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Water Leadership

Greg Kernohan, 2015 Emerging Leader Award

Greg Kernohan, 2015 Emerging Leader Award

Rise and Shine

By Justice Greg Hobbs

Greg Kernohan helps farmers and cities address water needs while benefiting waterfowl. For more than15 years, he has served as manager of conservation programs for Ducks Unlimited in Colorado. He has been both entrepreneurial and innovative in leading the South Platte Wetlands Focus Area Committee, managing the Union Mutual Ditch Company, and participating for the past 10 years as a member of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, most recently as its vice-chair.  

Focusing on wetlands as a nexus for meeting environmental,  agricultural and municipal needs, his expertise bridges many interests. Learning from leaders at Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, Greg helped develop river augmentation projects on agricultural lands to recharge alluvial aquifers while greatly enhancing waterfowl habitat.

“The river augmentation credits directly benefit farmers that couldn’t pump without the credits," Greg explains. “No-injury plans for water rights and birds, I call them.”   

Greg and Ducks Unlimited also brought substantial investments to this collaborative work, accessing millions of dollars through North American Wetland Conservation Act grants. These grants require significant matching funds from diverse partners, which Greg’s team leveraged into nearly $20 million in Colorado for the purposes of protecting water resources, constructing infrastructure and providing wildlife habitat. “We’ve cooperated on over a dozen recharge projects along the South Platte, restoring and protecting 2,150 acres of wetlands capable of retiming water for augmentation.”

Greg’s passion for finding new ways to manage water led to him to participate in, and eventually direct, the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s FLEX Water Market grant project. Participants include the Colorado Corn Growers Association and the City of Aurora. “It’s the Corn Growers who got my supervisors’ attention. We have been at odds with some agricultural interests elsewhere,” Greg recalls, “but, a solid foundation of successful projects built in cooperation with agricultural and municipal friends allowed this diverse group to navigate contentious issues and build trust.”

Armed with a new degree in environmental law and policy, Greg looks forward to growing further into leadership roles that help Colorado address water resource issues. Luminescent and alive, rural and urban families shine like water off a duck’s back when they see and hear a mallard and his mate whir for a splash landing on a DU wetland recharge project. 

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