Written by The Business Journal Staff
Paul G Peschel, General Manager
Kings River Conservation District
What we do:
Formed in 1951, Kings River Conservation District (KRCD) is a lead public resource management agency for 1.2 million acres in the Kings River service area that includes portions of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties. KRCD is responsible for regional monitoring and planning for the proper management of water within the service area, including essential flood control, water quality and groundwater management. KRCD owns and operates the Jeff L. Taylor Pine Flat Power Plant, a 165-megawatt hydroelectric facility at the base of the Pine Flat Dam. KRCD is also a participant in the Kings River Fisheries Management Program. This is a cooperative effort among KRCD, Kings River Water Association and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to enhance the river’s fishery and habitat while maintaining its beneficial uses. KRCD’s vision is to provide a balanced, sustainable groundwater basin, a reliable power supply, effective and efficient flood protection, and balanced environmental actions.
Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from North Dakota State University. All course work completed for a master’s degree in public administration from San Diego State University. Registered civil engineer in the State of California.
Maribel is my loving, intelligent and beautiful wife. We have four wonderful children. Maribel works at the Imperial Irrigation District in Human Resources as a personnel development facilitator/trainer. Our oldest son Aaron has a degree in computer science and engineering from the University of California (UC) Irvine. He lives in San Francisco and works as a development operations engineer at Zendesk. Our daughter Kimberly is married to Derek Greene. They live in Irvine. Kimberly has a degree in international studies and a minor in management from UC Irvine. She works at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa as a career planning coordinator, where she is also pursuing a master’s degree in organizational psychology. Her husband Derek is pursuing a doctoral degree at UC Irvine in pharmacology and toxicology. Our daughter Samantha is living in Oceanside and pursuing a degree in veterinary technology from Stanbridge College. Our son Nicholas will be finishing his first year at Imperial Valley College and is working toward a degree in fine arts. We are very proud of our children’s accomplishments. Nicholas’ accomplishments are particularly rewarding since he has done so while dealing with the challenges of being autistic.
Tell us a little about your career to your current position, Paul.
I began working in the engineering field with the North Dakota State Highway Department as a junior engineer during summers, full time for one college quarter, and for a short period of time after graduating. After that I moved to Phoenix, Arizona and went to work for a consulting firm. That experience involved site designs, surveying and expansion of the interstate highway system. The last 28 1/2 years, I have been with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID), which allowed me to leverage my water resource related college education. I was initially hired to work on the historic Metropolitan Water District/IID Water transfer program. I began as an assistant engineer and moved very quickly up to chief civil engineer/assistant water department manager that allowed me to hone my management and leadership skills. My 23 years of experience in the IID Water Department involved designing and managing diverse water capital projects and water resource issues and planning. This experience also involved significant and extensive exposure to diverse legal, financial, real estate, and environmental issues and with diverse local, regional, state, federal, and international agencies. I also served as general services manager before taking on my final role at IID of leading the planning and engineering efforts in the Energy Department. I began my current position as general manager of KRCD on Jan. 25, 2016.
What convinced you to go for this job with KRCD, Paul?
There are a few key items that convinced me to accept the general manager position. I will be taking over the leadership role for an organization that is stable and has been well lead and well run with a supportive and communicative Board and a dedicated and talented team of staff. KRCD’s role as a public resource management agency is a great opportunity for me to leverage my diverse water resource, energy and general management knowledge and experience. Not many opportunities with these key factors come along.
What are some of your priorities in your new position, Paul?
There are a number of priorities that may evolve through interactions with the Board.
1. Develop a plan of implementation of the State’s new groundwater sustainability program. This is a requirement as part of legislation passed in 2014 known as the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act or SGMA.
2. Assist agricultural landowners in addressing water quality issues in the region through implementation of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.
3. Continue as the lead agency to develop and implement the Kings Basin Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. This plan involves coordination with numerous local and state agencies that collaborate on solutions to regional water resource issues.
4. Continue to maintain the Kings River flood control project through coordinated activities with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Water Resources.
5. Review, plan and potentially develop additional power facilities that provide benefit to the region.
What are some of the biggest opportunities and challenges facing KRCD?
The biggest opportunities and challenges relate directly to the priorities. One of the most pressing challenges for KRCD and the region is groundwater sustainability. The two groundwater basins that KRCD overlies — the Kings and Tulare Lake basins — are designated as critically overdrafted by the California Department of Water Resources. As such, it is crucial that the region develop a means to obtain and maintain a sustainable groundwater basin while meeting water users’ needs. KRCD’s role will be to help the local groundwater management agencies develop effective and efficient groundwater management plans as part of SGMA. There are intermediate requirements but ultimately the local groundwater management agencies will have 20 years to implement a sustainable groundwater management plan. This is definitely a challenge but it is also an opportunity to effectively manage a finite resource for the benefit of both current and future generations.
Water has proven to be one of the most controversial issues in California, especially of late. What drew you in and what keeps you involved in this sector, Paul?
The combination of my undergraduate and master’s level course work involving water and my work on the Metropolitan Water District/IID water transfer drew me in. I enjoy not only dealing with the various and variety of water-related issues but also the other business elements that are necessary to adequately fulfill management and leadership roles. The combination of my personal enjoyment and the fact that those are the skills I have honed and continue to work on keeps me involved. I prefer to focus on my strengths and what I enjoy.
What do you think of Fresno so far, Paul?
I haven’t had much time to enjoy the amenities, but I’m impressed by the friendliness of the people, and even though it is a fairly large city with large-city features that I appreciate, I love the small town atmosphere and the surrounding agricultural region. As time permits, I would love to visit the zoo and the neighboring sites such as Yosemite and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. This area is a great location and reasonable distances to many surrounding amenities.
What was the best advice you ever received, Paul?
My mother, father and oldest brother (I’m the youngest of seven children) had the most influence on who I am and how I strive to approach work and my day-to-day life. They taught and instilled in me the values of not only working hard, but smart, and dedicating yourself to a craft and learning it well will result in success regardless of intelligence. A key element to that is also listening before you speak, so you clearly understand the other person’s perspective and position that allows you to work out differences more effectively. Along with this was an emphasis on integrity, respect and caring for others. I believe mastering all of these characteristics and more are essential for top notch leadership.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Paul?
My first job was delivering papers as a young boy. In that job, I worked as an independent contractor and not directly for the paper. Thus it was really like a small business where I had to manage the resources (were the proper number of papers provided), take care of finances (collection of payments and payment to the newspaper), deliver papers under all conditions (including waist deep snow drifts during blizzards), address customer complaints (fortunately I had only one over a number of years), make sure the papers were delivered on time, in the door or paper holder (not on the lawn) and ensure someone was educated in the delivery route if I had an absence. With that experience, I learned a lot about responsibility and how to deal with finances.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Paul?
I mostly love spending time with my children, and when possible with my brothers and sisters but particularly my wife. We can be doing almost anything because her company is what I enjoy the most. We love to travel, having traveled to many U.S. destinations but also to Spain, Africa, China, Australia, Greece, and Mexico. We also enjoy going to movies, cooking and taking in various city activities and events such as farmers markets and fairs. Rarely do I take time to read books but enjoy reading about current events, financial and science literature in particular while I’m sitting next to her while she is watching her favorite programs. I have also spent time helping with service organizations including Optimists, the United Way and the State Council on Development Disability. I also enjoy watching but in particular participating in sports.