U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) recently sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy urging the Army Corps of Engineers to respond to Maricopa County Flood Control District’s request for assistance with its ecosystem restoration project, which could also help control flooding.
The project aims to remove the invasive salt cedar trees along the Gila River and replace them with vegetation native to the area. Clearing the trees along this 18-mile stretch would save an estimated 50,000 acre-feet of water each year, which remains crucial for Arizona in a time of historic drought.
The letter states, in part, "As you may know, a recent floodplain designation of the Gila River area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found that salt cedar growth has increased the 100-year floodplain size by seven square miles — requiring thousands of farms, homeowners, and businesses in Goodyear and Buckeye to purchase expensive flood insurance policies. There are also concerns that fires, due to a highly combustible oil found in the salt cedar, threaten existing and future infrastructure in these communities."
In March, Sen. McCain and Buckeye Mayor Jackie Meck met with federal and local Arizona officials in Buckeye to discuss efforts to remove the trees and restore vegetation along the Lower Gila River. At the meeting, the U.S. Army Corps pledged to provide the necessary federal support to address the issue.