Biden picks career water policy adviser to lead water agency

Biden picks career water policy adviser to lead water agency
Hoover Dam. Image: Ty O'Neil / This Is Reno

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Camille Touton, a veteran congressional water policy adviser, has been nominated to lead the agency that oversees water and power in the U.S. West.

President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Touton to be the next commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. If confirmed, the Nevada native will be a central figure in negotiations among several states over the future of the Colorado River.

Drought, climate change and demand have diminished the river that supplies 40 million people, and the agency is expected to mandate water cuts for the first time in 2022. Already, some states voluntarily have given up shares of their water under a drought plan.

Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Mexico all rely on the river that flows from the Rocky Mountains into the Gulf of California.

Touton was named deputy commissioner in January after working on water issues for various congressional committees and as a deputy assistant secretary in the Interior Department under the Obama administration. She would be the first Filipino American to lead the Bureau of Reclamation.

The agency is responsible for water in 17 states and power in 13. It’s the second-largest producer of hydropower in the United States, overseeing both Hoover and Glen Canyon dams. The agency manages 491 dams and 338 reservoirs, including Lake Mead and Lake Powell — the two manmade lakes where Colorado River water is stored.

Touton has undergraduate degrees from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University in Virginia, where she lives with her husband and daughters.

If confirmed, Touton would succeed Brenda Burman, who now works for an Arizona entity managing a canal system that delivers Colorado River water to the state’s most populous areas.