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It Takes Community to Fix a Watershed

Submitted by April 8, 2011 1:46 pm

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Prescott Creeks recently had the opportunity to visit with representatives from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For the past five years, Prescott Creeks has been working closely with several ADEQ Programs. Our main link to the agency is the Water Quality Improvement Grants program which is supported largely by EPA funds. At least once each year personnel from the Agency’s Region 9 travel from San Francisco to meet with ADEQ staff about thier programs’ progress toward goals, future goal-setting and budgets. As I understand it, their meetings are typically several days long and take place almost entirely indoors.

Krista Osterberg, Supervisor of ADEQ Water Quality Grants & Outreach Unit suggested that she and EPA staff change it up a bit for this year’s visit and take a field trip to see and hear about what’s happening on the ground – from the people who are doing it. After two days of meeting at the ADEQ office on Washington St. in Phoenix, they hopped into one of the Department’s flex-fuel vehicles and made the trek up to Prescott to spend the day with Prescott Creeks. Having just completed our move to our new office we worked feverishly to tidy up and find a suitable table for our meeting. (Thanks for loaning us your desk Jay!)

Sam Ziegler, EPA Region 9 Watershed Office Manager and Susanne Perkins, EPA Region 9 Arizona Watersheds Coordinator, along with Krista and Doris Cellarius Prescott Creeks Board Chair, were our first guests in our new conference room. After they got the “nickel tour” we settled down to chat about who Prescott Creeks is and how we’ve approached improving water quality in the Granite Creek Watershed. We were able to share with them some of our early history as a trails group, how community needs shifted and opportunities at Watson Woods Riparian Preserve were taken. We discussed our work with the Watershed Improvement Council and how the plan they are developing could be the key to the future successes in our watershed.

Before heading farther afield, we spent some time at the office exploring the Rambling River and discussing the possibilities it holds for educating community members about about how a river works, is connected to groundwater and how we all have the power to make decisions that will help or hinder our watershed resources.

The rest of our visit was spent visiting different sites around the watershed to look at completed projects, current and future challenges, as well as to give our guests a boots-on-the-ground sense of what an intermittent stream system is like here in the Granite Creek Watershed.

We did our best to let Granite Creek shine. First we experienced a low-level fly-over by a Cooper’s hawk before entering the Watson Wood Riparian Preserve where we looked at stormwater, wetland and restoration work completed and in progress. Upstream we looked a known pollutant sources and explored the challenges of correcting them; the community stakeholders to be involved and the potential costs.

It was a fine visit sharing our story with these new friends. I was left with a sense of hope and excitement about the work in front of Prescott – the work of restoring additional riparian habitat, improving water quality to the point where Granite Creek and Watson Lake are removed from the impaired waters list. We are not alone in this effort. ADEQ, EPA, Prescott Creeks, the Watershed Improvement Council and many, many community stakeholders and volunteers are all working together to make it happen.