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Posted 3/13/2012

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By Daniel Calderon
Los Angeles District

PHOENIX -- Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District spent two sunny days participating in the annual Tres Rios Nature & Earth Festival held in Goodyear, Ariz. March 10 and 11.

The festival focuses on the biodiversity in the area and how the histories of Phoenix and surrounding communities have affected the ecosystem. Various organizations used displays to show attendees how they can positively interact with the local environment and have fun at the same time.

"I think we had a great turnout," said Ann Palaruan, a Regulatory team member with the Arizona-Nevada Area Office. "We had quite a few people at our booth. They were very interested in what we do and I was very happy to talk to them about our job."

The Los Angeles District is involved in the Tres Rios Ecosystem Restoration project. It started in the 1990s and continues to this day. The basic concept is taking treated water from the 91st Ave. Wastewater Treatment Facility and feeding it into a constructed wetlands. The wetlands "polish" the water and bring it to natural levels. The water and the wetlands together create a riparian ecosystem where native flora and fauna thrive. The District and its partners have more than 500 acres of wetlands in place.

At the Tres Rios Festival, the District team members talked about their projects and interacted with members of the public who were curious about how the Corps of Engineers fit into the ecosystem picture.

"It was neat to see so many different groups coming out to talk about the environment," said Palaruan. "Some people think because we live in the desert, there's no real need to protect anything. After all, what could live in a desert environment like this? A lot of people are really surprised by the diversity of life out here and I'm glad we can be a part of that educational process."

At the festival, attendees learned about the three rivers--the Salt, Agua Fria and the Gila -- making up the Tres Rios area. They also participated in assorted cultural events, a canoe ride on the river and even a "Recycled Fashion Show," where kids had the chance to strut their stuff in outfits made from recycled materials.

The final numbers for attendance are still being tallied; but, organizers estimate there were more than 4,000 people at the festival. Plans are underway for next year's event. The Los Angeles District is planning to participate in that one as well.