Rebie Hazard UGRWCD Board Member Profile Copy Copy

Rebie Hazard was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2003 representing Division 2, Saguache County. Her current term expires in 2023. She is also a Board member of the Saguache County Planning Commission and serves on the Advisory Board for the Saguache County Master Plan. She has also served on the Colorado River Water Conservation District Board of Directors since 2005.

Rebie owns and operates the Flying M Ranch on Cochetopa Creek.  In addition to being a working cattle ranch, the ranch also accommodates hunting and fishing enthusiasts.  It has been in the Hazard family since 1916.  Rebie’s great great grandfather settled with his family in the area in 1868 and Rebie’s grandfather was instrumental in the economic development of Saguache and an active player in the history of the area.  Saguache is a Ute word that means “blue earth” or “water at blue earth” which is appropriate considering Saguache County is located in a high alpine valley with the second largest aquifer in the nation.  Saguache prides itself on its fresh, clean water that they say rivals any bottled water since no chlorine or fluoride is added to their drinking water supply.

Rebie is the longest-serving member on the current UGRWCD Board of Directors. As such, she has seen a lot of changes in her 19 years of service. “I am very proud to see all that the District has accomplished during my tenure,” Rebie said. “Huge strides have been made in the Watershed Management Planning process as over 200 potential water improvement projects have been identified and prioritized and dozens of these have already been completed or are underway.”

Rebie is a member of the District’s Water Administration Committee, Grant Committee and the Finance Committee and has also witnessed the growth of resources in the District.  “When I was appointed to the Board in 2003, the District had revenues of less than three quarters of a million dollars,” said Rebie.  “Now, less than 20 years later, our revenues have almost tripled to nearly two and a quarter million dollars. I’m especially pleased how much of this has been leveraged to receive matching funds from other grantors and government agencies for improvement projects in our watershed.”

As a member of the Planning Commission for Saguache, Rebie understands the challenge of meeting the needs of our growing populations with limited water resources.  “For the future, we have to figure out how to accommodate more people living and playing in this basin with less water than we have now,” said Rebie. “I believe with the proper amount of conservation and cooperation, we can responsibly use our limited water supply, but the District will have to be the leader in educating our population about changes to our way of life to make this possible.”

UGRWCD General Manager Sonja Chavez said she is very grateful for Rebie’s many years of service to the District. “Rebie has such a great understanding of the needs of the rural agricultural water users since she manages a working ranch,” said Sonja. “This coupled with the fact that she has such a long history with the Upper Gunnison District, the Colorado River District and with Saguache County is such an asset to our Board and the decisions we make.  We are so appreciative of her knowledge and experience.”  

When Rebie has a spare moment from her ranching responsibilities and her service to the various Boards she’s involved with, she enjoys collecting antiques and treasures from the Old West, fishing, hunting and spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Andy Spann UGRWCD Board Member Profile

Andrew “Andy” Spann was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2016 representing Division 7, Gunnison River Basin. Andy’s current term expires in 2022, although Andy reports that he will be submitting a letter of interest to Judge Steven Patrick in hopes of serving another term on the Board.

The acorn didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to involvement in water issues. Andy’s paternal grandfather, Lee Spann, served on the Upper Gunnison District (“District”) Board of Directors from May 1982 to June 1998.  Andy’s father, Ken Spann, served on the District Board from July 2001 to June 2016.  In addition, Lee served on the Colorado River District Board of Directors and Ken served on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable. Andy’s sister, Laura Spann, is the program coordinator for the Southwestern Water Conservation District (SWCD). Laura oversees the SWCD’s financial assistance program and Water Information Program, serves as an alternate for the district on the Water Congress State Affairs Committee, and monitors state water policy. She also serves on Water Education Colorado’s board of directors.

Andy’s maternal grandfather, John Porter was a board member of the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company; Southwestern Water Conservation District; Colorado Water and Power Authority; Colorado Water Congress; Colorado Foundation for Water Education; Colorado Water Trust; and the seven-state Colorado River Water Users Association. He served on the San Juan/Dolores Basin Roundtable and Colorado Inter-Basin Compact Committee, and was a negotiator for the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 1988. For 22 years, he managed the Dolores Water Conservancy District. He received many accolades for his water leadership, including the Colorado Wayne N. Aspinall Award, Water Leader of the Year in 2000, and the Citizen Award from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, as well as tribute from the Colorado House of Representatives in 2017.

