2023: Jojo La & Don Anderson
Jojo La and Don Anderson crossed professional paths at just the right time to bring lasting change to the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River, working within the prior appropriation system to lease supplemental water supplies and boost streamflow. Through 2021, Jojo was the Endangered Species Policy Specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), and Don was the Instream Flow Coordinator for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. Jojo and Don modeled collaboration, creativity, and persistence in bringing water to this critical reach. And they are authentic fans of the endangered and threatened species that inhabit western Colorado’s waters—a quality not everyone can boast.
Jojo was raised in Craig, Colorado where her family ran a Chinese restaurant. She may live in Denver now, but she has offered up her time to appear in films like Craig America and the Yampa-Green-White Roundtable’s Your Water Table series, talking about her formative experiences with water in the Yampa valley and advocating for flows to sustain native fish. Prior to retirement, Don was not only a federal employee, but a tireless facilitator of flows for the 15- Mile Reach and the lower Yampa River. He worked with Jojo to ensure that a new CWCB water leasing program could amplify not only the volume of water supporting the fish, but also to extend the season of healthy streamflow. He gained the respect of water users on the Colorado, and together he and Jojo paved the way for environmental stakeholders to coordinate with agricultural producers, municipalities, and industrial water users in regular operational decisions and long-term planning.
Linda Bassi was not just a fixture at the Stream and Lakes Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), she is a primary reason why Colorado Water Trust and its streamflow restoration colleagues are where we are today. Throughout her career, she was an innovative, courageous, and determined champion for the health of our precious Colorado waterways.
Like many of us, Linda came from elsewhere, in her case Chicago. After graduating from Columbia College, studying photography, she became a medical photographer at the University of Chicago Hospitals, where she photographed medical procedures, injured and ill people, and hospital events. That experience inspired her to go to law school, where she graduated from Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Institute of Technology. Linda is the daughter of a former Chicago cop and sister of a deputy sheriff, and that upbringing gave her the incredible grit that made her so successful in working with state legislators, board members, and water rights holders. She earned the respect of CWCB board members and many traditional “water buffaloes” many times over, with her astute yet courteous approach to conflict.
Linda worked at the Attorney General’s Office from 1995 to 2004, where she represented the CWCB to adjudicate, acquire, and protect instream flow water rights. She worked to shape the Instream Flow Program as it exists today through unique appropriations, and was a principal author of the 1999 update of the Rules Governing Colorado’s Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program. She then represented CWCB staff at the first administrative hearing for an instream flow appropriation under the new rules.
Linda began working with the Stream and Lake Protection Section at the CWCB in September of 2004, after leaving the Department of Law, quickly becoming Section Chief. As Section Chief, Linda was responsible for all areas of Colorado’s Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program, which included new appropriations and acquisitions of instream flow water rights, legal protection, monitoring and enforcement of instream flow water rights, and development of legislation, policies, and rules related to the program. Her testimony and participation in the legislative and administrative processes year after year were instrumental in creating major developments to the Instream Flow Program. She has often defended and protected the Program from critics and those looking to reduce its effectiveness.
She has always been a strong advocate for the environment – it was what drew her to the CWCB to work on instream flows. She thoughtfully considered the balance of nature and humans, and attempted to change Colorado’s tradition of leaning more toward accommodating the needs of man over those of nature.
Kevin Terry is the Rio Grande Basin Program Director with Trout Unlimited. He has worked with water users in the Conejos River basin for more than five years to support healthier winter flows in the Conejos River. Nathan Coombs is the Manager of the Conejos Water Conservancy District and became an unlikely ally in Mr. Terry’s early efforts to restore winter flows to the Conejos.
Beginning in 2016, Mr. Terry and Trout Unlimited launched the Conejos Winter Flow Program in collaboration with the Conservancy District and Mr. Coombs, after much back and forth. The Program sought to compensate water users who were willing to retime their releases from storage to maximize benefits to aquatic species, while still delivering on the basin’s compact obligations. Historically, storage releases in the Conejos River basin were focused only on the irrigation season (April-October), with little or no water released for other uses during the winter months.
Mr. Terry and Mr. Coombs’ collaboration led directly to an extraordinary outcome for a gem of a stream, as well as a community of agricultural producers focused on resiliency. Through years of trust-building and recognition of the mutual benefits generated by the Program, these two Rio Grande Valley residents have created a lasting partnership that benefits the Conejos River’s ecology as well as its water users.
The Program has varied in size over the past five years, but in winter 2019-2020, it restored nearly 5,000 acre-feet of water to the Conejos River. Mr. Terry and Mr. Coombs fit squarely into the criteria laid out for the David Getches Flowing Waters Award – and their project work on the Conejos Winter Flow Program will undoubtedly inspire others to reexamine the status quo for reservoir operations.
