As part of a partnership committed to preserving the environment and natural water resources along the San Pedro River, Fort Huachuca and the City of Sierra Vista have secured $2.8 million from the Preparedness and Ministry of Defense Environmental Protection Integration (REPI).
“(REPI) is a program designed to help military installations across the country address some of the environmental issues they face,” said the Sierra Vista City Manager and President of the Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network. , Chuck Potucek. “And then there’s a group called Sentinel Landscapes that brings people together to identify with these projects. So they are the ones who are responsible for applying for the grant through the Ministry of Defence. »
The REPI Grant is a nationwide grant program that awards funds to military installations to preserve the undeveloped lands that surround the installations. This year’s REPI Challenge awarded a total of $31.6 million to fund nine conservation projects across the country. Fort Huachuca was one of two recipients in Arizona to receive REPI funds.
“This type of grant helps other parties who are able to obtain conservation easements to help protect the boundaries around the base – basically help us have a nice barrier between the base and any development,” said said Ryan Fitzpatrick, environmental hydrologist. and natural resources personnel at Fort Huachuca. “At the same time, it also helps prevent development in and around the fort’s boundaries.”
“The other work will definitely benefit the aquifers – hopefully allow more water to enter the aquifer,” Fitzpatrick continued. “These types of projects certainly benefit the aquifer – at the same time – hopefully allow us to positively affect everything we see from climate change.”
Fitzpatrick said that in general, the REPI grant will also help fund projects aimed at preventing further erosion problems.
“A lot of it is gabion baskets in streams, basically to prevent a stream from entrenching itself or moving a headcut,” Fitzpatrick said. “A head cut is where you have a nice stream and it goes down very quickly and that head cut would spread through the catchment area – basically causing more erosion. And so you begin to have these big, big cuts and gullies. So basically these gabion baskets will stop, slow down the water there so we don’t have that.
Fort Huachuca received $2.8 million from the REPI grant on June 22. Most of the funds will fund the completion of the Coyote Wash Stormwater Recharge project, according to Potucek.
Potucek said the project is designed to capture some of the urban enhanced runoff (UER) to recharge the aquifer and will require $1.5 million from the REPI grant to complete. He said he hopes the project will be finished by the end of 2023.
“The goal of the projects is to promote near-stream recharge of treated effluent – like what we’re doing at the city’s Environmental Operations Park – or to use the Urban Enhanced Runoff Flood Control to try to measure water near the river, so the storm waters can then recharge closest to the river and help flows that way,” Potucek said.
Fort Huachuca Media Relations Manager Tanja Linton said the REPI grant funds are essential for environmental protection that enables specialized training for military personnel at Fort Huachuca.
“The terrain that Fort Huachuca encompasses allows us to conduct unique missions and also support some of our partners within the Department of Defense and some of our partners around the world,” Linton said. “We have all of the Thunderbirds – the Air Force Thunderbirds – coming to train here. They loved our protected airspace which has no commercial encroachment… We had Navy Seals training here to certify a mission they were going to be carrying out.
“If we didn’t protect the lands we operate on – if this mission failed – other missions would also fail,” she continued. “So making the environmental mission a priority for us here allows us to carry out the other important missions for the Department of Defense… We support the land we defend.”
The Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network (CCRN) is a partnership with the City of Sierra Vista, Fort Huachuca and Cochise County that channels resources toward the development of water conservation easements, water recharge projects water and natural habitat preservation in the area in partnership with the Congressional San Pedro National Waterfront Conservation Area (SPRNCA).
“The Cochise Conservation and Recharge Network (is) primarily a subset of the Upper San Pedro Partnership that was really focused on the parties that had the responsibility to get things done and the responsibility and the financial resources to participate in these efforts,” says Potucek. “Times have changed and that funding really through the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) and the Home Office, has pretty much dried up, to use a pun. So that created a gap in what we’re trying to achieve.
Potucek said the CCRN was created in 2015 to fill this gap in funding environmental conservation projects led by the Upper San Pedro Partnership.
“The City of Sierra Vista was one of the founding members of the Upper San Pedro Partnership and brought together 20 various local, state and federal agencies as well as private sector entities and non-governmental organizations to work together to try to find with potential projects and prescriptions that could help us preserve the SPRNCA,” Potucek said. “So it’s been going on since 1998.”
However, Potucek clarified that the Upper San Pedro Partnership and the CCRN are not Sierra Vista City organizations.
“(The) Upper San Pedro Partnership and the CCRN are not municipal organizations,” Potucek said. “These are groups that have been formed and the city has been a part of over the years working with other partners to try to achieve the goals. Because no entity can solve a problem of this magnitude with the resources to solve it. »