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Pima County abandons proposed massive project along Interstate 10

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 7:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - After more than two decades, an ambitious plan to build a park and flood mitigation has been abandoned.

The plan was named Tres Rios del Norte because it would be built at the confluence of the Rillito and Santa Cruz Rivers and the Canada del Oro Wash near Sunset and Interstate 10.

It had the financial backing of Pima County, Marana and the City of Tucson as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.

Amid harsh financial issues, the city of Tucson pulled out in 2009 followed by Marana in 2015 which also cited the cost which in 2000, was estimated to be $300 million.

It would not only include the Tres Rios but 18 miles of flood plain mitigation along the Santa Cruz River.

Now, the Army Corps of Engineers has closed out the project.

“That terminology of closed out means it’s closed on the federal side,” said Joseph Cuffari, a program manager for the Pima County Flood Control District. “The project itself is closed on the federal side but it’s also something on the whole Pima County is going to be looking at.”

Pima County, following an Army Corp feasibility study, will repurpose it as a restoration project on the Santa Cruz that extends from El Camino Del Cerro to Ina Road.

Cuffari says he’s confident it will be approved by the Army Corp as part of a Section 206 aquatic restoration project.

The project will be more in line with what the community told the county it would like to see along that stretch of the river.

“More walking trails, accessibility to the river, ramadas, benches, small pocket parks, those kinds of things,” he said.

The non-native invasive vegetation will be removed and native plants and trees will be planted. Various fish and animal species will also be introduced. It will likely be a place for bird watchers and hikers.

Under the initial plan in 2000, two large gravel pits alongside Interstate 10, would have been filled with treated water to form two large lakes alongside baseball and soccer fields.

Even though that plan is on hold, the county may revive it in the future, says Cuffari.

“It could be something that could be explored in the future potentially, but as of right now it would be too costly to line those, make them lakes as was originally planned,” he said.

But for the time being, the plans are scaled down to something affordable and manageable.

“More of the individual user and not necessarily a soccer team or baseball team just more for the individual and the family our for a stroll,” he said.

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