The Idaho Department of Water Resources, buffeted by state cuts while managing what some consider Idaho’s most valuable natural resource, now stands to lose a little more.
Hal Anderson, administrator of IDWR’s planning and technical services division, plans to retire next month after spending nearly three decades with the agency. With him will go years of technical expertise and familiarity with Idaho’s water.
Many of the projects he helps coordinate touch the Magic Valley, including a comprehensive effort to repair the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, the 2008 purchase of the Pristine Springs fish farm and water rights and ongoing exploration into expanding dam storage in Idaho.
Anderson, 60, has been eligible to retire under the state’s rules for several years now. A couple things factored into his decision to finally do so, he said — mainly the difficult 2011 fiscal year, which starts in July.
IDWR’s had a rough time with Idaho’s sliding economy, and has lost 25 percent of its general-fund dollars in the past two years, Anderson said. While state funding doesn’t make up the agency’s entire budget, it was still forced to fire 16 people last fall, freeze a number of positions and gut some essential programs such as dam safety.
Anderson said he hopes retirement will help relieve a little financial pressure.
“For me, I just felt a lot better about me being able to retire when I could, as opposed to having to reduce any more staff,” Anderson said.
In fact, he said, he’s encouraging the agency to hire some of the terminated people back rather than replace him.
“Because they’re the ones that are keeping our actual programs going,” he explained, acknowledging the agency would still be short on managers. “I personally support … keeping as much at the programmatic level as we can.”
This week is technically Anderson’s last in the office. He’ll then use up vacation time until May 11.
He first started at IDWR in January 1981 after a stint in the U.S. Air Force, where he did photoreconnaissance. The military work took him to Mountain Home Air Force Base; he met his wife in Boise, got a college degree in natural resources and joined the water agency’s mapping and modeling section.
Anderson hasn’t figured out yet how he’ll spend retirement. But he said leaving will be hard, noting “there’s never a good time.”
“If you’re a fiercely loyal person … you feel like you’re kind of letting your teammates down, so to speak,” he said.