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.

Trash bags from Santa Cruz River cleanup

Awesome Community Support of River Cleanup Efforts

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Trash bags from Santa Cruz River cleanup
Volunteers work hard to collect 400 bags of trash
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!!


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Trash along the Santa Cruz River

Community Clean-Up January 27th

Trash along the Santa Cruz River

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

CONTACT: Email us at foscriver @ gmail.com if you plan to help out; please provide cell phone number too if you have one OR you can RSVP at our Facebook event page.

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!)

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.

Nogales Wash

Nogales Wash and Climate Change

Article written by FOSCR Board member Ben Lomeli

Nogales Wash
Nogales Wash emerging from a tunnel in Nogales, AZ. Photo by Hans Huth.

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.

“Flirting With Disaster”: How You Can Help!

We need to call for action!

Tell these contacts that you want to see the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) fixed—and soon! Feel free to use the “Talking Points” below in your communications.

Senator John McCain:
https://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/casework-form (you can copy/paste points below onto this online form in “message” box)
Tucson office: (520) 670-6334

Senator Jeff Flake:
(also an online form where you can copy/paste points below)
Tucson office: (520) 575-8633

Congressman Raul Grijalva:
Tucson office: (520) 622-6788

City of Nogales Mayor Doyle:
Office: (520) 285-5602

International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC)
Public affairs office: Lori Kuczmanski (915) 832-4106


Talking Points

  • Binational sewage pipe (“IOI”) through Ambos Nogales needs repair SOON.
  • If the IOI breaks, the whole population of Nogales, Arizona will be exposed to raw sewage and industrial waste since it is downstream of Nogales, Sonora and the IOI runs right through the city.
  • Plans are already in place for a partial fix (“cure-in-place pipe”); it only needs funding to proceed.
  • Nogales, AZ is a small, poor city that uses only a small part of the IOI; most of the sewage in the IOI is Mexican.
  • Nogales, Sonora has serious drainage problems that need IBWC intervention to fix so erosion damage to border infrastructure like the IOI is minimized.
  • The IBWC’s job is to protect our border environment, and Congress needs to fund it so it can do its job to protect Americans from real border threats.

Download a .pdf with all the details!

For more information, be sure to watch FOSCR’s video on this issue, “Flirting With Disaster.” You can also contact Friends of the Santa Cruz River at foscriver@gmail.com with any questions or updates.


Please let us know if you contact any of the above, and thank you!