Public meeting
Thursday, October 1st, 6:00pm
Montoya Community Center

Update on the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP)

Paul Summerfelt, City of Flagstaff Wildland Fire Management Officer

Mixed conifer forest in the Dry Lake Hills on Little Gnarly Trail off the Schultz Pass Road in the Coconino National Forest. The Dry Lake Hills area is one location included in the FWPP. Photo courtesy of Tom Bean 

For most of the 20th century, wildfire suppression techniques have been used to battle wildfires throughout the United States. While successful in the short-term, these techniques have removed the natural cycle of fire from forests, which is an integral element in healthy forest ecosystems. 

Long-term impacts including severe erosion and post-fire flooding are proof of the drawbacks to wildfire suppression, as evident from the 2010 Schultz Fire post-fire flooding events. 

In order to reduce the risk of wildfire and post-fire flooding in the Rio de Flag and Lake Mary watersheds, Flagstaff voters approved a ten million dollar bond in 2012 to support the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP). 

Please join us this Thursday, October 1st at 6:00 PM at the Montoya Community Center to welcome Paul Summerfelt, City of Flagstaff Wildland Officer, who will provide membership with an update on the FWPP project, as well as take any questions. 

Volunteer and Educational Opportunity

Riparian Plant Walk and Sinclair Wash Cleanup

Sunday, September 13th
Sinclair Wash at Willow Bend

Sinclair Wash

We invite you to join us to celebrate Colorado River Days in collaboration with the Arboretum at Flagstaff. We will have a trash pick up at Sinclair Wash while Dr. Kris Haskins, Director of Research at the Arboretum, leads us on a walk looking at various native and invasive species we find along the way.

Please park at Willow Bend Educational Center. Folks should bring along a hat, gloves, plenty of water, wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for the day's weather, and wear sunscreen.

Hope you can join us for this fun, educational event!

Reviving the Verde River

Arizona Daily Sun • September 6, 2015 • By Emery Cowan

Stephan Block, a resident of Cottonwood, paddles down the Verde River during a kayak trip in August. Doug Von Gausig, the mayor of Clarkdale and director of the Verde River Institute, leads the trips to promote awareness of the river and its potential to be a bigger economic driver in the Verde Valley. Photo by Taylo Mahoney/AZ Daily Sun.

CLARKDALE — Doug Von Gausig stood beside the glassy waters of the Verde River, a floppy, wide-brimmed hat propped on his head, as he began a narrative he has told many times before. The mayor of Clarkdale and executive director of the Verde River Institute spoke of the river’s history, its slowly dwindling flows and the life it gives this stark desert valley.

Arizona has killed seven of its desert rivers, drawing so much water that they no longer flow from their headwaters to their mouths, Von Gausig said. The Salt. The San Pedro. The Santa Cruz. The Verde River was once close to being the eighth, he said.

With 6,000 irrigated acres in the Verde Valley alone and the number of people living, and pumping groundwater, in the river’s watershed expected to nearly triple to 600,000 by 2050, there is no shortage of straws sucking up the Verde’s flows.

“Thirty years ago when we were trying to figure out how sure are we that this river is going to survive, I would have said 10 or 15 percent. Pretty dismal,” Von Gausig said. “Now I say 85 (read more...)

Frances Short Pond and trails to close for two weeks

Arizona Daily Sun • August 29, 2015 • By Daily Sun Staff

Will Bressler, 10, holds a bluegill he caught at the Frances Short Pond early Sunday morning. The city of Flagstaff will be closing the local fishing hole and surrounding trails for two weeks while the pond is dredged and reeds are removed. Photo by Jake Bacon/AZ Daily Sun

Frances Short Pond and the trails surrounding it will be closed for the next two weeks while the city removes some of the reeds and weeds from it.

The work will start on Monday. The overgrowth of reeds and weed are starting to affect the water quality of the pond, which affects the habitat of the animals and plants that live in the pond and its use as a recreation center and outdoor classroom.

The work to restore the pond is similar to a grant project that was compLeted in 2005. The city also plans to create a more long-term maintenance schedule for the pond to avoid future overgrowth of the reeds.

According to the city's website, the pond was named after Frances Short, a former educator and city councilmember. It may have been a water storage pond for the Santa Fe Railroad's steam trains.

In the 1920s a dam was built upstream on the Rio de Flag to create a swimming and skating area. Over time the area filled with sediment and street sweepings dumped in by the city. (read more...)