“A lot of the conversations during our family get-togethers revolve around water issues,” said Andy.  “As ranchers, we see firsthand the effects drought and climate change have on our operations, particularly with respect to water availability.”

Andy was born and raised in Gunnison where his family has ranched for six generations since 1878.  Following his high school graduation, Andy attended Colorado State University in 2005 to study agricultural science and crop production. Andy’s interest in mechanics drew him to transfer to Wyotech College in Laramie, WY where he earned his associates’ degree in chassis fabrication and high performance engines. Andy returned to the Gunnison Valley and has been working full-time on his family’s ranch for over a decade.

Andy said that climate change and the past 20 years of dry conditions, which scientists are now terming a “megadrought,” unfortunately means the Spann Ranch, which has been in the family for six generations now, will likely not be able to continue doing business as usual.

“With diminishing snowpack and a shortened or nonexistent monsoon season, our pastures just can’t support the number of cattle we’ve traditionally fed,” said Andy. “Like most ranchers in the Gunnison Basin, we are going to have to adapt our operations.”

Andy serves as a member of the Grant Committee, Legislative Committee and Water Administration Committee for the UGRWCD Board.  In addition, he serves as the agriculture representative on the Taylor Local Users Group, which was established to provide recommendations to the Bureau of Reclamation on operational flow releases from Taylor Park Reservoir.

“Being a TLUG representative has been one of the most challenging and yet important responsibilities I have assumed for the District,” said Andy.  “It is a diverse, vocal group of individuals who all have a vested interest in water released from Taylor Reservoir.  In spite of our different water user perspectives, I think the group as a whole has done a commendable job of reaching a consensus that best serves the interests of all water users while also taking into account that we’re dealing with a limited resource that has also been affected by climate change.” 

Andy said that he sees one of the biggest challenges for the District going forward is the proper management and allocation of water during these times of drought and population growth. “Agriculture has deep roots in the history of this valley, and I hope it can continue to be a driver in our economy,” said Andy.  “But as climate change, development and increased population put pressure on our watershed, we are all going to have to learn to adapt, cooperate and come up with creative solutions to sustain our way of life.”

“Director Spann is such a valuable asset to our organization for many reasons, but most importantly because of his history in this basin and his agricultural experience and knowledge of the water resources in this area,” said Sonja Chavez, general manager of the UGRWCD. “We couldn’t be more grateful that he chose to continue carrying on his family’s water legacy.”

With Andy’s long hours working on the family ranch and attending District Board and committee meetings, he doesn’t have much spare time, but in those rare moments when he can get away, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Megan, and daughters, Parker and Layne, as well as hiking, hunting, snowmobiling and fishing. An avid horseman, Andy is also a member of the Gunnison Stockgrowers Association.

John Perusek UGRWCD Board Member Profile

John Perusek was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in February 2018 representing Division 8, the City of Gunnison. John currently serves as the Secretary of the Board and serves on the Executive, Finance and Projects board committees. His current term expires in 2022.

As a local boy, John has been engaged in water issues his whole life.  John comes from three generations of area ranchers and learned early on the importance of water for irrigation purposes.  As a teenager, John started working in the summers at the Mt. Emmons mine near Crested Butte.  John said they “liked his skill set” and he was hired on full time in 1984. He continued to work at Mt. Emmons mine in the wastewater treatment plant for 23 years before being transferred to the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville, where he served as the Maintenance Planner for industrial wastewater treatment for 10 more years. John also earned his earned his Bachelor of Arts degree while working as a contractor at the Mount Emmons prior to being hired full time by the project.  He earned his degree in science with a minor in geology from what was then Western State College in Gunnison.

“As a long-term resident of this District, I have seen a gradual shift in our local economy from being agricultural and mining based to more tourism and second-home development based,” said John.  “I believe agriculture will always be important for our economy, so I would like for our irrigation systems to be optimized so that those with water rights are able to maximize their beneficial use.” 

John credits the District’s grant programming and watershed management planning initiatives in helping optimize irrigation systems and improve water quality for the area.  “It takes a lot of planning and engineering to ensure that such projects are going to be successful and benefit the water users and this is where the District can provide funding and expertise,” said John.  He encourages individuals and organizations in the District to reach out to the staff and board when considering a water improvement project. 

