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Draining the West? Participants and Biographies

Below is a list of experts and activists who discussed western water issues at the Idaho Public Television studio in Boise on Tuesday, May 7th, 2002.


  • John W. Keys III is Commissioner for the Bureau of Reclamation. As Commissioner, Keys is committed to developing creative solutions to meet the current and future water resource challenges facing the West through collaboration and cooperation with states, tribes, water users and others. Keys places great emphasis on operating and maintaining Reclamation projects to ensure continued delivery of water and power benefits to the public consistent with environmental and other requirements, and to honor state water rights, interstate compacts, and contracts with Reclamation's users.

    Keys has spent his entire 34-year professional career working with Reclamation throughout the Western United States. From 1964 to 1979, he worked as a civil and hydraulic engineer, gaining valuable experience on issues related to the Great Basin, the Missouri River Basin, the Colorado River Basin, and the Columbia River Basin. In 1995, Keys was awarded Interior's highest honor, The Distinguished Service Award, for maintaining open lines of communication and keeping interest groups focused on solutions. In 1998, he retired from the federal civil service, having served as Pacific Northwest Regional Director for 12 years. In early 2001 the Bush administration appointed Keys to head the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and in July of that year the U.S. Senate confirmed him by unanimous consent.

    In his life outside of Reclamation, Keys is a commercial airplane pilot and a referee for both college and high school football games.

  • Jeff Fassett was Wyoming's State Engineer for thirteen years and was designated as the chief water resource official responsible for the appropriation, beneficial use and general supervision and regulation of all waters in Wyoming. Fassett currently runs an engineering consulting firm based in Cheyenne, WY that specializes in water rights, water resources engineering and water policy matters.

    Fassett's areas of expertise include: Wyoming and Western Water Law; Instream Flow Protection; Tribal and Federal Reserved Water Rights - Quantification, Negotiation, Litigation, and Administration; Safety of Dams; Hydrologic Evaluations; and Water Marketing and Transfers.

  • Kay Brothers is the Deputy General Manager of Southern Nevada Water Authority Engineering and Operations. Previously, Brothers worked as a hydrologist and helped develop the Las Vegas Valley Water District's artificial recharge program to store treated Colorado River water in the Valley's ground-water aquifers for future use. She has also worked in the petroleum and mining industry doing environmental compliance, water treatment design, and designing groundwater monitoring and mitigation facilities.

  • David Getches is currently the Raphael J. Moses Professor of Natural Resources Law at the University of Colorado School of Law. He teaches and writes on water law, public land law, environmental law, and Indian law. As the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (1), Getches strongly advocated water conservation, pressed for groundwater law reform, advanced ideas for better cooperative management and control of the Colorado River, urged expansion of the state's designated wilderness areas, and spoke out on the importance of recreation and wildlife to the state's economy.

    Getches is also known as the founding Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). Getches litigated a number of major cases including: a Northwest Indian fishing rights case (United States v. Washington, also known as "the Boldt decision") and a case on behalf of Eskimos to establish the North Slope Borough, the largest municipality in the world, which includes the Prudhoe Bay oil fields. Other cases dealt with water rights, land claims, federal trust responsibilities, environmental issues, education, and civil rights on behalf of Native American clients throughout the West.

Studio Guests

  • Albert Barker is a partner with a water and natural resource law firm with offices in Boise and Twin Falls and has practiced water, natural resources and environmental law for over 20 years. Clients include operators of canals, laterals and drains in the Boise River basin. He is also counsel to the Lucky Peak Power Plant project, a 110-megawatt hydroelectric project.

    Barker has represented water users in litigation under the Clean Water Act over Idaho's TMDL program and in litigation over Clean Water Act permits and in establishing water quality criteria. He is also currently involved in the Endangered Species Act proceedings involving anadromous fish, bull trout, snails and other aquatic species, and is an active participant in the Snake River Basin Adjudication.

  • Gayle Batt is assistant director of Idaho Water Users, a nonprofit corporation, representing approximately 300 canal companies, irrigation districts, agri-businesses, professional firms and individuals based in Idaho. Batt is also executive director for the Idaho Water Education Foundation and is a partner in G & T Farms.

  • Emily Braswell is currently the executive director for Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency representing Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County in Northern Nevada. Her background is in general planning, with substantial experience in transportation planning and forays into the areas of economic development, housing and environmental planning.

