Retired FOSCR Board Member Marty Jakle shares his wildflower expertise on this season’s wildflowers.
Wow. This is the best monsoon season I’ve seen since I’ve lived in the area (15 years) and is one for the record books with 14 inches and counting. Besides turning the area a vivid green, it has given rise to a bumper crop of wildflowers.
The most obvious wildflower is the Arizona Caltrop or monsoon poppy, (Kallstroemia grandiflora) which is not to be confused with the desert gold poppy; abundant here in the spring depending on rainfall. It is carpeting the land in a blanket of yellow flowers. The monsoon poppy is always found during the monsoon season, especially along roadsides, but this year a banner year for the species. The best year I’ve seen.
Another species which is having a similar season is the pink bottle brush, (Mimosa dysocarpa) whose flowers look like whitish/pinkish woolly worms at the ends of the shrub. I commonly see it growing along the roadsides.
A species that I see more often this monsoon is the mala mujer, (Cnidoscolus stimulosus) a bizarre looking plant with small, white flowers and growing about 1 ft. tall. It has spines all over it—on the stem, seed pods and even on the underside of its leaves. The upper surface of the leaf has white spots making where the spines grow on the leaf’s underside.
The ubiquitous morning glory (Convolvulaceae sp.) is also having bumper year. Like its name implies it blooms in the morning, shriveling up by noon. It’s taking over my place—its fences, trees and anything it can climb on. It reminds me a bit of the infamous kudzu vine that I would see on family vacations to Florida. I’ve seen its funnel-shaped flowers colored the normal purple, but also white, pink, and lavender.
It’s cousin, the field bindweed, (Convolvulus arvensis) blooms later in the day and has the same colored & shaped flowers.
Here’s a tip for putting a name to many of the plants and animals you see. A handy Free app for identifying them is “Seek”. Download the app and using your phone camera, you scan what you want to I.D. and the name (hopefully) will appear on the screen. It works by using artificial intelligence and compares your specimen with its vast memory bank.
Before the Water Quality Appeals Board Department of Administration in and for the State of Arizona the Appellants (Listed below) filed a
Notice of Appeal and Request for Hearing
Proposed Significant Amendment to Arizona Minerals Inc. Aquifer Protection Permit Inventory.
Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ)
Patagonia Area Resource Alliance
Defenders of Wildlife
Arizona Mining Reform Coalition
Borderlands Restoration Network
Center for Biological Diversity
Friends of the Santa Cruz River
Friends of Sonoita Creek
Save the Scenic Santa Ritas
Sky Island Alliance
Tucson Audubon Society
Summary and Conclusions
All downstream aquifers, including those in Harshaw and Sonoita creek valleys, must be protected by a system of early-warning POCs (Point of Compliance) upgradient of the first drinking water well monitored on a Daily basis.
POC-4 must be constructed, and baseline data collected for at least one full year prior to any large discharge from WTP2 to capture the range of natural variation in the system. This POC is important for tracking any changes in water quality that might result from the addition of 4500 gpm into Harshaw Creek, regardless of the compliance status of that discharge.
Two additional POC monitoring wells should be installed between Outfall2 and the first shallow drinking water well in Harshaw Creek.
EPA Secondary standards are critical for protecting the existing uses of Harshaw and Sonoita Creek aquifers. These aquifers are presently used without treatment except disinfection. Any additional load of sulfate, for example, may require local residents who depend on these sole-source aquifers to implement expensive treatment or seek a replacement (eg. bottled water) supply.
AMI has not conducted a thorough and complete hydrologic study to assess the predicted impacts of pollutant releases on downstream drinking water aquifers. Am integrated hydrologic/hydraulic flow and fate/transport model should be used to assess the short-(hours to days) and long-term (months) nature and extent of pollutant release(s) at the Hermosa Property, as the surface and subsurface hydrologic system along Harshaw and Sonoita Creeks are strongly coupled. A much more rigorous hydrolooogic evaluation is needed, and a protection plan commensurate with those results must be developed.
Compliance monitoring requirements should be consistent with AWQS and federal SDWA standards where they are stricter. Radionuclide monitoring should be required at all POCs, including Outfalls 1 and 2.
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.
Blue Evening Star
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
Re-publishing The Rambler’s Guide with hiking trails added and a Spanish translation
Website and social networking upgrades
RiverWatch Program (gathering monthly scientific data)
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.
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”.
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.
KOLD: 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 PUBLIC MEDIA: Arizona 360
Nancy Montoya reports on a crucial sewage pipeline that runs from Nogales, Sonora to a water treatment facility in Rio Rico.
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A massive riverside cleanup on Saturday, January 27, overflowed with community spirit—much like the river had flooded part of Carmen with trash.
Friends of the Santa Cruz River (FOSCR), along with numerous partners, organized the event. Among other complications, this task required creating footbridges to access two football-field-sized “bottle dams.” This phrase describes the plastic trash from all over our binational watershed that gets flushed down and sieved out of summer flood flows, along with lots of downed wood that accumulates in our beautiful riparian forests.