Katrina's lessons for Flag: More preparation, prevention

Arizona Daily Sun • September 3, 2015 • By Chris Etling

A decade after Katrina overran New Orleans and much of the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast, it is useful to tease lessons for Flagstaff out of the disaster.

Our Mountain Town and the Colorado Plateau on which it sits, of course, will never be exposed to landscape-wide hurricane force winds or tidal surges. And the resilience shown by many in New Orleans in the face of such devastation may never be needed on quite the same scale locally.

But the twin watchwords of preparation and prevention still ring true, even if the powers of Mother Nature are wrought differently at 7,000 feet. Fires and floods exact their tolls here in capricious but not entirely mysterious ways, and staying ahead of the risk curve is no longer an impossibility.

And sometimes it is not natural forces but human activity that comes back to bite the landscape and those who live in it. Witness the 3 million gallons of waste water accidentally released from an abandoned gold mine high up in the Colorado Rockies. The lead that was deposited in river sediment downstream might not actually be as toxic as the mercury falling into the Colorado River and Grand Canyon from coal-fired power plant emissions. But each could be anticipated and now measured, and we ignore the buildup and ways to prevent them at our peril.

Floods, of course, cause the most damage the closer they occur to human settlements. New Orleans was built below water level behind levees that turned out to be weaker than advertised when pounded by Katrina's tidal surge. Flagstaff is built astride the seasonal Rio de Flag, which can sit placidly for dozens of years until riled up by a monster storm that, proportionally, could cause damage to the urban core rivaling Katrina (read more...)

Thursday, September 3rd Public Meeting
6:00 PM, Montoya Community Center

Oak Creek flowing at Slide Rock State Park, June 25, 2014, after the Slide Fire, Coconino National Forest near Sedona.
Photo by Tom Bean

Oak Creek Watershed Council: Background and Current Efforts of a Local Watershed Group

Marie McCormick and Ryan Matson, Oak Creek Watershed Council

Nearby Oak Creek has the opposite problem of the Rio de Flag - it is too well known for its own good.

Trash, trampling, e. coli pollution, and other impacts of tens of thousands of tourists plague our sister waterway. Fortunately, a vigorous group of advocates has formed to raise awareness and take action.

Marie McCormick, Executive Director of the Oak Creek Watershed Council (OCWC), and Ryan Matson, OCWC Board member, Grant Manager, and Technical Manager, will describe how the OCWC formed, issues of focus for the group, and current projects. They will also provide insights about the group's progress, volunteer efforts, and the types of funding and technical resources OCWC uses.

To all FoRIO Members...

As a representative of the Board, I first want to thank you for all of the time and energy you have put into and will put into making the Rio de Flag a healthier, more enjoyable community asset. As our communal waterway, the health of the Rio is a direct reflection of how we, as Flagstaff citizens, care for our water and regional environment. Thank you for all that you do.

Second, the functionality of any group is often related to the effectiveness and vision of the Board. Without the engagement of members on the Board, an organization often loses its capacity to meet its mission and commitments. To that end, we invite you to consider either nominating another FoRIO member or nominating yourself to the Board. We are currently in need of 2 or 3 new Board members willing to commit to one 2 hour meeting per month and various follow-up information gathering, reading and thoughtful purposing in identifying the most critical task needed to be addressed by the Board and the FoRIO membership. 

This is the "1st call" for Board nominations. Please fill out an application form online if you are interested. In October, we will issue a "2nd call" for nominations, with a completed application for Board membership due at our Nov 5th general meeting. Voting for new Board members will occur at our Dec 3rd annual member potluck dinner. 

Again, my thanks for all that you do to make the Rio de Flag a healthy watercourse for all to enjoy. Further, thank you for seriously considering how your time and energy can help improve the Friends of the Rio de Flag.
Bryan Bates, Board member

Thursday, July 2nd Public Meeting
5:30 pm at Snowbowl Road (see details below)

Education walk to Leroux Springs with Friends of the Rio de Flag Board Member Deb Noel

First water flows at Big Leroux Springs, June 30, 2013, first free flowing water in over 100 years, Coconino National Forest, north of Flagstaff

Join us for our monthly membership meeting to be held on Thursday, July 2nd. This month's meeting will be led by Deb Noel, board member of the Friends of the Rio de Flag. Deb will lead an informal walk to Leroux Springs where two years ago the Friends of the Rio de Flag led successful efforts in resurfacing water at the Big Leroux Springs site.

