a huge volunteer force to help in the cleanup and improvement of the wetlands from the I-40 pond westward along the FUTS. Park at the Sam’s Club parking lot (southwest corner) and follow the directional signs down to the work site. The fun starts at 8 a.m.

For more complete information or to volunteer, contact Maggie Twomey at (928) 213 2144 or e-mail

Your help with this project will be much appreciated. I know I’ll be there and we’re counting on your participation. Go, Cubs!

Follow this link to view the original article in the AZ Daily Sun.


BioBlitz draws hundreds to Frances Short Pond

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Arizona Daily Sun • October 1, 2016

Participants collect data at the September 27th BioBlitz at Frances Short Pond. Photo courteous of Tom Bean Photography

Participants collect data at the September 27th BioBlitz at Frances Short Pond. Photo courteous of Tom Bean Photography

On Sept. 27, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, Friends of the Rio de Flag, and multiple other partners organized a Bioblitz at Frances Short Pond.

Stations were set up around the pond that collected information about water quality, aquatic insects, birds, plants and fish. More than 260 students from Marshall Elementary, Flagstaff Junior Academy, and Mount Elden Middle School measured the temperature and dissolved oxygen of the water, used microscopes to identify the aquatic invertebrates they caught, wandered the pond in search of common plants, used binoculars to spot ducks and red-winged blackbirds, fished for rainbow trout, and then pulled together what they learned by constructing a life cycle diagram of an organism of their choice. In the afternoon community members got the same chance to explore this unique ecosystem in their backyard while contributing to the survey data collection.

“The kids and families were super happy to be out conducting citizen science for such a special place in Flagstaff. Watching the binoculars focus in on mallards, coots and blackbirds, eyes grow wide at discovering beetles and bees, and screams of excitement catching their first fish- what a memorable day of science in its simplest form,” said Brenda Strohmeyer, Rocky Mountain Research Station supervisory biological science technician, and event co-organizer.

Valerie Brazzell, whose son Maddox, a 4th grader at Marshall Elementary, participated during the morning school period said “my son came home from school all excited and told me he had a lot of much fun. I decided to check it out too. We participated together in the afternoon session, had a great time, and learned a lot”.

Chelsea Silva, AmeriCorps VISTA watershed stewardship aide with Friends of the Rio de Flag and the City of Flagstaff, who was also in charge of the Plant ID station, said that everyone at her station was super engaged and excited to be part of this effort. “I can’t wait for next time” she added.

Moran Henn, Willow Bend’s executive director and one of the event’s co-organizers, concluded that the event was a huge success.

“This was a true multi-partner collaborative effort, held in conjunction with the Flagstaff Festival of Science,” she said. “I can’t thank our volunteers, experts, and helpers enough. They did such a great job and the result is hundreds of happy students, teachers, and community members who got to spend the day outside, learn about their local environment, and contribute to meaningful data collection and open space management.”

Additional event partners included multiple departments from the City of Flagstaff including Sustainability Section Open Space Program and Storm Water, The Museum of Northern Arizona, Grand Canyon Trust, AZ Game and Fish, local illustrator Zack Zdinak, and more. The event was made possible through a generous grant from the National Geographic Education Foundation and the AZ Game and Fish Heritage Grant.

For more Festival of Science activities, visit, and for more information about Willow Bend, visit

U.S. Senate action puts Rio de Flag Flood Control Project back on track

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Arizona Business Daily• September 20, 2016

The U.S, Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act on Sept. 15 that reauthorizes the Rio de Flag Flood Control Project, authorizes funds for tribal wastewater certification, speeds up removal of invasive salt cedar trees, reduces Nogales’ financial burden for a sewage pipeline and speeds up reimbursements to tribes for water quality monitoring after a Gold King Mine spill.

“I am pleased that after eight years, we are finally on track to provide the federal funding needed for the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the Rio de Flag flood control project,” U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said. “This project, which has languished due to bureaucratic delays, is critical for the city of Flagstaff to mitigate potentially disastrous flood damage that could destroy land and infrastructure and directly impact the local and regional economy. I will continue to monitor the progress of this important project, and look forward to the completion of the Rio de Flag flood control project.” (read more…)


Upcoming Springs Inventory and Assessment workshops in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Springs inventory and assessment workshop, October 13-14, 2016: The Spring Stewardship Institute (SSI) will host a 2-day workshop designed to inform and educate the public, students, government agencies, NGOs, and Tribes about springs inventory and stewardship. Participants will deepen their understanding of springs ecosystems, ecological integrity, natural and cultural resources, stewardship, restoration, monitoring, field data collection, and information management. The workshop consists of classroom presentations and discussions, as well as hands-on field inventory and assessment training each day. For more information visit

Free webinar, September 28th at 9am: SSI will also present the final results of their 2-year project to support provide land managers, researchers, and NGOs with comprehensive information about springs and springs-dependent species in the Southern Rockies Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Registration for this free webinar can be found here.

