The grand vision of a restored Salt River channel through the Valley didn’t die when Maricopa County voters rejected the Rio Salado project in 1987.
Revived efforts to restore the riverbed are being incubated in the same place that birthed the first Rio Salado proposal: Arizona State University.
Variously referred to as Rio Salado 2.0 or Rio Reimagined, the plans encompass an area from Granite Reef Dam in east Mesa to the Tres Rios Wetlands, a constructed wetland complex for wastewater treatment at roughly 91st Avenue in the West Valley.
The idea got a major boost from the late U.S. Sen. John McCain in August 2017.
Neil Giuliano, Tempe mayor when Town Lake opened in 1999, is president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership – a cohort of business leaders, educators and others focused on identifying and solving problems in the Valley.
ASU, Giuliano said, is “playing the role of facilitator for the various jurisdictions to get everybody to coordinate and communicate about what needs to happen along the entire stretch of the river bottom.”
And it won’t be a one-size-fits-all effort.
“Every jurisdiction will have a different need,” Giuliano said. “They have different geography, they have different flood control needs, so every community is going to have to implement in a way that fits them best.”
Current Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said while there may be an overall master plan for the riverbed, each jurisdiction will have to decide what parts of it to implement and pay for.
Still, Giuliano said, “There can be something that weaves it all together, pulls it all together, even if it’s something as simple a very long combination of pedestrian and bike paths that connect all the jurisdictions.”
McCain said in the 2017 rollout with ASU officials: “Everybody who drives past Tempe Town Lake realizes what a success this is. Every mayor wants a Tempe Town Lake.”