The El Rio Watercourse Master Plan (WCMP) was completed in 2006. The El Rio WCMP is a roadmap for flood control, native vegetation restoration, recreation and economic development for an 18-mile stretch of the Gila River from the confluence with the Agua Fria River to SR 85. The development of the WCMP was a cooperative effort between the Flood Control District of Maricopa County (District), the cities of Avondale, Buckeye and Goodyear, and the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation and Planning and Development departments. The El Rio is a sustainable plan to restore the Gila River as a beautiful oasis within a busy desert metropolis.
The El Rio outlines a strategy to achieve the following goals:
The success of the El Rio Watercourse Master Plan lies in the establishment of cost-effective public-private partnerships. This partnership ensures El Rio will mesh seamlessly with the land-use plans of the surrounding communities. Cost-sharing partnerships minimize the use of taxpayer dollars and allow El Rio to be implemented in coordinated sections. The end result is a regional plan which will reduce the risk of flooding, protect the environment and spur economic growth for the benefit of future generations.
- Protection of life and property through improved flood control.
- Economic development through increasing the value of local property and fostering a higher standard of living for area residents.
- Environmental restoration. Over 80 percent of the wildlife species in the West are dependent upon riparian areas for part of their life cycle. The removal of non-native, invasive salt cedar trees from the river and the reintroduction of native vegetation will enhance wildlife habitat areas and repair the damaged ecosystem.
- Water quality improvement through creation of wetlands and open flow channels.
- Development of community recreational facilities, lakes and trails.
The El Rio Watercourse Master Plan was adopted by Maricopa County and the cities of Avondale, Buckeye and Goodyear in 2006. The following recommendations from El Rio have been completed:
The District is in the process of working with the municipalities to implement the following recommendations from the WCMP:
- 2007 - Grand opening of restoration site at Bullard and Vineyard roads. This site includes replacement of salt cedar with native vegetation such as cottonwood and mesquite, trails and an educational kiosk.
- 2007 - Adoption of El Rio memorandum of understanding. The MOU is an agreement between the County and three cities to work together toward implementation of the El Rio WCMP.
- 2007 - Adoption of work plan. The work plan prioritizes nine projects to implement over the next five to ten years.
- 2008 - Completion of re-vegetation with native species of the Buck Fire burn site near Miller Road.
- 2008 - Educational exhibit installed at the Estrella Nature Center.
- Development of a conceptual design for the Gila/Agua Fria Confluence Lake. The El Rio WCMP suggests the construction of a levee along the north edge of the floodplain, construction of a grade control structure, development of active and passive recreational facilities, salt cedar management, and habitat enhancement and preservation. The expanded lake will serve as a catalyst for economic development in the area.
- Development of planning standards that will be applied across Avondale, Buckeye, Goodyear and unincorporated Maricopa County. The planning standards will be designed to:
- Ensure public safety through responsible development in the floodplain.
- Minimize impacts to the Gila River ecosystem while enhancing the natural and beneficial functions of the river.
- Capitalize on the existing natural wash and manmade drainage systems to maintain or provide public access to the Gila River.