Hutchins wraps up second term on Denver Water CAC
December 6, 2016
You cannot spend long in Grand County without talking about water. Whether it is snow pack, rainfall, river flows or diversions the issue of water is never far from the forefront.
Many entities impact the dynamics of water issues in Grand County but the two most significant players, arguably, are Denver Water and Northern Water. Both organizations are water utilities that divert water from Grand County under the continental divide to the more urban and suburban communities of the northern Front Range.
The large and complex nature of those entities can create a sense that they do not hear the concerns of citizens, least of all those of us on the western slope. There is however a formal mechanism by which Denver Water hears the concerns of citizens, through a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC).
The Denver Water CAC is made up of 10 members who have applied to fill seats on the Committee including two residents of the western slope. The two western slope residents each represent a separate section of the Colorado River basin with one taken from Grand, Summit or Eagle Counties and another taken from the lower Colorado River area near Glenwood Springs.
Bruce Hutchins, currently the District Manager for the Grand County Water and Sanitation District, is one of the two western slope reps. Hutchins first joined the Denver Water CAC in 2012 and went on to serve two terms on the Committee representing Grand, Summit and Eagle Counties.
His final term on the CAC will be completed at the end of Dec. this year. Those serving on the CAC are only allowed to serve two terms.
Hutchins' appointment to the Board was standard practice. When a seat on the CAC for one of the two west slope representatives became open Hutchins applied for the position. He then went through a review process and was appointed by the Denver Water Board.
During his years on the CAC the Committee tackled a number of high profile issues. "I think the biggest issue that Denver Water had going on was their rate structure," Hutchins said. "That and their conservation program."
Hutchins explained how the process of the CAC works. "When I was on the Committee we worked mostly with Denver Water staff," Hutchins said. "They would give us a presentation with their ideas before they took it to the (Denver Water) Board. We were kind of like the guinea pigs. We were more advisory to the staff than the actual Water Board. We had quarterly meetings with the Board where we would discuss things. They would ask us questions, get our take and tell us what direction they are taking."
Hutchins also said the CAC would sit down together at the beginning of each year and create a list of topics for Denver Water. The topics usually pertained to actions Denver Water was undertaking and expressed the interest or concern of the CAC regarding those actions. The CAC would ask for presentations from Denver Water and the various topics.
"It ran the whole gamut," Hutchins said. "From expansions to pipelines and impacts on residents. Everything Denver Water was doing. If we wanted it they were happy to come and give updates on where they were with projects."
When asked how responsive he felt the Denver Water Board was to the comments and recommendations of the CAC Hutchins said, "I think they were fairly responsive. I think they took all of our comments into consideration."
Hutchins highlighted the fact that whether it is the massive Denver Water entity, or something smaller like the Grand County Water & Sanitation District he has managed since 1994, the issues that face those entities are the same, only the size and scope of the issues is drastically different. "I came to realize it doesn't matter what size the water district or department you have is, they all have the same issues… There are supply issues, delivery issues. It all costs money. Basically it is a matter of how many zeros behind the number."
According to Hutchins this month the Denver Water Board will review a pair of applicants to fill his soon to be vacated seat on the CAC. He said one of the candidates is from Grand County and the other is from Summit County. Hutchins said he expects the appointment of his replacement to come in time for the new member to sit for the Jan. 2017 CAC meeting.