July 8, 2015
Council Members, Alternates, Associates, Federal Agency Representatives, and Attendees:
It is with great pride that I welcome you to the 50th Anniversary Meetings of the Western States Water Council. It is appropriate that we gather on the shores of Lake Tahoe, where this organization found itself back in 1965, with its identity so defined by – what else? – water! Thanks to the wonderful State of Nevada for again hosting this event at such a beautiful venue.
With those auspicious beginnings, directed by western governors, our initial work centered around navigating the troubled waters stirred up by plans for massive interstate water transfers. Our organization has since grown into what is now recognized as the pre-eminent water policy advisory body in the western United States. We are a collection of states with similar (if not identical) water laws, water interests and challenges. Through hard work, collaboration, and expert knowledge, the Council has developed a reputation for ably serving as an advisor to western governors. The Council has also been influential in educating and advising western congressional leaders on water matters, interfacing with water-related federal agencies, and working with water professionals on water policy, science and law. The Council’s success has been due to the expertise, hard work and dedication of its members.
From those early beginnings, our attention has turned to much more than water transfers, although we still opine on that topic. Water resources planning, water quality issues, data sharing, tribal water needs, drought, groundwater management, and now “atmospheric rivers” and “thermal infrared imaging,” among many other topics, fill our agendas. If it has to do with water on the ground, under the ground, or in the air, and the western states need a champion of federalism and collaboration, it’s the Council they look to. More and more, our dealings with the federal government are critical to the success of both federal and states’ programs and initiatives. Through increased consultation, cooperation, and elbow grease, together we continue to hone those programs into a shape that fits western needs and culture in ways that work for all involved. In this regard, the role of our Western Federal Agency Support Team (WestFAST) cannot be overstated, and I thank them for their continued work with and support of the Council. This Anniversary Celebration is an invitation for all of us to renew our resolve to tackle our collective challenges related to water in the most effective, efficient, and respectful ways possible.
As envisioned, the Council has become a lasting institution, but our individual memberships in it are fleeting. I consider myself enormously lucky to serve at this important time, and am honored to have been a personal witness to the Council’s unique contributions to the West since 2001. That said, I would be remiss not to acknowledge the talents and energy of the entire Council staff, who have the unenviable job of continually distilling seventeen or more opinions into various agenda, letters, positions, reports, and resolutions. They do that job remarkably well, and tirelessly, and my hat is off to Tony, Sara, Michelle, Cheryl, and Julie. I also want to acknowledge the years of service of Nathan Bracken, who recently left the Council for private practice. Lastly, I wish to recognize the late Craig Bell, former Executive Director, who was the face, the conscience, and the engine of the Council when I was appointed. My, how lucky we are.