Kuhn readies for retirement from River District

Eric Kuhn remains too busy these days to think too much about it, but a year from now life will likely be quite different for him and for the Colorado River District.

The longtime general manager of the district last October told the district board that he plans eventually to step down, something likely to occur early next year after the board has had a chance to hire his successor.

It’s time for him to make the change personally, said Kuhn, who is 66 and has served 21 years as general manager and 36 years with the district altogether.

“It’s also time to let some fresh blood and fresh ideas deal with the problems we face. I’m not going away but I think all entities benefit from new ideas and new blood,” said Kuhn, who hopes to remain involved with water issues in some other capacity.

The tax-funded district serves as the water policy and planning agency for the Colorado River Basin in the state.

“It’s going to be a change, but change happens,” river district board member Dave Merritt said of Kuhn’s upcoming departure.

“I’m sure we’ll get a lot of very good applications for the position,” Merritt said.

While he’s got some post-retirement ideas such as perhaps taking a long bicycling trip with his wife Sue in Europe or elsewhere, Kuhn remains focused these days mostly on the work that remains to be done.

“I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “… There’s a lot of issues in front of us.”

Looking back over his long tenure with the district, one of the things he’s been happy to see is the bridging of past divides on the Western Slope between headwaters and downstream counties on water issues. Kuhn said the region now is generally on the same page on such issues, which has helped it in accomplishing things such as reaching a cooperative agreement with Denver to address numerous water matters affecting the Colorado River Basin.

“Being unified I think is really important because of the fact that we are a fraction of the population of the East Slope and have a fraction of the political power,” he said.

The Western Slope is caught between both Front Range and downstream interests, Kuhn noted. He and the district have been heavily involved in looking at water shortage issues threatening states in the Colorado River Basin and trying to prepare for the worst in the case of further droughts. He said while there’s no predicting the future when it comes to water availability, it’s important to prepare for a range of outcomes, thinking decades ahead because of how long it can take to build water projects or change the culture around water.

“If we ‘re not thinking about what conditions might be like 20 years from now, we’re not doing our job,” Kuhn said.


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