Nancy Smith led a diverse group of local stakeholders in the Yampa River basin in the creation of the Yampa River Fund – an innovative new funding mechanism that will support boosted flows and the ecological health of the Yampa River for generations to come.
The work done in the last decade to keep the Yampa River flowing required nearly annual, ad hoc funding searches. From the reservoir water purchases needed to maintain flows, to the restoration and infrastructure work along the length of the river, it became clear that a consistent source of sustainable funding was needed to support the river.
The solution came from The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) international work, through which they had developed methods and standards for local “Water Funds,” which could be used for whatever the highest priority might be on the local river. TNC jumped into the Yampa River program in 2016, and within three years had created and raised over $3m in commitments for an endowed fund, sufficient to cover reservoir releases as needed, as well as for other improvements along the river. The Yampa River Fund, notably, is governed by local stakeholders, and held in a local institution (the local Community Foundation). The Yampa River Fund was formally launched in August, 2019.
Throughout the process of creating the Yampa Fund, one TNC staffer has stood out for her persistent, tireless, and effective work to make it happen: Nancy Smith. Now at the Conservancy’s Colorado River Program, she was then the Water Director at the state chapter. But her enthusiasm, and at times, simple refusal to let the idea fail, made the Yampa River Fund the success it is.
The Yampa River Fund is a shining example of what a community can do for its local river, with enough energy and determination. Without Nancy Smith and her TNC colleagues, it would not have happened.
The Colorado River District was created in 1937 “to lead in the protection, conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River basin … and to safeguard for Colorado all waters of the Colorado River to which the state is entitled.” Since it’s inception, the River District has played a substantial role in protecting and assisting water users in developing water supplies in the Colorado River Basin. In recent years however, the River District has also created new water supplies and opportunities to protect or restore flows to rivers.
Following passage of SB13-19 in 2013, the River District became the first entity in the state to establish an application and approval process for the newly created Water Conservation Programs. The Water Trust and other conservation organizations have used the River District’s process to restore flows to many local streams in Water Divisions 4 and 5.
In 2018, the River District plowed new ground by creating a new “in-channel use” category for their water marketing program, allowing 3,500 acre feet of water to be leased for instream flow use in the Fryingpan River, improving habitat for macroinvertebrates and trout fry and alleviating creation of anchor ice in the river bed.
We are thrilled to honor the River District, which has become a leader in innovative thinking on water. They are exploring opportunities to use the doctrine of prior appropriation in creative ways, embarking on collaborative projects to preserve or restore flows to rivers while protecting agricultural water supplies, and inspiring others to think more broadly about how they might use their water – all characteristics embodied by the David Getches Flowing Waters Award.
The accomplishments of the Greenway Foundation, which Jeff Shoemaker serves as executive director, are the stuff of legend in Denver. The Foundation has been involved with the creation of over $500 million of improvements in the South Platte watershed, which not too long before Jeff took over the Foundation was a forgotten, dead river. Through their vision Denver has turned to face its backyard river once again. And the Greenway Foundation’s many educational programs will ensure that future Coloradans enjoy the river as much or even more than today.
On September 1, 2016, Denver Water, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Colorado Water Conservation Board, and The Greenway Foundation announced they had secured 2,100 acre-feet of storage for water to boost streamflows in the South Platte. With Denver Water and CPW, Jeff was a major driver in securing that storage space for water dedicated to streamflow restoration, and exemplifies the spirit of the Getches Award in this work.
As Grand County Manager, Lurline Underbrink Curran’s job description ranged widely, from dependency and neglect issues, to road and bridge, to jails, etc. But she’s best known as a West Slope leader for the protection and enhancement of the Colorado River’s water resources. Through Ms. Curran’s leadership efforts, streamflows in Grand County will be supplemented by up to approximately 10,000 ac-ft per year of added environmental flows; flows that will be critical to sustaining the fishery habitat in the upper reaches of the Colorado River and its tributaries during some of the most critical times of the year.
Those closest to Ms. Curran, including water users on both sides of the negotiation table, will say she changed how water resources on the West Slope are protected. Instead of court battles, Ms. Curran got to know her Front Range colleagues and found solutions that exemplify David Getches’ approach to water challenges: a creator of new alternatives to old stalemates and a collaborative reformist.
Larry Clever has been the general manager of the Ute Water Conservancy District for the past 21 years. Prior to that, he was CPA and Controller for the City of Grand Junction and Eagle County. He has served on the District 51 School Board and the Town of Palisade Board of Trustees and just completed 16 years on the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Larry served as an officer in the United States Army from 1970-1975 and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Utah State University. Larry and his wife Connie have been married for 45 years and have three children and six grandchildren.
