Gov. Jared Polis on Wednesday named Rebecca Mitchell as Colorado's representative to the Upper Colorado River Commission, replacing Mesa County native James Eklund.
Mitchell also is director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
The Upper Colorado River Commission works to ensure compact compliance with the 1922 Colorado River Compact, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources said in a new release. Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico are represented on the commission, with the goal of partnering to meet obligations to Lower Basin states while safeguarding Colorado River water rights and allocations in Upper Basin states.
Eklund, who has deep family roots in the Plateau Valley, is a former CWCB director who in that position led the effort to create Colorado's first water plan.
He stepped down as director in 2017 to take a job as an attorney at a law firm, but remained as Colorado's representative on the Upper Colorado River Commission, serving without compensation.
Both Eklund and Mitchell played roles in Colorado reaching agreements with other basin states for drought contingency planning.
Asked about the move to replace Eklund, DNR spokesman Chris Arend indicated it was driven by the thinking that the CWCB director also should serve as Colorado's Upper Basin commissioner.
Eklund said in an email to the Daily Sentinel that he "enthusiastically" supports Mitchell's appointment.
"The timing was right to transition the position back to a state employee after crossing the finish line with the Colorado River contingency plans. I sure am proud of what we were able to accomplish these past several years. I look forward to continuing work on the Colorado River from a different angle in private practice," he said.
Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Department of Natural Resources, said in the news release, "We appreciate the service of outgoing Commissioner James Eklund, and Becky is ready to take the reins. She has been an incredible leader at the Colorado Water Conservation Board and her experience is needed now more than ever as the Upper Basin states enact their provisions of the Colorado River drought contingency plans signed earlier this year."
Mitchell got her bachelor's and master's degrees from the Colorado School of Mines, has worked as a consulting engineer, and has more than 17 years of experience in Colorado's water sector. She also played a significant part in the development of Colorado's water plan.
She said in the release, "In Colorado we have built a strong culture of collaboration, innovation, and smart policy to drive future water planning and I plan on bringing the same cooperative spirit and leadership to the Upper Colorado River Commission."
Polis said in the release, "Rebecca Mitchell will bring experience, leadership and a thorough knowledge of Colorado River issues and will enhance the shared mission of the Upper Basin states of comity and collaboration as the Colorado River commissioner."
Polis also appointed John McClow, general counsel for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, and David Robbins, of Hill & Robbins, P.C., to serve as alternate commissioners.