Water veteran Karla Nemeth appointed as Director of state’s Department of Water Resources

By on January 13, 2018
Department of Water Resources

Natural Resources Secretary John Laird announced this week the appointment of Karla Nemeth as director of state’s Department of Water Resources (DWR). Nemeth’s new position is part of a restructuring of DWR’s executive team in order to help improve long-term planning and day-to-day management of key water programs, dam safety and flood control.

“In the past year alone, the most severe drought in California’s recorded history was interrupted by one of the wettest seasons on record, putting extreme pressure on our flood control infrastructure and exposing vulnerabilities,” said Secretary Laird. “This new team will help the state better prepare for ever-greater challenges to our infrastructure and flood management systems, and ensure that California is doing everything possible to ensure dam and flood safety.”

Nemeth is succeeding Grant Davis, who is returning to Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) to serve as General Manager. Davis is returning to SCWA after just five months with DWR.

“Mr. Davis recently approached the County to request consideration to return to his former position, stressing his desire to serve in his home community in the wake of our catastrophe. His local and regional experience, combined with his statewide relationships, will serve the Water Agency and the entire County well,” said Sonoma County Water Agency Chairman James Gore. “I would like to extend my appreciation for the excellent work performed by Interim General Manager Mike Thompson and the Water Agency staff during this time of transition.”

Nemeth has served as deputy secretary and senior advisor for water policy at the California Natural Resources Agency since 2014. She was Bay-Delta Conservation Plan’s project manager at the California Natural Resources Agency from 2009 to 2014 and was environmental and public affairs director at the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Zone 7 from 2005 to 2009. She has an extensive background in the state’s water system, the California Water Action Plan and California WaterFix.

The restructuring of DWR’s executive team also includes replacing the existing position of Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management with two positions – Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management and Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management and Multi-Benefit Programs. The first of these positions will focus specifically on flood management, dam safety and the operation of DWR’s dams. This position is consistent with recommendations made by the Independent Forensic Team tasked with examining last February’s Oroville Dam spillways incident. Eric Koch, a DWR employee for the past decade in various leadership roles has been appointed to fill this new role. His responsibilities will also include overseeing the Division of Flood Management and the Division of Safety of Dams.

The Deputy Director for Integrated Water Management and Multi-Benefit Programs will be responsible for long-range planning and integrated water management, as well as local water supply sustainability and DWR’s EcoRestore Program. The as-yet unnamed deputy director will also oversee programs that achieve multiple benefits in the areas of ecosystem health, flood control, groundwater and surface water.

DWR has also announced the consolidation of responsibilities for the management of the newly established Executive Sustainable Groundwater Management Program. Deputy Director for Special Initiatives Taryn Ravazzini will now oversee the implementation of this landmark act. Ravazzini has served as Deputy Director since 2014.

In announcing the DWR’s new structure Secretary Laird said, “I want to thank Grant Davis for his service to California. I also welcome Karla Nemeth to this important role and am confident she will do a great job at this critical time for the Department.”