The Show on KJZZ

Listen live weekdays at 9 a.m.

Rio Reimagined fills a key position to kickstart the river corridor project

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Friday, August 11, 2023 - 1:50pm

Audio icon Download mp3 (1.01 MB)

 Sen. Kyrsten Sinema
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema spoke at a roundtable discussion for the Rio Reimagined project in Tempe on Aug. 10, 2023.

In 2018, six cities and two tribes started an initiative to revitalize roughly 58 miles alongside the Rio Salado.

One key position for getting that initiative off the ground has now been filled. Maggie Soffel will begin next week as Arizona State University’s senior director for Rio Reimagined. The announcement came Thursday during a roundtable discussion about the project at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Duke Reiter, special advisor to ASU President Michael Crow, facilitated the discussion, which included local elected officials, representatives from partner agencies like the EPA and Salt River Project, and U.S. Sen. Kyrsen Sinema.

“It is clear to me that there is very strong federal support for this project as well as local partnerships,” said Soffel, who received her master’s degree in urban and environmental planning from ASU. “There’s such an opportunity here to build on those relationships, to leverage those relationships as force multipliers, really, to go after additional funding and to work together to create a regional vision for the river corridor.”

Duke Reiter speaking
Kirsten Dorman/KJZZ
Duke Reiter (left), special advisor to Arizona State University's President Michael Crow, facilitated a roundtable discussion about the status of the Rio Reimagined initiative at the Tempe Center for the Arts on Aug. 10, 2023.

Greater Phoenix leadership will also help assemble a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization to help address community needs along the way.

“We’re going to obviously coordinate with the jurisdictions that are here,” said Jeff Guldner, chair of the RIO Task Force. “But we’re looking at soliciting for interested board members.”

Sinema said she’ll be part of recruitment for the board and has already secured funding for an ambassador position.

“The good news is that I was able to get that $100,000 for the ambassador position,” Sinema said. “So, we’ll be hiring that position this fall.”

Maricopa Association of Governments received the funding from the EPA’s Urban Water Program. The ambassador for Rio Reimagined will represent regional stakeholders and act as a full-time consultant for the project, which leadership stressed will be a long term one.

More stories from KJZZ

Politics Sustainability Environment Water
Listen to this story