Chips Barry, R.I.P.

Denver Water has a long history of battling with the Western Slope over water, and the head of that municipal water organization has often been viewed as an antagonist by water officials on this side of the Continental Divide.

Chips Barry was different. The man who headed Denver Water for almost 20 years until his death Sunday “deserves credit for changing the way Denver Water dealt with the Western Slope,” said Chris Treese with the Colorado River District. “He looked for mutually beneficial arrangements. Even when you couldn’t reach agreement, he was one of your favorite people to disagree with.”

Barry was instrumental in creating Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a joint project that benefits both the Western Slope and Denver.

Barry also changed the conservation reputation of Denver Water. He pushed hard to get all of the agency’s customers on water meters. He also worked with organizations such as the Colorado Division of Wildlife to protect fish habitat and fishing access.

“You don’t think of a Colorado water buffalo, a quintessential water buffalo, as a conservationist, but Chips Barry was,” said Rebecca Frank of Grand Junction, who served on the Colorado Wildlife Commission during Barry’s early tenure with Denver Water.

Barry didn’t turn his back on Denver. He remained a formidable advocate for Denver Water, most recently in negotiations with the Western Slope over water in the Blue River near Dillon.

Barry was killed in a tractor accident at his macadamia farm in Hawaii, where he planned to retire in June. He deserves great credit for the changes he brought to Denver Water. He will unquestionably be missed, not just in Denver, but throughout Colorado.

Fortunately for Denver and the Western Slope, Barry’s successor has already been chosen. He is Jim Lochhead, a Glenwood Springs native and a water attorney who has represented both Front Range and Western Slope water interests.

Lochhead will no doubt make the interests of his Denver constituents his top priority. But we expect he will continue what Barry started — a willingness to listen to the water concerns of others and a desire to find solutions that can work for everyone.

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