Check out this great time-lapse video of the volunteers at work!
We had to plan carefully to make this event, in semi-wild and rough terrain, possible and safe. Volunteers took up advertising for help, contacting likely participants, gathering snacks and water, and arranging all the logistics and some details you don’t think about until 2 o’clock in the morning.
The Anza Trail Coalition (ATC) brought help to park the 136+ volunteers who showed up from everywhere to pitch in.
Five landowners gave permission for us all to tromp across their properties.
The ATC and several local ranchers brought ATVs and a backhoe to help shuttle supplies out to the pickers and filled bags and tires back.
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality not only provided bags and other supplies, but also covered our insurance for the day, and three staffers from Tucson spent the morning hauling trash out with the rest of us.
Santa Cruz County sent landscape trailers along with their Emergency Services Director to help everyone stay organized and safe, and waived tipping fees at the landfill. The Tubac Fire Department was also represented in our Safety Officer; these two public servants made the cleanup remarkably smooth and blessedly free from accident.
Both Rio Rico’s Interact Club and Nogales High School’s Green Club came out in force and attacked the trash piles like demons, along with many other students and their families. Hiking groups, birding groups, and neighbors picked, dragged and carried all morning long, leaving tired but gratified with the difference they had made.
The payoff was awesome!
We collectively removed over 200 tires and 2 tons of trash—mostly very light plastic. Our initial estimate is that about 400 contractor trash bags full were removed from the river environment and taken to the landfill. This trash will no longer pollute the river’s environment and will not be spread further north to sully other locations.
As most folks were heading home, a few of us saw a large bird soaring overhead; we thought we saw a white head. A bald eagle was a fitting symbol for the day: the best of our United States, our community pulling together for the common good.
Many thanks from to all our volunteers and supporting organizations for making the day a huge success! The river is visibly cleaner and healthier because of your efforts. YOU ALL ROCK!!
Community Clean-up of a Big River-borne Trash Pile Sponsored by Friends of the Santa Cruz River
WHEN: Saturday, January 27, 9 AM to 12:30 PM
WHERE: Behind the Tumacacori Mesquite Sawmill in Carmen, between Tubac and Tumacacori, #2007 East Frontage Road
DETAILS: wear long pants, sturdy shoes, gloves, hat. Bring a reusable water bottle please!Warning: uneven terrain and other possible hazards! Not suitable for small children. We will supply refill water, trash bags, gloves, “grabbers” and other equipment, snacks, safety training and coordination.
PARTNERS: Anza Trail Coalition, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, Santa Cruz County, Tumacacori Mesquite Sawmill, and many caring individuals.
PARKING: You will be directed at the Mesquite Sawmill gates
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.
Every storm that hits Nogales, AZ puts pressure on the deteriorating sewage pipe that carries 14 million gallons of sewage daily, mostly from Mexico, right through the small city of Nogales, AZ to the Nogales International Wastewater Treatment Plant (NIWTP) in Rio Rico, AZ.
This pipe, the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), was constructed in 1971. Its path to the NIWTP lies mostly under the Nogales Wash. It is protected from erosive flood flows by the concrete-lined floor of the Wash and several feet of dirt.
Because of upstream urbanization and its deteriorated condition, the IOI is in danger of becoming exposed and bursting every year during heavy summer monsoon flood flows in the Nogales Wash. Additionally, the IOI continues to leak raw sewage into the groundwater aquifer system that provides drinking water for most of the community.
Friends of the Santa Cruz River commissioned a short video documenting the IOI problem to inform as many people as possible and to create a unified voice to urge federal decision makers to fund a proper repair for this failing infrastructure complex. This film can be viewed on the website.
The Nogales Wash is located in an arid-semiarid desert landscape. It lies within the Upper Santa Cruz River Basin in southeastern Arizona. There are two major precipitation periods in the typical southeastern Arizona water year. The first and most dramatic is the summer monsoon season (July–Sept), in which 50% of annual precipitation occurs. A secondary wet season during the fall and winter months is caused by Pacific frontal storm movement.
Potential climate change-related impacts are of concern for Nogales Wash (and the IOI) because all credible predictions are for warmer and drier conditions overall, but with less frequent but more intense storms.
Detention basins constructed in Mexico are too few, too small (appear to be designed for about a 25-year storm), and have quickly filled up with sediments. Many more are needed and all need to be regularly maintained. Watershed improvements are also needed to stabilize eroding soils and thus reduce excessive sediment flows. Revegetation of bare soils, water-harvesting, erosion control, retro-fitting of stormwater BMPs (Best Management Practices) and LID (Low Impact Development) approaches would all help reduce stormwater peak flows and excessive sediment transport.
Therefore, 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.
NOTE: A version of this article was also published in “Canyon Echo,” Sierra Club Arizona”s Summer 2017 Newsletter. Click to download a .pdf of the article found on page 11.