River Partners' mission is to create wildlife habitat for the benefit of people and the environment.

Home » News/Events » The Journal » Vol. 15 Issue 1 » My Continuing Education: 2017 Water Leaders Class

My Continuing Education: 2017 Water Leaders Class

  • Mike Cook, Northen California Regional Director
Mike visited Hoover Dam during the Lower Colorado River Tour.

Over this past year, I was fortunate to participate in the 2017 William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class, a year-long program of the Water Education Foundation that selects professionals from diverse backgrounds and aims to enhance their understanding of water-related issues in California. I was only one of two participants who worked for an environmental non-profit and was the only person who lived and worked north of Sacramento.

My cohort of 20 included engineers, attorneys, environmental scientists, public relations specialists, and a legislative aide. Over the course of the year, we attended lectures and tours, shadowed a major water leader mentor, and collaborated on a written report and presentation on an assigned topic.

Our topic was a tough but important one: how best to increase or enhance California’s water storage. We generated five policy recommendations:

  1. Maintain and enhance existing storage systems,
  2. Optimize groundwater storage opportunities,
  3. Keep it flexible,
  4. Foster coordination across interest groups, and
  5. Develop more innovative funding approaches.

A copy of our full report can be downloaded from the Water Education Foundation website.

Mike Cook with his Water Leaders mentor Dennis O’Connor (left) and Senator Robert Hertzberg, Chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water (right).

My curriculum included two field tours of the Bay-Delta and Lower Colorado River, as well as two mornings in the State Capital with my mentor Dennis O’Connor, Principal Consultant to the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. Dennis advises the nine-member committee on proposed bills relating to conservation and management of public resources which they vote on during their bi-weekly hearings. The hearing I attended included a special order of business: an update on the Oroville Spillway provided by John Laird, Secretary of the Natural Resources Agency and Bill Croyle, who was then Acting Director of the Department of Water Resources.

The Water Leaders Program was an invaluable opportunity to gain knowledge and exposure that will support me professionally and help me guide River Partners’ work in new directions with a renewed emphasis on water supply enhancements. I’m grateful to River Partners’ management for their commitment to my professional development; Rob Donlan, a partner in the Sacramento law firm of Ellison Schneider Harris & Donlan for a tuition scholarship; the Water Education Foundation staff; and my mentor Dennis O’Connor, for showing me a few ways to get things accomplished in California.

The above article originally appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of the River Partners Journal.