News | May 22, 2009

Rio Salado Environmental Restoration Project And CH2M HILL Honored By U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers

CH2M HILL, a global full-service engineering, procurement, construction, and operations firm, has received the 2008 Chief of Engineers Award of Excellence in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Design and Environmental Awards Program for its design work on the Rio Salado Environmental Restoration Project in Phoenix, Ariz.

In partnership with the City of Phoenix and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CH2M HILL was the engineering design lead for this major project that restored ecological function and provided environmentally-friendly flood protection for five miles of the Salt River through downtown Phoenix. Other team members that assisted CH2M HILL in this effort included J2 Engineering, landscape architect, and Hoque & Associates, geotechnical services.

According to one of the award judges, the project serves as a model for environmental restoration and sets a standard for urban sustainability, benefitting both humans and wildlife while serving as a catalyst for community revitalization. With cultural references to native populations, dramatic gateway architecture that landmarks the river, and partnerships that brought together diverse agencies and interest, the river environment is now a place to seek out and learn about desert riparian species.

The project, nearly 40 years in the making, included 595 acres of restored habitat, integrating a low-flow channel with terrace areas consistent with the natural hydrology and hydraulics of the river. In addition to addressing flood flows, water for the project is pumped from an upper aquifer, treated to remove contaminants and then utilized to meet all of the project's water demands. Nearly 60 percent of the water is returned to the aquifer, with quality improved by natural processes.

Environmental stewardship is demonstrated in every facet of the Rio Salado project. Many site furnishings: walls, pedestrian bridges, paths and waterfalls are constructed from recycled concrete pieces found in the river bed. Beyond the river's banks, Phoenix has developed a community land-use plan that defines goals and policies to guide local development consistent with a healthy desert environment. The City of Phoenix estimates that the project already has resulted in $350M in new opportunities and revitalization in the adjacent community.

The project used recycled concrete rubble, river rock and other debris as site furnishings to help illustrate the Rio Salado's history. The site includes a National Audubon Society nature center, several gathering areas for community events and 10 miles of trails and open space for hiking, biking and equestrian activities. Arizona Audubon has chosen the Rio Salado facility to be the home of its new state headquarters with the recent construction of the Nina Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. The site has also become the location for an annual World Water Monitoring Day event hosted by CH2M HILL and partners to give local middle and high school students a chance to learn firsthand about water quality.

The Chief of Engineers Design and Environmental Awards Program was created in 1965 to recognize and promote excellence in design achievements by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and its professional partners. The Award of Excellence is the highest award given by the U.S. Corps of Engineers. This award requires a unanimous decision of the judges.

Headquartered near Denver, Colo., employee-owned CH2M HILL is a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, management and operations for government, civil, industrial and energy clients. With $6.4B in revenue and more than 25,000 employees, CH2M HILL is an industry-leading program management, construction management and design firm, as ranked by Engineering News-Record (2008). The firm's work is concentrated in the areas of energy, water, transportation, environmental, nuclear and industrial facilities. The firm has long been recognized as a most-admired company and leading employer, including being named by FORTUNE as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For (2009). For more information, visit