In 2015, the Ute Water Conservancy District, under Larry’s leadership, entered into a 1-year lease with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, renewable up to 4 additional years, for between 6,000 AF and 12,000 AF of water stored in Ruedi Reservoir to benefit the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River. That year, Ute and the CWCB released and protected 9,000 AF to benefit endangered fish; and this year, the parties are discussing operations for 2016.
Cindy Medina’s roots in Colorado’s San Luis Valley run deep – her family has lived there since the 1800s. Cindy co-founded the Valle del Sol Community Center. In response to the Summitville mining disaster in 1992, she helped to found Alamosa RIVERKEEPER® and the Alamosa River Foundation. The work of these organizations combined remediation and reclamation efforts at the mine with flow restoration solutions designed to bring about a healthier Alamosa River watershed.
Over the years, Cindy has been a relentless advocate for the river and was instrumental in devising an innovative way to restore flows to the river. She was an integral player in developing the Alamosa River Watershed Master Plan, finalized in 2005. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave her a “Friend of EPA Award” in 2006, as recognition of her outstanding environmental stewardship and education in a rural setting. She has identified unique funding sources, collaborated with Terrace Irrigation Company for a donation of reservoir storage space, challenged calculations by the State Engineer, and completed water rights acquisitions for instream flow benefits – working tirelessly to restore flows to the Alamosa River.
Cindy exemplifies all of the traits of this award by improving environmental, water resource and recreational values for the river through collaboration, innovation, determination and inspiration. In 2014, she realized the fruits of her efforts and wet water flowed in a formerly dry segment of the Alamosa River for the first time in decades!
Now serving as the Natural Areas Department & Poudre River Sustainability Director for the City of Fort Collins, John Stokes has been working to improve the City’s natural areas for over a decade. Through his role as the Poudre River Sustainability Director, John is responsible for keeping the best interests of the Poudre River at the forefront of the City’s thinking and planning any time a city department’s activities affect the Cache la Poudre River. John is constantly scanning for ways to improve the Poudre River corridor and keep more water flowing instream. He is an integral part of The Poudre Runs Through It Study/Action Work Group serving on both the Steering committee and the Flows committee working to address agricultural, municipal, and environmental interests to create a healthier yet still hard-working Poudre River. John and his colleagues at the City have implemented a number of first-ever large-scale habitat restoration efforts on the Poudre in Fort Collins, including the removal of a non-operational diversion structure in collaboration with Colorado Water Trust.
Collaboration is a keystone in successful streamflow projects. With this in mind, we are honored to present The David Getches Flowing Waters Award to three recipients:
- Kevin McBride, General Manager for Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, offered up water to help a drying stream. Kevin got word of a program that could add water to the Yampa River in what was shaping up to be a hard, dry year. He invested his time and effort to navigate a pilot program utilizing a legal mechanism that had never before been tested to, hopefully, produce multiple benefits for his community. His perseverance and willingness to try something new resembled David’s indomitable spirit, the spirit in which we give this award.
- The Gates Family Foundation, a luminary in Colorado philanthropy, invested early, generously, and venturously in a new program. Recognizing potential in Request for Water, they brought their Board together outside of their normal grant cycle in order to fund the program. The Gates Family Foundation is known to be a cautious, strategic investor. Their support of the Request for Water 2012 program brought visibility and credibility to a new method for adding water to streams and catalyzed additional contributions, making the pilot program possible.
- Sandra Postel, founder of the Global Water Policy Project and Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, shared a pilot streamflow restoration program’s story far and wide. Through her work with National Geographic, Sandra covered the very first short-term water lease to utilize Colorado’s 2003 state statute. Her coverage of the Stagecoach Reservoir/Yampa River project gave this project relevance in the grander scheme of streamflow restoration work and with her international audience. Water leasing is one of many tools that can help remedy flow issues in Colorado and in the Colorado River Basin.
The inaugural David Getches Flowing Waters Award is presented to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for their tremendous efforts in restoring and protecting healthy Colorado rivers and streams.
Since its inception in 1937, the CWCB has provided policy direction on water issues, striving to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations. In 1973, Colorado’s Instream Flow Program was established to preserve and improve the natural environment to a reasonable degree. Without the help, hard work, and dedication of our friends and colleagues at the CWCB, our work to legally protect streamflow within Colorado’s Instream Flow Program would not be possible. Each day we are grateful for the CWCB’s tremendous efforts on behalf of Colorado’s waters in general and our rivers and streams specifically.