Working with an array of stakeholders in the Colorado River Basin to help re-envision the management of the River, the Colorado River Conversations have led to new relationships between the environmental community, states, Tribes, and water managers.
Lessons Learned - Reflections from Advisory Board Member Bill Plummer
Interview by Barb Hutchinson
Natural Resource Law Users Law & Policy Center Newsletter; Vol. 3, No. 1, May 26, 2020
In this new column, we are planning to feature insights gained from our talented and experienced Advisory Board members. In this issue, an interview with Bill Plummer revealed many informative moments in his nearly six-decade career of working on water management issues. As Regional Director of the Bureau of Reclamation in 1978, Bill quickly realized the inefficiency of having four separate entities collecting data and determining different runoff predictions for the Colorado River. To alleviate this, he established the Colorado River Forecast Center consisting of the four entities, for the purpose of making one prediction – a process that still exists today. Bill suggested this decision was “born of necessity” but also came from an adage of his father’s about inventors “always trying to find a way to do something better.” During the 1983 floods on the Colorado River, caused by high precipitation levels late in the season that led to higher and faster runoff than usual, Bill and the District Engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers had to make a calculated decision to modify the flood control criteria at Hoover Dam in order to protect downstream areas from even more flooding. It was a risk, but one they decided to take because it was based on knowledge of long-term data and probabilities. And, as history shows, it was the right decision! Other lessons Bill revealed are how important it is to “always look ahead” and be prepared with “shovel ready projects” because you never know when new opportunities will arise. A final thought from Bill was how much he benefited from working for different agencies and in different parts of the country. This diversity gave him many advantages for learning and managing, and for developing a wide network of contacts. Bill has many memorable stories to tell…when you see him next, you might ask about a particular helicopter trip over Lake Powell.
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