Deb will discuss the connections between the City of Brotherly Love and science, and how that period of "natural curiosity" influenced some of the young men who later traveled through the greater Flagstaff area, collecting and recording both in written word and art.

Please meet at the Leroux Springs parking area at 5:30 PM this coming Thursday. From Highway 180 turn onto Snowbowl Road, drive one mile to the big righthand turning area on Snowbowl Road. Parking area is at the turn.

Thursday, June 4th Public Meeting
6:00 pm at the Joseph C. Montoya Community Center
245 N. Thorpe Park Rd., Flagstaff

Reducing Fire Danger and Post-Fire Flood Risk through the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP)

The Orion timber sale is located in the Schultz Pass area. The orange slashes designate "leave trees" that will not be cut.

Tom Runyon and Erin Phelps, U.S. Forest Service

Tom Runyon and Erin Phelps of the U.S. Forest Service will present an overview of the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP) including types of treatments, where treatments will occur, and hydrologic modeling from simulated soil burn severity mapping.

For those of you interested in a delightful summer activity, keep an eye on this website for a posting of Jack Welch's celebrated Rio Walk Series beginning June 6th. Join Jack in exploring and enjoying the Rio de Flag Watershed through group tours along the Rio and its tributaries.

We look forward to seeing you on Thursday, June 4th!

Evening Rio de Flag Walk Series with Jack Welch starts June 6th at 6:00 pm

Jack Welch. Photo by John Grahame.

Join Arizona Daily Sun columnist and Flagstaff treasure Jack Welch for a series of walks exploring the natural and cultural history of the Rio de Flag from its source at Leroux Springs to its terminus at the Bottomless Pit. All walks begin at 6:00 pm.

The series kicks off on SATURDAY 6 JUNE at LEROUX SPRINGS.
Start Location: Leroux Spring parking area.
Directions: Turn right on Snowbowl Road from Highway 180. Go straight for one mile to the first sharp right hand turn. Parking area is at that turn.
Time: 6:00 PM
Description: Walk Into Big and Little Leroux Springs. Big Leroux now flows on the surface for the first time in decades. See the NAU Arboretum, CCC encampment and old Mormon cabin, plus turnaround for the Moqui Stagecoach. About 4 total miles total walking.

Complete schedule here.

Thursday, May 7th Public Meeting
6:00 pm at the Joseph C. Montoya Community Center
245 N. Thorpe Park Rd., Flagstaff

Exploring Possible Solutions for the Rio de Flag Floodplain

Walter Crutchfield, Developer with Vintage Partners

Rio de Flag flowing through the Southside neighborhood during spring snowmelt season, Flagstaff, Arizona, April 2, 2010.
Rio de Flag flooding in Southside

Walter Crutchfield, developer with Vintage Partners, will present on possible solutions to managing flood control on the Southside in Flagstaff.

Ian Smith, intern with the Friends of the Rio, will also present on his draft watershed plan for the Rio de Flag Watershed.

Thank you to everyone who came out to for the Earth Day event with the City of Flagstaff on April 18th! It was great to see so many of you in attendance for the Rio de Flag cleanup and our Watershed Investigation workshop at Frances Short Pond on a sunny Saturday morning.

We look forward to seeing you at next week's meeting!

Reclaiming Rio will pay off in many ways

Arizona Daily Sun Editorial • April 30, 2015

The purple dashed line shows the proposed Flagstaff Urban Trail System alignment from Old Route 66 to Townsend Winona Road. The proposed trail will pass through areas where the city and the county are working to restore the Rio de Flag riparian area.
Picture Canyon Trail

When it comes to the Rio de Flag, Flagstaff can’t give the little ephemeral stream too much attention.

At nearly every twist and turn, the city and volunteer groups have lavished it with trails, holding ponds, marshes, interpretive signs and regular cleanups.

And if there are sections without those amenities, then there are plans to change that. It’s a far cry from when townsfolk referred to the “River de Flag” and used it to dispose of trash – or worse.

In recent decades, the portion of the Rio de Flag that runs through downtown has surfaced as a major flooding threat, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. But although the Corps has placed nearby properties in a 100-year-floodplain, thus limiting their development prospects, it hasn’t come through with much money to fix the problem. After years of delay, the cost to widen and deepen the channel has ballooned to $90 million, although some locals believe the city could do it for about $30 million less. (read more...)

