2021 – Annual Meeting Report

Blue Evening Star, Member

Annual Meeting Report

By Blue Evening Star

FOSCR held its 2021 Annual Meeting on Saturday April 17th. The meeting was conducted on Zoom from 1 – 2:30 pm.

As this was our first time having an event online, we learned a lot about how it’s done. While an online meeting will never replace a meeting face-to-face with our friends — and especially in the great outdoors — we were happy with the results.

This meeting was officiated by Scott Vandervoet. He is a past-president of FOSCR who participated in FOSCR river clean-ups when he was a boy growing up in Santa Cruz County. (We have pics of him in our archives). 

One of the main purposes of the annual meeting is for general membership to vote to confirm the slate of board members for the upcoming year. This was accomplished! We are happy to report that the seven existing board members plus four fantastic new members were approved. 

  • Ben Lomeli
  • Scott Vandervoet
  • Larry Taylor
  • Lah-May Bremer
  • Reid Penland
  • Blue Evening Star 
  • Sheila Slaughter
  • Laurinda Oswald
  • Rich Kiker
  • Nohe Garcia
  • Riky Arboisiere

Go to “Meet the Board “on FOSCR website to see our biographies. 

As Scott shared during the meeting, our by-laws allow the addition of new board members (voted on by existing board) any time of the year. Please contact us if you are interested in becoming a board member of FOSCR. Since we currently have 11 on the board there is room for 2 more. General membership is always welcome and needed as well. You can easily find how to join on our website (under “GET INVOLVED”). 

Our current President (Ben Lomeli) opened up the meeting with a brief and informative talk on what’s happening at FOSCR. He spoke about retirements and departures that occurred in 2020. This included Sherry Sass who was the catalyst and backbone of FOSCR since its inception in 1991. Adjusting to changes (arising from COVID-19 and the retirement of a few board members) caused a time of transition and change for FOSCR.

This was ably tackled by a Revitalization Committee that met via phone conference and Zoom during the latter part of 2020. Out of that came many plans to continue ongoing projects and create new ones. Ongoing activities include:

  • Reviewing Mission Statement and By-Laws and looking at creating a new Vision Statement
  • Recruiting new board members from a selected list
  • Creating an Orientation Packet for new members
    • Describing FOSCR’s Functions and Supporting Programs
    • Definitions and Acronyms used at FOSCR
    • Ground Rules for communications
    • Project Check Sheet
  • Strategic Planning
  • Re-publishing The Rambler’s Guide with hiking trails added and a Spanish translation
  • Website and social networking upgrades
  • Adopt-A-River Program
  • RiverWatch Program (gathering monthly scientific data)
    • Quality control upgrade & Manual
  • Monitoring legislation, Cross-border effluent flows, mines, illegal dumping, Ruby Rd bridge work, media interviews
  • Grants
  • Building GIS capabilities
  • Building and Nurturing Partnerships
  • Finding a way to safely host River Clean-Ups

Ben concluded by emphasizing the importance of not allowing our differences (as a nation) divide us. Let us seek common ground to build productive partnerships. 

Next the “floor” was given to our main speaker, Diane E. Austin — Professor and Director, School of Anthropology, University of Arizona. She spoke about Problems and Possibilities for Arizona Borderland Waterways. Her presentation included an in-depth power point to illustrate many of the points she shared with us. As always, Professor Austin shared fascinating history, context for current problems and possibilities, and ideas for solutions. 

Many participants asked questions which quickly became a brainstorm about ways to rebuild essential cross-border relationships that had been largely severed over the past few years. 

We want to heartily thank Professor Austin and everyone else who supported FOSCR (and the riparian life-force of our home region) by attending this meeting. 

Attendees included:

  • Bob Love – Superintendent
  • Dona Jenkins
    • Volunteer in California working diligently to upgrade FOSCR website via Catch-a-Fire grant
  • Cynthia Shoemaker
    • Long-time FOSCR board member (retired) 
  • John Szafranski  
    • Former Treasurere of FOSCR
  • Karin Stanley
  • Kate Penland – Board President
  • Sharie Shute
  • Jennifer Martin
  • Beth Taylor

We will continue to make our best efforts to “ensure a continued flow of the river’s surface waters, promote the highest river water quality achievable, and to protect and restore the riparian ecosystem and diversity of life supported by the river’s waters”. 

Outreach Efforts on Manhole #86

Outreach Efforts on Manhole #86

By Blue Evening Star

FOSCR has been endeavoring to inform people that Manhole #86 is likely to be the next one to fail in monsoon flooding. To do this, we have been taking out ads in the Nogales International with catchy phrases that will alert people to the dangers we face with every monsoon flood. Board member Ben Lomeli has been interviewed several times about the IOI. See links below to stories on NPR and KOLD News.

