From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Gary Barber, who has chaired the Arkansas Basin Roundtable since 2007, is stepping down in order to concentrate on finishing the group’s contribution to a state water plan.
“I’ve always tried to do what’s best for the roundtable and for the basin,” Barber said.
Barber has been working on the Arkansas Basin plan that will be part of the state water plan, which comes out in draft form later this year. As chairman, Barber prepared many of the documents that will be used in the plan, but he is now a paid consultant.
“I needed to devote all of my time to the plan,” Barber said.
Vice chairman Betty Karnoski, a Monument real estate broker, will act as chairman of the roundtable.
Barber has been a central fixture in Arkansas Basin water issues for more than a decade.
As an agent for the El Paso County Water Authority, he contributed to the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s understanding of the Arkansas Valley’s municipal water gap in the 2004 Statewide Water Supply Initiative. He was a frequent critic of the Southern Delivery System, saying it did not have a wide enough regional focus, and an advocate for groundwater storage in El Paso County. Barber became a charter member of the roundtable in 2005, helping to organize the group from the beginning. He served as secretary until Alan Hamel stepped down as chairman in 2007.
In 2008, while working for El Paso County water interests, he made offers to buy farms for their water on the Bessemer Ditch, triggering a successful counteroffer by the Pueblo Board of Water Works.
In 2009, he helped to write state legislation that formed the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District after three years of meeting with the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force. Within a year, he was chosen as its first executive director.
In 2011, he went to work for Two Rivers Water Co., which has bought Pueblo County farms, and tried to expand its scope to include municipal consulting in El Paso County.
Last year, he joined WestWater Research, a Western U.S. water marketing firm, and secured a roundtable contract. He retained his position as chairman of the roundtable after an open discussion of whether the contract represented a conflict of interest.
Despite, or maybe because of, his forays into valley water activities, Barber commanded respect from other roundtable members because of his ability to sort through differences.
He nearly always ends discussions of complicated water issues with the statement: “We have consensus by the absence of dissension.”
He often interjects humor into those conversations as well. For instance, referring to Aurora’s water buys in the Arkansas Valley, he once said: “Aurora is the brother-in-law you wish your sister had never married. But he does the dishes at Thanksgiving, so you learn to live with him.”
More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.