Trailheads: Do what you can as best you can — but do it

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Arizona Daily Sun • April 16, 2016 • Special to the Daily Sun by Jack Welch

Do what you can as best you can was my mother’s most favored catchphrase. And that simple line is my mantra. Not being a perpetual spectator should be the steadfast goal of everyone. Especially, If you wish to carry forward a personal level of physical well-being.

Nonetheless, I eagerly watch the Olympics on television every four years. There’s something very special about being able to sit and see the finest athletes in the world perform at a level few of us will ever achieve. But witnessing their extraordinary accomplishments shouldn’t act as a deterrent to the physical ambitions of average folks. Their fantastic capabilities are reached through dedication, diligence and enthusiasm — qualities we all possess, but few choose to fully develop. We can all gain, however, positive results from emulating as best we can their dedicated pursuit of excellence.

You don’t have to be the best to do your best. And there’s nothing wrong with being second or even last. There is however, something very wrong about not being a participant. Choosing to sit at home in the comfort of a well-cushioned couch or in a stadium safely ensconced in a folding chair shouldn’t be our only option. (read more…)

Much thanks to Fred Phillips Consulting volunteers!

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On July 12, personnel from Fred Phillips Consulting graciously volunteered their time to survey and brainstorm ideas for enhancing the I-40 wetlands area along the FUTS. Biologists and landscape architects from this award winning, local firm spent their time assessing resources and providing a preliminary sketch of how things might be better for this heavily used area.  The materials they provided are greatly appreciated and provide us all with a place to begin the conversation on how we want this area to look and perform.  We look forward to that conversation with all of our partners.  Many thanks from us to them!

I-40 Wetlands Vision Document

Please click on the image to download a larger version of this vision map of the I-40 Wetlands.



Big thank you to our guest speakers!

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The Friends of the Rio de Flag is a local non-profit operating on a small, donations-based budget. We are extremely appreciative of our monthly guest speakers who volunteer their time and energy to share their knowledge and experience about the watershed with our group!

We thank Mindy Bell of STEM City and Gary Alpert with the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) for their informative presentation on August 4th, 2016 at Coyote Springs. Mindy shared her past experience as a science teacher doing outdoor, place-based education with students at the Flagstaff Arts & Leadership Academy, while Gary discussed his current insect sampling efforts to better understand the biodiversity supported by the springs. For more information about Mindy’s past work at the spring including student-collected data, please email To learn about her current work with STEM City, visit their Facebook page. If you would like to learn more about Gary’s insect studies with MNA, shoot him an email at

Thanks again to our wonderful guest speakers!

Member Meeting: Thursday, July 7th

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Walk along the Rio de Flag with Coral Evans, City Councilmember

Thursday, July 7th, 6:00PM

Meet at the Bus Connection Center on Phoenix Ave.

Rio de Flag flowing in Southside after heavy monsoon thunderstorm, June 28, 2016, Flagstaff, Arizona, Photo courteous of Tom Bean

Rio de Flag flowing in Southside after heavy monsoon thunderstorm, June 28, 2016, Flagstaff, Arizona, Photo courteous of Tom Bean

Walk the Rio de Flag though the Southside neighborhood with City Councilmember Coral Evans and Friends of the Rio de Flag. Coral, who grew up in Southside, will explain some of the history here as we view areas flooded by recent heavy rains.

Volunteer Opportunity: Creating a Monarch Butterfly Way Station

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Volunteer Opportunity 
 Creating a Monarch Butterfly Way Station
Sunday, June 26th, 8am-12pm
Picture Canyon, next to the Fire Department Training Center
Hello Friends of the Rio! Please see below for an awesome volunteer opportunity!
Request for volunteers from Boy Scout Tristan Meriwether here in Flagstaff:
After the monarch wintering area got hit by an unusual spring snowstorm that killed up to 50% of the population, this summer’s generations will need all the help we can give. Tristan was one of the Boy Scouts who completed his Bird Study Merit Badge thanks to the NAAS sponsored classes that Deb James led in 2014.

    My name is Tristan Meriwether and I am creating a Monarch Way Station for my Eagle Scout Service Project. I am working with the City of Flagstaff to create a food and shelter station for Monarch Butterflies and other pollinators whose numbers are rapidly dwindling. I am in need of volunteers to make this project a reality.

I have three work days coming up. The next one is Sunday, June 26th, 8am – 12pm.

Location: Near Flagstaff Wildcat Hill Wastewater Treatment Plant, 2800 N. El Paso Flagstaff Rd., Flagstaff, AZ 86004 (about a mile behind the Flagstaff Mall off of Route 66, right next to Fire Department Training Center).

Snacks and Drinks: Provided!

Wear: We’ll be moving dirt, so expect to get dirty; work clothes, work shoes, hat, work gloves, sunscreen.

Tools: Please bring shovels and landscaping rakes (not leaf rakes) if you can; if not, some will be available.

PHASE TWO: We will be planting seeds and placing erosion control cloth down which needs to get done before the monsoons start in beginning July. We have the following dates set to complete this work:

Tuesday, June 28, 8-10 am
Thursday June 30, 4-6 pm

Thank you so very much!

Tristan Meriwether