  • Marti Bridges Marti Bridges has been working in the areas of Idaho water quality and Idaho water policy for over twenty years. Her career has included employment stints in both the federal and non-profit sector where she gained considerable expertise in agricultural water quality and quanitity issues, instream flows, wild and scenic river management, endangered aquatic species, water rights, and Bureau of Reclamation project management. Bridges currently serves as the TMDL (total maxium daily load) water quality program manager for the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

    She holds a BS from the College of Forestry and Natural Resources at Colorado State University and an MPA with an emphasis in natural resource and environmental policy from Boise State University.

  • Vern Case lives and farms in Arena Valley, west of Wilder, Idaho. He has been a member of the Wilder Irrigation District Board of Directors since 1979. In addition, Vernon has been a member and director of the Idaho Water Users Association since 1981. He was President of the Association for two years, in 1994 and 1995. Vern is the Nez Perce Coalition Lower Snake representative.

  • Michael Creamer is an attorney for a Boise, Idaho law firm where he practices in the areas of natural resources, environmental and public utilities matters. His particular areas of expertise include water rights and public lands, and consultation and litigation involving telecommunications and energy law.

    Creamer has been actively involved on behalf of various water users in the Snake River Basin adjudication since 1989. Prior to his current practice, Creamer served for seven years as a District Manager for the Division of Wildlife, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He has also served as Vice-Chair (1996- 1998) and as Chair (1) of the Water Law Section of the Idaho State Bar.

  • Sara Denniston Eddie is a legal and policy advocate on hydropower, energy, and public lands issues at Idaho Rivers United, Idaho's only statewide river conservation group. She is on the executive board of the Northwest Energy Coalition and steering committee for the Hydropower Reform Coalition. Prior to joining Idaho Rivers United, Eddie was a natural resources attorney for the State of Idaho.

  • Wes Edmo of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe is treasurer for the Fort Hall Business Council and has a MSW in social work from Boise State University.

  • Delbert Farmer

  • Jeff Fereday is an attorney for a Boise, Idaho law firm where he practices exclusively in the fields of water, natural resources and environmental law. He also worked as a staff attorney for the Interior Department Solicitor's office, and is the current reporter in Idaho for the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation mineral and water law newsletters. Fereday is also the past President of the Idaho State Bar's Water Law Section.

  • Rick Johnson is the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League and works to protect and restore the water, wildlands, and wildlife of Idaho through citizen action, public education, and professional advocacy. Johnson provides strategic oversight of Idaho Conservation League's work, ensures accountability, and is the lead fundraiser and is a recognized national leader in effective conservation advocacy. He began his association with the Idaho Conservation League as a volunteer in 1983 and joined the staff in the mid-eighties to run the public lands program. Prior to this, he worked for the Sierra Club in Seattle, where he co-directed the Sierra Club's national campaign to protect the ancient forests of the Northwest. He has also staffed several electoral campaigns in the Northwest.

  • Laird J. Lucas is a 1986 graduate of Yale Law School. After law school, he clerked for a federal district judge in Texas, and then worked in private practice for several years in San Franciso.

    In 1993, Laird became Senior Staff Attorney and Director of the Idaho office for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, a non-profit environmental law firm. Laird recently opened his own law practice, and continues to work with the Land and Water Fund as Senior Counsel. He represents conservation groups in Idaho and throughout the West on a variety of environmental law issues involving water, public lands, and natural resources.

  • Robert Matt is the Wildlife Manager for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. Matt is involved in hydro-power mitigation, in particular, as regards to the effects of the Columbia River power system. He is also involved in the current activities related to the licensing of several new dams proposed for the Spokane River.

  • Aaron Miles, Sr., Nez Perce Tribe, Director, Natural Resources Department.

  • Bruce Newcomb, the current Speaker of the House for the Idaho Legislature, was raised on a farm and ranch near Burley, Idaho. Newcomb attended Northwest Christian College, Stanford, and the University of Oregon. He came back to the farm in 1963, where he raised potatoes, cattle and wheat; he has continued to farm in Idaho for almost 40 years.

    In 1987 Newcomb was elected to the Idaho Legislature, where he served as caucus chairman, assistant majority leader, majority leader, and Speaker. Newcomb describes his water philosophy this way: "I am a strong supporter of the Prior Appropriation Doctrine and State Primacy on water issues. I have always endeavored to keep abreast of any and all water issues affecting Idaho."

  • Dave Rittenhouse is the supervisor for the Boise National Forest.

  • Bill Sedivy is the executive director for Idaho Rivers United and is the author of River's End: A collection of bedtime stories for paddlers (1995).

