New manager takes reins of Yampa River conservation group
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A new general manager has taken over the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, following an 8-1 vote from the organization’s board of directors July 16.
Andy Rossi now manages the conservation district following more than a decadelong tenure with the group. The change comes after the retirement of former manager Kevin McBride, who managed the district since 2009.
Rossi joined the group that same year as its district engineer. His knowledge of the district’s facilities and operations near the headwaters of the Yampa River, namely Yamcolo and Stagecoach reservoirs, was a major factor in the board’s decision to promote him, according to a news release. Before that, he worked at multiple consulting firms specializing in water resources.
Board President Ken Brenner said Rossi’s expertise helps to provide a seamless transition in continuing the district’s operations and advancing new initiatives.
As board member Thomas Sharp added prior to the hiring decision, the district has seen just three general managers in its 54-year history. He described Rossi’s tenure as instrumental to the continued success of projects.
“I think his long experience with the district speaks volumes of his capabilities with respect to the assets of the district,” Sharp said in his support of Rossi.
Board Vice President Doug Monger echoed the importance of Rossi’s experience, particularly at a time when the district is in the middle of negotiating 30-year contracts.
“At the same time, we are facing a revenue crisis,” Monger said, citing how 25% of the district’s revenue is energy-related and the state is undergoing a major energy transition away from coal.
Rossi also will oversee the implementation of the district’s new strategic plan. Among the plan’s goals include developing long-term financial sustainability, protecting local water from out-of-district transfers and improving watershed management.
With regards to that last goal, Rossi noted a need to utilize new technology and scientific-based studies for water management. For example, one of the panelists at a recent Yampa Basin Rendezvous discussion, snowpack researcher Dr. Jeffrey Deems, described his work with the Airborne Snow Observatory.
The observatory uses specialized aircraft equipped with sensors to collect data on snowmelt across entire regions of mountains and their waterways. The data has helped communities to better manage their water supplies.
According to Deems, the Kings River Water Association in California was able to avoid a flood declaration in 2019, which led to savings of $100 million, by basing its dam release policy on forecasts from the Airborne Snow Observatory instead of traditional measurements.
Rossi said he would like to incorporate some of the observatory’s data next year on a trial basis, which also would help the researchers receive feedback on the new technology.
“You have to remain curious,” Rossi said of effective water management.
These efforts have the overarching goal of preserving the health of the Yampa River for the people, plants and creatures that depend upon it. Rossi described the river as the most important natural resource in the area.
“It is the natural resource that defines this valley,” he said.
To that end, Rossi aims to maintain the district’s existing facilities, such as the dam at Stagecoach Reservoir, which not only helps to meet water demands for a growing community but also generates hydroelectric power.
The Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District formed in 1966 following the passage of the Water Conservancy Act of the state of Colorado. Its mission has been conserving, developing and stabilizing supplies of water for irrigation, power generation, manufacturing and other uses.
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