“I think Sonja (Chavez, general manager for the District) is doing an awesome job of partnering with individuals, organizations and other funders to get water optimization projects off the ground,” said John.  “The Upper Gunnison River Restoration & Irrigation Infrastructure Improvement Project featured in this edition is a perfect example of this.”

John also says, “We have to take steps to make sure what water we have will last and to ensure that it is of the best quality it can be.”

When not working on water issues, John enjoys golfing and fly fishing and is a big supporter of Western University’s sports program.  He particularly likes following the wrestling program and basketball program, as he started wrestling when he was just 8-years-old.  John and his wife of 38 years, Colette, are both Western alums so they often enjoy Western sports and activities together.  They are also parents to one grown daughter and enjoy spending time with their grandson. John has also been a member of the City of Gunnison’s Planning and Zoning Commission since 2017.

“With his 33 years of experience in water quality management, John brings significant expertise to the Board which is really beneficial,” said UGRWCD General Manager Sonja Chavez.  “I really appreciate the knowledge he has of our watershed and the understanding he has of the issues that affect all water users in the District.”

Bill Nesbitt UGRWCD Board Member Profile

 

Bill Nesbitt was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2008 representing Division 8, the City of Gunnison. Bill currently serves as the Treasurer of the Board, a position he has held since 2014. His current term expires in 2024.

“Serving on the UGRWCD board for the past 13 years has been a challenging and rewarding effort.  The board meetings have never been boring because of the myriad of interests dealing with water quality/quantity issues and the diverse make-up of the board members” said Director Bill Nesbitt.   

During his tenure, he has seen the board change from managing irrigation water needs to leadership in the development of programs which benefit the community and the basin as a whole and becoming a multi-jurisdictional force on state-wide water issues.  Through board members’ and staff’ involvement in Colorado Water Congress, Gunnison Basin Roundtable, and the Colorado River District, the words “transmountain diversion”, although still talked about, do not create heated discussions as once was the case. “It has been fulfilling to see the Board’s continued interest in community education and outreach.  One of the great programs is the annual Grant Program.  In 2009, we funded two projects in the District totaling $45,000.  At the conclusion of the 2021 grant cycle, the board has now funded 118 projects in the basin to the tune of just over $1.64 million.  That is taxpayer money being returned to the taxpayers.”               

“I am really gratified to have been active in the growth of our financial position at the District,” said Nesbitt.  “I take the Board’s fiscal responsibility very seriously and am proud to note that while we have been able to successfully grow our reserves, the District has also increased its support of programming that has enhanced our water supply, improved our water quality or protected our water resources.”

 “In addition to the Grant Program, the District is also providing matching funds and other resources for other private and public entities in our District who are collaborating with us on assessments, engineering and water projects that will help us meet our mission,” said Bill. 

“The District Board deals with such a wide variety of subject matter that affects our leadership and decisions,” said Bill, “including everything from water rights to scientific research and data about our watershed, to climate change, to agricultural needs, to land development, to legislation, to mill levies, all of which we must do our best to understand in order to make the best decisions for the District.”

As Chair of the Outreach/Education and Finance Committees, Bill has been active in promoting the District’s mission in the community through the many other civic and governmental organizations he is involved in, as well as to school children in the valley.

“For many years now, I have enjoyed delivering copies of the book called Water, by Frank Asch to help educate the first graders in the Gunnison Watershed School District about the water cycle and the importance of conservation,” said Bill.

After graduating from Western State College (now Western Colorado University) in 1974, Bill started a construction and remodeling business with partner Bill Yanaki and in 1985 became a real estate broker. During his many years in Gunnison, Bill has been active in numerous city, county and state organizations. He served the City of Gunnison for 21 years on the City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission and was Gunnison’s Mayor from 1989 to 1991. He has also been active in Region 10 serving as its Chairman in 1989 and spending nearly 20 years as a member of its Revolving Loan Fund. Bill has also served on the Gunnison Valley’s Tourism Association and the Gunnison Area Chamber of Commerce. From 1990 to 2000, he was appointed by Governor Romer to the Small Business Council, one of 23 members statewide, lobbying and working with legislators to create legislation to assist small business in Colorado. He presently serves as a Governor appointee to the Gunnison Basin Roundtable. Bill is owner of Nesbitt & Company LLC, a property management and real estate brokerage firm serving the Gunnison Valley.

