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New leader at the BOR — again
Jason Phillips agency’s fourth new manager in eight years
by Lee Juillerat, Herald and News 11/23/10
When Jason Phillips takes over Jan. 1 as manager of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office, he’ll be the fourth manager in eight years.
Dave Sabo, who arrived in February 2002 in the aftermath of the 2001 Klamath Basin water crisis, left in March 2006. He was followed by Pablo Arroyave, who held the job from August 2006 to August 2008.
Sue Fry, who began in January 2009, was recently appointed to lead Reclamation’s new office in Sacramento that will focus on the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary.
The Klamath Basin manager’s job is a key post because the office oversees the management of the Klamath Reclamation Project, which provides water to 240,000 acres of irrigated farmland in southern Klamath County and northeastern Siskiyou County.
The Project also provides water to the Klamath National wildlife refuges and manages Reclamation’s ongoing Klamath Basin restoration programs.
Basin water issues
The question some people are asking is how the turnover affects the Basin’s often volatile water issues.
“I see it as a good thing because it’s an opportunity for new ideas and new people to come into Basin,” Fry said. “The Klamath Basin is a special place because it is a microcosm of water problems in the West.”
“The turnover has not been a bad thing for the Basin,” agreed Arroyave, Mid-Pacific Region’s deputy regional director. His responsibilities include oversight for the region’s five offices, including Klamath Falls.
Former managers for the Klamath Basin BOR office say they keep in touch with Basin issues new managers easily transition into the position.
“I’ve stayed very close to the Klamath Basin issues,” said Sabo, who keeps in touch with Basin water users and agency managers, and reviews Basin water-related websites.
Arroyave, Sabo and Fry moved to what they describe as more stressful, tougher jobs, and Arroyave and Sabo still have regrets about leaving.
“I was offered opportunities to move up and I did,” Sabo said.
Moving on and up
He transferred from Klamath Falls to Reclamation’s Salt Lake City, Utah, office as an assistant and later a deputy regional director and now works in Denver as Reclamation’s senior adviser for hydropower.
Arroyave received a promotion, and he said the move was necessary for family reasons. “I still miss Klamath Falls a lot,” he said.
“Klamath has been one of the most fun jobs I’ve had, and one of the hardest,” Fry said, noting that moving to Sacramento is also being done for personal reasons.
Fry and the others also say their experiences in the Klamath Basin helped them in their work.
“One thing I’ve learned in Klamath Falls is when you make a decision you have to see what else that decision is going to impact,” Fry said.
“It helped me in my interactions with the Tribes and irrigators and other groups,” Arroyave said. “The experience there served me well.”
Agency’s frequent turnover likely frustrating, official says
Not everyone is pleased to see frequent turnaround in managers for the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Falls area office.
“I think it’s probably frustrating to most of the people I work for,” said Greg Addington, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association. “It takes time to develop a relationship with folks and develop a sense of trust, and then they move on.”
On the positive side, Addington said the managers have been promoted “and we run into them in our region and Washington, D.C., and that helps.”
Tom Mallams, president of the Klamath Off-Project Water Users, said he believes the frequent transfers are politically motivated.
“I think it’s indicative of big government trying to push the agendas people don’t want,” he said, adding that he believes Basin Reclamation managers are directed to push support for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, which his group opposes.
Managing one of the world's largest systems
The U. S. Bureau of Reclamation is a federal agency that oversees water resource management, specifically water diversion, delivery, storage and hydroelectric power generation projects throughout the western U.S.
The Klamath Falls office is part of the Mid-Pacific Region, which is headquartered in Sacramento and includes offices in Shasta Lake, Folsom and Fresno in California, and Carson City in Nevada. The region includes lands from Klamath Falls south to Bakersfield, Calif., along with most of northwestern Nevada.
The region manages one of the largest water storage and conveyance systems in the world, including 20 dams and reservoirs.
Reclamation: Phillips well-suited to lead
Jason Phillips, who takes over as the Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Basin office manager, has managed several water resources programs for Reclamation since 2001, including the Upper San Joaquin River Basin Storage Investigation and San Luis Drainage Feature Re-evalution.
He previously worked for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Portland and Sacramento. He has a civil engineering degree from Portland State University.
"Jason Phillips' past experience and demonstrated skills managing complex water management programs make him extremely well-suited to lead the Klamath Basin Area Office," Donald Glaser, Reclamation's Mid-Pacific regional director, said in a press release.
Reasons for turnover in the Klamath Basin office
Turnover of Bureau of Reclamation's Klamath Basin office managers has happened for good reasons, said Pedro "Pete" Lucero, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Reclamation's Mid-Pacific Region office.
"In the Klamath Basin area office, the region has been very successful in recruiting high caliber managers with unique skills in developing and nurturing relationships, partnering, collaborating and problem solving," he said.
"Those qualities are highly sought after in government, making Klamath Basin managers uniquely qualified to manage complex programs and areas with Reclamation."
Because Reclamation is a tight-knit organization, managers moving from one job to another are not uncommon, Lucero said.
"Moving within the organization is healthy and allows new perspectives and broad-based skill building for individuals and improves the organization by providing experience to managers and employees by seeing other areas, gaining insight, bring new tools to the table."
Page Updated: Wednesday November 24, 2010 02:00 AM Pacific
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