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.