Nemeth replaces Davis as director of California Department of Water Resources

California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has appointed Karla Nemeth director of the California Department of Water Resources, replacing Grant Davis.

Nemeth, a Democrat, has served as Gov. Brown’s deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2014, where she was Bay Delta Conservation Plan project manager from 2009 to 2014. Nemeth was environmental and public affairs director at the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District from 2005 to 2009 and community affairs manager at Jones and Stokes from 2003 to 2005. She earned a Master of Public Administration degree in public administration from the University of Washington. This position requires Senate confirmation.

DWR operates and maintains the California State Water Project, manages floodwaters, monitors dam safety, conducts habitat restoration, and provides technical assistance and funding for projects for local water needs. Nemeth will oversee the department and its mission to manage and protect California’s water resources, working with other agencies in order to benefit the state’s people and to protect, restore and enhance the natural and human environments.

The governor appointed Davis to this position in August 2017. Reports indicate he will return to the Sonoma County Water Agency, where he worked previously, as general manager.

A press release from the California Natural Resources Agency says the executive team has also been “restructured to further bolster dam and flood safety, emphasize climate resilience and incorporate lessons learned from recent impacts of extreme weather on the state’s water system.”

The Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management has been replaced with two positions: Deputy Director for Flood Management and Dam Safety and Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management and Multi-Benefit Programs. Eric Koch will serve in the former role and will oversee the Division of Flood Management and the Division of Safety of Dams. The person serving in the second position had not been named as of Jan. 10.

Oroville Dam connection

On Jan. 5, the Oroville Dam Spillway Incident Independent Forensic Team released its final report, saying, in part, “The Oroville Dam spillway incident was caused by a long-term systemic failure of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), regulatory, and general industry practices to recognize and address inherent spillway design and construction weaknesses, poor bedrock quality and deteriorated service spillway chute conditions.”

That same day, DWR issued a press release in response to the report, stating: “An evaluation of DWR’s dam safety program is already underway, and as a result of the IFT’s findings, DWR will also assess its existing organizational structures. DWR will continue to invest in resources to learn from other dam safety programs and plans to convene experts over the coming months to digest the findings and recommendations from this report to identify tangible actions in response.”

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Elizabeth Ingram is content director for the Hydro Review website and HYDROVISION International. She has more than 17 years of experience with the hydroelectric power industry. Follow her on Twitter @ElizabethIngra4 .

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