Restoring the Rio

Arizona Daily Sun • April 28, 2015 • By Emery Cowan

David McKee with the city of Flagstaff's stormwater management department stands above the Rio de Flag waterway. The city of Flagstaff is in the midst of a project to restore the river's historic watershed. Photo by Emery Cowan © AZ Daily Sun.
David McKee at Wildcat Reach

After it winds through Flagstaff, squeezing between homes, under roads and through culverts, the Rio de Flag ends up on the eastern edge of the city.

Here, boulders decorated with ancient petroglyphs rest in the shadows of construction trucks, and wildlife tracks appear just feet from a Cemex building materials work yard.

Here, the industrial uses that have been pushed to the city’s edge run up against, and tumble into, a rare ribbon of riparian habitat.

“A lot of this area was taken for granted as a trash dump for a long number of years,” said Andy Bertelsen, the county’s director of public works.

This is also the place where the city of Flagstaff has spent the better part of the past decade restoring the Rio de Flag’s path, step by step. The final vision is to extend the Flagstaff Urban Trail System for 3.3 miles along the newly restored riparian area. The trail would connect Doney Park to the existing FUTS trail near the Flagstaff Mall and wind through Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve. (read more...)

Flagstaff Earth Day Saturday April 18

Thursday, April 2nd Public Meeting
6:00 pm at the Joseph C. Montoya Community Center
245 N. Thorpe Park Rd., Flagstaff

Flagstaff Water Group

Rio de Flag flowing below the Wildcat Water Treatment Plant at Picture Canyon Natural and Cultural Preserve, August 27, 2014. Photo © Tom Bean
Rio de Flag flowing below Wildcat Water Treatment Plant

The Flagstaff Water Group (FWG) will present their most recent work and progress as related to better cleaning of reclaimed water, better sludge treatment and improving methods to better conserve water in the Rio de Flag watershed and the Flagstaff community.  For the past year, this group of scientists and engineers has voluntarily researched the issues of how to address technological and economic dimensions as related to better water conservation and water quality.  Their presentation will be feature a 5 step program phased in over 5-10 years that would improve the biological health of the Rio de Flag and the safety of citizens who use reclaimed water.

In addition, Chelsea Silva will update members on Earth Day Event activities with the City on April 18. We are still looking for volunteers, and any interested members will be able to sign up to volunteer for the Earth Day Event.

City requests $500K for Rio de Flag project

AZ Daily Sun • March 19, 2015 • by SUZANNE ADAMS-OCKRASSA Sun Staff Reporter

The Rio de Flag runs near the library during the snowstorm that hit Flagstaff recently. Photo by Shannon Clark.
Rio in Winter by Shannon Clark

The city of Flagstaff is hoping for another $500,000 from the federal government to complete the design of the Rio de Flag Flood Control project.

In a report to Flagstaff City Council, Deputy City Manager Josh Copley detailed the city’s annual lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. This year’s delegation included Copley, Mayor Jerry Nabours and Councilmembers Karla Brewster and Jeff Oravits. At the top of the list of topics to discuss with federal representatives was the Rio de Flag Flood Control project.

The project is designed to channel the water from a 100-year flood away from the city’s center. The city and the federal government have been working on the project since 2000. The original cost of the project was estimated at $24 million. It now has an estimated cost of $106 million. This year the city’s delegation to Washington asked for an additional $500,000 to complete the design of the project. (read more...)

Thursday, February 5th Public Meeting
6:00 pm at the Joseph C. Montoya Community Center
245 N. Thorpe Park Rd., Flagstaff

Get Rio for Earth Day

Wildcat Reach. Photo © Tom Bean
Wildcat Reach. Photo copyright Tom Bean

Get Rio for Earth Day this year. Come join Friends of the Rio de Flag on Thursday, February 5 to help us plan Earth Day 2015 events along Flagstaff's major stream, the Rio de Flag.

Our intern, Chelsea Silva, will discuss her Adopt-The-Rio project for Earth Day in partnership with the City of Flagstaff. David McKee of the Flagstaff Stormwater Department will update us on restoration efforts at Wildcat Reach and other projects within the Rio watershed.

Share your thoughts and ideas on what kind of fundraiser you would like to see FoRio create for the community. We’ll also discuss topics for upcoming meetings and walks along the Rio, as well as a recap of the Friends of Rio de Flag’s participation at the Orpheum Theater in January for Ed Kabotie’s “Celebration of Water.”

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