We observe the IBWC and ADEQ trying to get a quick fix solution pushed through (and leave all further costs and liabilities to a proposed new “Water Management District”) so we are fighting that too. The real federal agenda is to get the question of who will pay (for the IOI repairs and maintenance) out of the courts, because they know they will lose there. We are in the process of releasing a press release, and also a longer letter addressing this.

Residents Warn of Threat to Santa Cruz River if Sewer Pipe Ruptures Again
Last year, rains caused a breach in a pipeline that carries raw sewage from Mexico to the U.S. Residents in Santa Cruz county are warning that the same pipeline carrying raw sewage from Mexico into the United States could rupture again, as it did last year during the monsoon.

Arizona Must Act Fast to Replace Cross-Border Pipeline, Official Says
The 8-mile IOI, which spewed raw sewage into the Nogales wash last year, is 25 years past its expected lifespan.

Who’s going to pay for international sewage line through Nogales?
Just about everyone with a connection to the Nogales Wash and the International Outfall Interceptor would like to see some improvements to prevent potential breaches and breaks, but the various organizations and individuals involved can’t seem to agree on who is go to pay for the fix.

Arizona 360
Nancy Montoya reports on a crucial sewage pipeline that runs from Nogales, Sonora to a water treatment facility in Rio Rico.

Call Your Congressmen: Pass The “Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act”!

A necessary first step in reaching a comprehensive solution to our ongoing border sewage/flood problems is to establish Federal responsibility for the IOI (“International Outfall Interceptor”), which runs for 9 miles from the Mexican border to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant in Rio Rico.

Right now (November 2017), our Senators and Congressmen have introduced bills in both Houses to do exactly this. However, both bills have been languishing in committees since March.

in the Senate: S. 551: “Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act”

  • Senator John McCain (who sponsored this bill): 520-670-6334
  • Senator Jeff Flake: 520-575-8633
  • Senator Bob Corker (Chair of Committee on Foreign Relations, where bill currently sits): 202-224-3344

in the House of Representatives: H. R. 1410: “Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act”

  • Congresswoman Martha McSally (who sponsored this bill): 520-881-3588
  • Congressman Raul Grijalva (co-sponsor): 520-622-6788
  • Congressman Garret Graves (Chair of Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, where bill currently sits): 202-225-3901

Please call these public servants and urge them to move these bills!

Just call (much more influential than an email or letter), you can leave a message. Here are some things you could say:

  • I am very concerned about protecting my drinking water and public health here at the AZ/Mexico border.
  • I am a constituent (if you are).
  • We need federal attention to our border sewage and flood problems before we have another international sewage disaster.
  • Please get the Nogales Wastewater Fairness Act out of committee so it can be passed!
  • Thank you for your action on this important issue (and Friends of the Santa Cruz River thanks you!)

Earth Harmony Festival Session on the IOI Water-Sewage Situation

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Report by Ben Lomeli 

The Nogales Wash channel is very old, in bad condition and way under capacity to safely convey increasingly bigger floods and sediments flows due to upstream development, expected to continue.

  • Detention basins constructed in Mexico are too few, too small and have quickly filled up with sediments.
  • Watershed improvements are also needed to reduce stormwater peak flows and excessive sediment flows
  • Climate change predictions are for warmer and drier conditions overall, with:
    • Less frequent but more intense storms,
    • Increased drought,
    • Increased threat of wildland fire,
    • Changes in vegetation types
    • Less vegetative cover to protect undeveloped portions of the contributing watershed
    • Increased storm intensities can be expected to cause more erosion, more sediment production and higher peak flows.

Groundwater recharge to the aquifer that we all depend on for all our water needs is reduced by impervious and flashy watershed conditions.

  • Our lives and the long-term economic sustainability depend directly on the available quantity and quality of groundwater; it is our only source of potable water supply.

The IOI is located underneath Nogales Wash and is threatened by flooding.

  • Proposed CIPP (cure-in-place pipe) lining will only address leaking problems (infiltration of groundwater into the IOI and exfiltration of raw sewage into the aquifer occurring at several locations),
  • CIPP will not address or reduce the threat of flood-induced ruptures.
  • The capacity of the Nogales Wash channel must be upgraded to relieve flooding in Nogales and to eliminate threats of bursting the IOI.
  • As long as the contributing watershed in Mexico continues to produce abrasive sediment-laden peak flows that far exceed the conveyance capacities of Nogales Wash, all our local stormwater infrastructure remains at risk.
  • As long as the IOI remains underneath the deteriorated unstable and undersized Nogales Wash, the threat of IOI ruptures remains a reality that will most likely be increased by climate change.
  • We were lucky this time. It was a single and only partial rupture, it was detected in reasonable time, the flows were not as large or as long-lasting as they can be, and the rains did not continue to produce subsequent flows that would have further delayed the temporary repairs that were undertaken.

