About the Upper Colorado Basin
The Bureau of Reclamation has been in existence since 1902 when it was created by President Theodore Roosevelt to develop water projects that would store and transport water to the arid lands of the Western United States.
By 1943, Reclamation had established an unsurpassed reputation for dam construction and had become the world’s largest producer of hydroelectric power. Reclamation's then Commissioner, Harry Bashore, who had worked for the agency since 1906, decided to establish regional offices to more directly manage the rapidly increasing region-based campaigns for accelerated river basin water, power, and flood-control developments.
As a result, on September 9, 1943, six regional offices were established with a seventh soon to follow. Each office was strategically located to administer a jurisdiction drawn along river basin lines and to be supervised by a Regional Director who reported directly to the Commissioner’s Office in Washington, D.C.
Each region, originally designated by a region number, eventually became named according to their general river basin-area jurisdictions. The Upper Colorado Region (Region 4) became headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah and initially included southwest Wyoming, Colorado west of the Continental Divide, the state of Utah, and small portions of Arizona and New Mexico. In 1988, with the closure of the regional office in Amarillo, Texas (formerly Region 5), the Upper Colorado Region then expanded to include New Mexico and Texas west of the Pecos River.
The other regions of Reclamation include: the Pacific Northwest region (Region 1), headquartered in Boise, Idaho; the Mid-Pacific Region (Region 2) headquartered in Sacramento, California; the Lower Colorado Region (Region 3) headquartered in Boulder City, Nevada; and the Great Plains Region (Region 6) headquartered in Billings, Montana. Reclamation also has offices in Washington D.C. and Denver, Colorado.
With the establishment of the regional management centers, the new regions were to be led by directors with the broad administrative authority that had previously come from offices in Washington and Denver. Each new region received responsibilities beyond project planning, public and water-user relations, and supervision of project operation and maintenance. Additional duties included negotiation of power contracts in accord with the policies of the Interior Department's Power Division, coordination of construction projects with other Reclamation operations, and general administration of regional and project organizations and programs.
There have been ten regional directors in the Upper Colorado Region with one director serving two different times. The longest tenured Regional Director was Ernest O. Larson who served from 1943 to 1946 and again from 1947 to 1960. The Upper Colorado Region's current Regional Director, Brent Esplin, was announced in July of 2019 after serving as deputy regional director.
Each of these directors has played a key role in helping Reclamation to fulfill its mission. Since its creation, the Bureau of Reclamation has constructed over 600 dams and reservoirs throughout the 17 Western states, allowing for the settlement and development of the West. Today, Reclamation's mission has changed to reflect the evolving needs and demands of the West.
The challenges of managing water in the Western United States are more complex than ever before. As the population continues to grow, so do the competing demands for this finite resource. Each region of Reclamation is involved with contemporary water issues that must be carefully balanced and managed to best accommodate residential, industrial, agricultural, hydropower generation, environmental, and recreational needs. Although challenging, each region in Reclamation is committed to fulfilling Reclamation's new mission "to manage, develop, and protect water and related resources in an environmentally and economically sound manner in the interest of the American public."