  • Norm Semanko is currently the executive director and general counsel for the Idaho Water Users Association, serves on the Board for National Water Resources Association (NWRA) and is a member of the Family Farm Alliance Advisory Committee. Previously, Semanko was a shareholder in a Twin Falls law firm concentrating in water, environmental and natural resources law, and legislative affairs. He also served as legislative assistant to Senator Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) (1) and as a research analyst with the Republican National Committee (1992).

  • Dave Shaw, is an engineer who manages the Boise office for ERO Resources Corporation, and is a principal of the Denver based natural resources consulting firm. His experience in water resources and management dates from 1974. He specializes in the identification, analysis, and resolution of water issues including coordination with other professionals in multi-disciplinary projects. Prior to joining ERO, Shaw was the adjudication bureau chief for the State of Idaho Department of Water Resources.

  • John Simpson, Water Attorney.

  • Dan Steenson obtained his law degree in 1990 from the University of Colorado. He is a member of the Boise City Organic Recycling Committee. He practices in the areas of water law, natural resources law, agricultural law, public land law, environmental law and legislative law. He is a member of the Idaho State Bar, Water Law Section, and Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry.

  • Clive Strong is the chief of the Natural Resources Division for the Office of the Idaho Attorney General. He works exclusively in the areas of Environmental, Natural Resources and Indian Law. He is the lead attorney for the State of Idaho in the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which involves over 150,000 claims to water rights by private, state and federal interests. As part of the adjudication, he negotiated the 1990 Fort Hall Indian Water Rights Agreement and is engaged in several other federal reserved water rights negotiations. Strong is also coordinating the State of Idaho's litigation over the listing of anadromous fish under the Endangered Species Act.

    Strong has lectured extensively on legal topics related to federal reserved water rights, the Endangered Species Act, and federalism issues. He is admitted to the Idaho and Washington State Bars. He is also admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and several Federal District Courts and Circuit Courts of Appeal.

  • Meredith Taylor is the Yellowstone program director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council. She primarily covers public lands issues including wildlife, water, wilderness, minerals, range, roadless areas, forests and endangered species. Taylor has been involved in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem conservation issues for almost 25 years and has served on numerous committees working with a wide diversity of public land interests from hunters and anglers to industry and ranchers to find similar solutions to problems.

  • Lynn Tominaga is a water consultant for the Idaho Farm Bureau and North Snake Ground Water District and is the executive director of the Idaho Groundwater Appropriators Association and Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association. Tominaga also serves as the President for the Idaho Food Producers Board and owns the Idaho Water Policy Group. He is a former Idaho state senator.

  • John Tracy is Executive Director of the Center for Watersheds and Environmental Sustainability at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, NV. His background is in the development of decision support tools for integrated watershed assessment and planning activities. Currently he is focusing his research efforts on developing more functional indicators of sustainable socio-environmental practices within western watersheds and how these indicators can be used to develop more robust watershed planning and management approaches.

  • Brian Wallace is the chairman for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada.

  • Wendy Wilson is an organizational development consultant with the nonprofit group River Network. She was the founding executive director of a large river protection group—Idaho Rivers United—from 1989 until 1999. She was a founding board member of the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition and the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign to remove the four lower Snake River dams in Eastern Washington and is an experienced lobbyist and spokesperson for environmental causes.


In-Stream flow: Wyoming segment 

  • Laurie Goodman, Trout Unlimited, Jackson, Wyoming
  • Patrick Tyrrell, Wyoming State Engineer
  • Senator Cale Case, State Representative, Wyoming
  • Dan Budd, Rancher, Big Piney, Wyoming
  • Tom Annear, Instream Flow supervisor, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Cheyenne, Wyoming
  • Mayor Rose Skinner, Pinedale, Wyoming

Tribal Water Rights: Snake River (ID) segment 

  • Allen Pinkham, Nez Perce Tribe
  • Clive Strong, Natural Resources Chief, Attorney General's Office
  • Doug Nash, attorney
  • John Simpson, Attorney for Idaho Water Users Association

Urban Growth: Truckee River (NV) segment 

  • Lori Williams, Director of Operations for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority
  • Jack Robb, Coordinator of Field Services for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority
  • Emily Braswell, Executive Director of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency
  • Bob Jones, Executive Officer of The Builder’s Association of Northern Nevada
  • Bob Firth, Water rights consultant
  • John Tracy, Executive Director for the Center for Watershed Environmental Sustainability and Associate Research Professor for the Division of Hydrology Sciences for the Desert Research Institute

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