Next Steps:

  • Enact International legislation that will bring Inter-National funding for permanent solution.
  • Examine available GIS layers and other useful data sets to begin conceptual planning of possible permanent comprehensive solutions for the Nogales Wash/IOI/railroad problems.
  • CIPP should be used immediately, but only on section(s) known to be leaking (exfiltrating) raw sewage into the aquifer.
  • Install real-time transmitting transducer sensors that can detect flow levels and water quality changes for breach monitoring.
  • This is a matter of true national security; if we don’t have clean drinking water and are not protected from public health threats, how secure are we?
  • The IBWC must take responsibility and secure funding for this border crisis and first, repair the IOI leaks. But second and more importantly, they must get the IOI out of the Nogales Wash, keeping it at same elevation profile to accommodate all existing lateral connections.
  • “Business Friendly” approaches.

The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR)

  • Is aligned next to Nogales Wash,
  • Bisects the City of Nogales,
  • Often causes traffic delays and emergency response concerns.
  • Relocating UPRR east to river is a terrible idea!!
    • Excessive costs,
    • Environmental impacts and consequences,
    • Potential riverine contaminations,
    • Lost economic opportunity for downtown passenger trains.

A holistic integrated engineering approach and sufficient funding to comprehensively address all comingled stormwater infrastructural, water resource and environmental issues facing Ambos Nogales and Southeastern Arizona communities along Nogales Wash and the Santa Cruz River are desperately needed.

  • A grant for the U of A (Colleges of Engineering and of Landscape Architecture) is recommended to evaluate conceptual integrated solutions.
  • Coordination with UPRR is critical,
    • Should begin ASAP,
    • May offer best possible solutions and outcomes. (e.g., possible IOI & additional wash capacity under UPRR).


Urgent Need for Volunteers!

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Sonoran Institute LogoIn advance of the Sonoran Institute’s Nov. 16 meeting in Tubac to further explore public opinion on our river’s issues and value, I’ve agreed to help them run a short (5 minutes) survey of people walking on the Anza Trail (rather than just depend on internet survey responses or those from meeting attendees). I think this on-site survey has potential to help FOSCR understand who actually visits the river, and why.
Can any of you help with this survey? It’s a tight schedule, since we want to finish a couple of days before the Sonoran Institute meeting, so between this weekend and Nov. 14.
I was thinking of doing 1-hour shifts myself, especially during the next two weekends, in the morning and evening. It would be great to get surveys done at different trailheads along the river: Tubac, Tumacacori, Palo Parado (Richard Williams Trailhead), and Rio Rico (Guy Tobin Trailhead). We could add Las Lagunas (Meadow Hills, at the north end of Nogales) as well if we have the volunteers for that site.
If you can help, please contact Sherry Sass at: sushi4334@gmail.com.

FOSCR Statement on the Recent Rupture of the IOI

Friends of the Santa Cruz River logo

Friends of the Santa Cruz River has been concerned for some time that the binational sewage pipe, the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), could be breached by floods in the Nogales Wash under which it lies. A pipe break would spill raw sewage into the communities of Nogales, Rio Rico, Tubac and further north along the Santa Cruz River. Our warning is encapsulated in a short video we had made and started distributing earlier this year, called “Flirting With Disaster“.

We are sad to say this eventuality has now come to pass. The waters of the Wash and the Santa Cruz River into which it flows are now heavily contaminated. An easy fix is not in sight; and even when repairs to this breach are eventually made, there is a good likelihood that a similar disaster will happen again somewhere else along the 9-mile IOI, possibly even this summer.

Although the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) has developed a plan to insert a resin sleeve into the existing IOI, and FOSCR supports this repair strategy, it will not solve the persistent problem of the location of the IOI.

This binational sewage pipe must be removed from the bed of the Wash if future public health disasters like this one are to be avoided in the future. IOI relocation will not come cheap or easy. However, barring a major overhaul of the entire Nogales Wash watershed (most of which is in Mexico), repeated erosive floods will inevitably threaten the IOI with rupture and thus threaten the health of all Santa Cruz County residents as well as the ecological health of the Santa Cruz River ecosystem. Furthermore, since most of Santa Cruz County’s residents depend for their drinking water on the aquifer that underlies the river, our drinking water supply also faces a long-term and significant threat from repeated discharges of contaminated water into the river.

This is a matter of true national security; if we don’t have clean drinking water and are not protected from public health threats, how secure are we? The IBWC must take responsibility for this border crisis and first, repair the IOI. But second and more importantly, they must get the IOI out of the Nogales Wash.