Three Longtime Colorado River District Employees To Retire By The End Of 2020
The October Colorado River District Board of Directors meeting was the last for Deputy Chief Engineer Ray Tenney, Community Affairs Director Jim Pokrandt and Chief Engineer John Currier. These three staff members are retiring this fall and winter after a collective 55 years of service at the Colorado River District.
Each has given immense contributions to the protection of West Slope water.
“The amount of knowledge and experience these employees leave behind is astounding,” said Colorado River District General Manager Andy Mueller. “It’s been wonderful working with John, Ray and Jim, and their time at the River District has undoubtedly made the West Slope a better place with a stronger water supply.”
Having previously lived in Glenwood Springs, Tenney was trying to find his way back to the West Slope in 1989. He was working as a consultant on the Front Range when he found his route to Glenwood and the Colorado River District in a three-line job posting in the Denver Post.
At the time, the River District was in the final stages of developing plans for Wolford Mountain Reservoir. Tenney helped get the project in the ground, both in the final stages of the permitting process and construction of the reservoir. Then, he did it all over again, helping to plan and construct Elkhead Reservoir between Craig and Hayden. He also contributed to multiple elements of the endangered fish recovery program in the Upper Colorado River Basin, helping to develop a program that protected water use in West Slope rivers while still improving habitat and increasing populations of these species.
His colleagues at the River District said they will miss his attention to detail and immense knowledge of the intricacies of the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Program and reservoir operations.
“After working with Ray for more than 25 years, it is impossible to fully appreciate the huge legacy he leaves behind, but if I had only one word to use, it would be ‘dedication,’” said Deputy Chief Engineer Dave Kanzer. “Ray has demonstrated a unique dedication to identifying and creatively solving problems that face the Colorado River District.” Tenney will wrap up his work with the District in December. He said it has been a privilege to have the opportunity to serve the people of Western Colorado, and he has enjoyed it all – but especially the people.
“The River District has been a place where ideas came to be cultivated and crafted into successful solutions to problems that most people didn’t even know existed – because they were solved,” he said. “That was very stimulating.”
Once he retires, Tenney plans to hit the snow and the water with his wife: skiing as often as he can, rafting, spending time at local hot springs and learning how to fish. Once it is more practical, he also wants to travel the United States and abroad, seeing family, spending some time on his bike, eating great food and drinking fine wine.
Pokrandt found his role at the River District by accident. He was looking for used snow tires in the classifieds of the Summit Daily News, where he served as editor. Instead, he found a job opening and a way to turn his interest in Colorado River issues into a career.
Pokrandt has been with the River District for 15 years, serving as a liaison between the River District and the news media and public. In his time at the District, Pokrandt has coordinated the River District’s outreach in many forms, serving as a spokesperson, presenting to community groups and representing the River District to organizations such as the Colorado Basin Roundtable. Over those 15 years, he’s developed a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of West Slope water issues which he’s happily shared with countless journalists, colleagues and curious community members.
“It’s been a tremendous honor to work with you Jim as a teammate,” said his External Affairs colleague Alesha Frederick during the board meeting. “You’ve managed to be a mentor to each one of us. You’ve been an open door. You’ve been such a great source of information.”
He’s proud of the role he’s played in helping connect people to their water and encourage others to become passionate about issues in the Colorado River Basin, and he’s grateful to have been constantly surrounded by colleagues passionate about the Colorado River District’s mission.
“Water is the history of the West. It is the current events of the West. It’s the future of the West,” Pokrandt said. By connecting people to information and Colorado issues, Pokrandt knows they have a greater understanding of the Colorado River and how it touches their lives. And while Pokrandt said driving three hours to a one-hour meeting might seem onerous to some, Pokrandt has always enjoyed seeing the sights and meeting the people of Western Colorado.
“It’s always been worth the trip,” he said.
Pokrandt’s final day will be December 31. It’s perfect timing for Pokrandt to take on “intensive snowpack investigation” in the form of ski days all over the West.
West Slope water nearly runs in Currier’s blood. Currier’s family has been involved with the Colorado River District since before its inception, when the Western Slope Protective Association, the group that evolved into the River District, coalesced to advocate on behalf of the West Slope water users in the face of early transmountain diversions to the Front Range. Currier himself has been working on River District projects since he was in high school when he spent summers working on water rights at the family engineering firm in Grand Junction. As a working professional, he was a frequent consultant for the District. He started working full-time for the District in 2010 as Chief Engineer.
In his time at the District, Currier often represented the West Slope and the River District in negotiations with Front Range utilities. Currier played a key role in negotiating a settlement with Aurora Water which secured 1,000 acre-feet of additional water in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River and outlined key operating protocols that aim to keep water in the Colorado River. Currier said he will miss working on cooperative projects, solving problems with colleagues from the River District and other entities on both sides of the Continental Divide.
Tenney said Currier brings an unmatched knowledge of water issues in Colorado and an ability to see issues from many sides “like turning a glove inside out.”
“I just really enjoy working with everybody at the River District,” said Currier. “Everybody brings something different to the table, and I appreciate everybody’s different mindsets and how they think about things.”
Currier is embarking on a working retirement starting in November. He’ll still have ties to the River District, serving as a part-time consultant on big river issues. He’s staying busy, but he will have more time for mid-day bike rides and to spend time with family.
“Maybe I’ll sleep in a little later,” he joked.