Longtime district engineer Ken Curtis has been appointed the new general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Curtis replaces Mike Preston, who is retiring after leading the organization that manages McPhee Reservoir for the past 12 years. Preston will stay on during a transitional period serving in external relations.
The two have worked closely together as a management team, said DWCD board president Bruce Smart.
Curtis served as chief of engineering and construction during the 12 years that Preston was general manager.
“This will be a smooth handoff,” Smart said. “Ken knows our operation well and will have Mike’s help in maintaining the institutional relationships and partnerships they have built together.”
Preston informed the board in February his intention to retire, and recommended Curtis as his successor. The board agreed to the transition plan in order to facilitate a smooth change over.
“The role the Dolores Project plays in the community is what attracted me to the job,” Preston said. “The job was so worthwhile and fulfilling I stayed on for 12 very eventful years.”
A cooperative management team and staff has been key for district success, he said.
Regarding his new position, Curtis said “it is about consistency; there will be no big changes. Our operation runs well, and we have a great staff.”
Curtis has been involved in all aspects of water management, including delivering water to customers, oversight of project maintenance and upgrades, and invasive mussel prevention program. He also monitors reservoir levels and Dolores River inflows, conducts water policy research and community outreach, and helps coordinate the downstream fishery release and whitewater boating spill.
“We remain focused on delivering the irrigation water to the Ute Farm and Ranch, full service users, and Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company,” Curtis said, adding that the reservoir also delivers municipal water to Cortez and Towaoc.
When there is excess water above storage, the District remains committed to serving the whitewater boating community and fishery on the Lower Dolores River below McPhee Dam.
“Though we can’t control the supply directly, we will continue to work on providing the best timely information to maximize recreation boating opportunities,” he said.
Lower Dolores river ecology is also important he said, especially to prevent degradation to the three key native fish species: the bluehead sucker, roundtail chub, and flannelmouth sucker.
The water in McPhee Reservoir is managed by DWCD, in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the facilities.
“As an engineer, I run things based on data and facts and will continue to build on our strengths that Mike, the board and staff have developed,” he said. “We will continue to participate and work with the diverse groups that have an interest in the project.”
Curtis has a degree from Colorado School of Mines. In addition to serving for 12 years as DWCD project, he also worked for a construction firm and as a city engineer for Rio Rancho, N.M.