In his rare spare time, Bill enjoys hunting, fishing and gardening and spending time with his family, including his wife, Betsy and his grown children, Billy, Matt and Catherine.

“I think that my 50+ year involvement in the valley as a business owner, parent, and elected and appointed official has been helpful tothe UGRWCD.  The board make-up has lots of diversity, and depth.  The Board as a whole has a continuing commitment to the legacy of ranching and management of the most precious resource in the basin, in my opinion, — WATER!” said Bill.

George Sibley Resigns from UGRWCD Board

George Sibley
George Sibley as the Water Buffalo in “Sonofagunn.” Photo courtesy of the Gunnison Arts Center.

George Sibley was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2006 representing Division 8, the City of Gunnison, and most recently served as Secretary for the District. After nearly 13 years of service, George submitted his resignation to the UGRWCD earlier this year.  George is well-known and well-respected on the Western slope and throughout the state for his commitment to and many years of valuable service on water issues and protecting water users in the Upper Gunnison Basin.  Because of his knowledge, time and effort committed to all things water, George affectionately earned the honorary title of Gunnison’s own “Water Buffalo,” a role he portrayed in many of the annual Sonofagunn productions at the Gunnison Arts Center.

“George will be dearly missed within the water community for the knowledge he brings to the table and for spurring much needed conversations around the water resource challenges we face,” said UGRWCD General Manager Sonja Chavez. “We wish him the very best!”

Here’s to calm waters, George, as you embark on the next phase of life!

Stacy McPhail UGRWCD Board Member Profile

Stacy McFail

Stacy McFailStacy McPhail was appointed to the UGRWCD Board of Directors in June 2018 representing the Ohio Creek sub-basin (Division 6).  Stacy currently serves as the Vice President of the Board. Her term expires in 2022.  

Stacy hails from Texas originally, so when she moved to the Gunnison Valley with her husband, Eric, and children in 2006, she saw the contrast when it comes to the importance that water plays in the area. “In Texas, it was not uncommon to get 40 inches of rain in an average year and there was always a concern for flooding,” said Stacy. “Here at the headwaters, I have learned how dependent we are on our rivers and streams to meet our water needs and I want to be a good steward of for all our water interests.”  In particular, Stacy felt she could serve as a voice for agricultural water users in the District, which compelled her to apply for the board vacancy in 2018. 

“One of the messages I hope to convey as a Board member is the importance of water storage in times of drought and population growth,” Stacy said. “It is not just about the storage our reservoirs provide, but also the important role that agricultural irrigation ditches and stream diversions play in slowly releasing that water supply back to the stream system throughout the water year for the benefit of the fishery, drinking water supplies, wildlife habitat, recreation, etc.”

Stacy explained that one of the big challenges that the District faces is the concept of “agricultural demand management,” which involves a water right holder voluntarily and temporarily electing to limit, reduce or completely forego irrigation while being compensated in order to prevent involuntary curtailment. “As a District Board member, I see one of my main roles as actively addressing issues like demand management or any future water policies that might affect or limit the use or function of water in the District.  With our location here at the headwaters, we have to pay attention to the big picture as there are many downstream water users that are affected by policies within the District and the entire State.”   

Stacy also serves as the executive director of the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy (GRCL). Through her work with both the GRCL and the District, she uses her background in production agriculture to collaborate with ranchers and landowners on conservation measures, and “drought” is always a topic of concern.  In agriculture, Stacy says, “You plan for a normal (water) year, but we have yet to have one!”  She feels that dry conditions in the District are likely to be a persistent problem going forward, but believes we have the ability through research and development to adapt to the “new normal” conditions.  Her bigger concern is population growth we are seeing across the state and whether we can adapt quickly enough to enable our water resources to meet growing water needs.  “The scarcity of water resources in the District and in our State will be an ongoing issue.”

Stacy said she is proud of the strides the District has made in the watershed management planning process and feels the measures the District has taken directly address scarcity of water resources.

When not working for the GRCL or District, you’ll find Stacy “mothering” two teenage boys and a teenage goddaughter, along with an array of horses, goats and chickens.  Stacy also enjoys all things outdoors, including hiking, skiing and biking.

“Director McPhail is an invaluable asset to our organization for many reasons, but most importantly because of her strong basin-wide water resource knowledge and work with the agricultural community.  In addition, her leadership and engagement with and support of the entire Watershed Management Planning Team has been a huge lift and we’re so appreciative.”