‘Transformational’: NID welcomes new manager, declares drought
Current Lincoln City Manager to replace NID’s interim general manager
The Nevada Irrigation District’s Board of Directors took two major actions at its Wednesday meeting.
It welcomed its new general manager Jennifer Hanson. And it declared a drought.
Hanson, who previously served as Lincoln’s city manager, will be NID’s 15th general manager and the first woman to head the district in its 100-year history.
Division 1 Director Ricki Heck said the board chose Hanson to replace interim General Manager Greg Jones because of her financial expertise — evident in a robust resume and several positive recommendations.
NID Board President Chris Bierwagon noted the board’s transition to majority women for the first time in its century-long existence earlier this year, after Karen Hull replaced five-term Division 4 incumbent W. Scott Miller in the November 2020 election. Hull joined ranks with Division 1 Director Heck and Division 4 Director and NID Board Vice President Laura Peters.
Heck called the appointment “transformational.”
As the new steward of the Centennial Dam project’s fate, Hanson said her leadership will consider all community stakeholders.
“My leadership style is very open and collaborative,” Hanson said.
Hanson said she wanted the job and its responsibilities because of the board and staff’s commitment to the community.
“I’m excited to work with a board so dedicated to the district and the customers, as well as top notch staff,” Hanson said. “Those were the two things that really pushed it over the edge for me on really wanting to have this position.”
Hanson will oversee the Centennial Dam project — a tentatively 110,000-acre-foot reservoir with canals along the Bear River between the Combie and Rollins reservoirs.
The water district previously has estimated the cost of the project at $342 million. Critics of the dam have said it could exceed $1 billion.
“I think that the board has laid out a thoughtful process with the planning for the implementation of the long-term water plan, and I’m happy to support that and see that through,” Hanson said.
Hanson’s plate will be full as she oversees over 200 employees and manages an $80 million budget. The district provides irrigation and drinking water to more than 25,000 customers, and NID anticipates a drier-than-average irrigation season.
NID’s Water Operations Manager Chris Close produced a report at the meeting that assessed the region’s relative dryness post-winter season.
The spring’s dry and warm conditions — assessed through current NID reservoir stores, recorded precipitation around Bowman Lake and the snowpack surveys — caused unusually high water demands for the start of irrigation season. The document already has reported canal flows at mid-summer levels.
NID Public Information Officer Tomi Riley said there’s a 13% increase in water needs between March 2020 and March 2021, as compared to the same year-long period beginning in 2018. She suspects daily commuters to out-of-county jobs used more water at home since the uptick in remote work and job loss since March 2020.
The district’s original drought contingency plan, created in 2015 amid one of the state’s most significant droughts recorded to date, states mandatory water reductions will be introduced if reserves drop below 205,700 acre feet.
The district’s hopeful prediction for the water supply at this point in the year, presented March 10, was 261,800 acre feet. The current water supply, measured April 14, is 189,929 acre feet.
Close recommended the board declare a drought — which it did — and implement Stage 1 of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan, which requests 10% in voluntary customer consumption reductions. The acre feet minimum to recommend Stage 2, if necessary, was not specified in the document.
Close said aside from promoting drought awareness through public outreach, NID will prioritize leak repair. Customers will not face a rate increase — for now.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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