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NM water lawyer appointed to Interior Department

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Tanya Trujillo, who was appointed to the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission in July 2019, has joined the Biden administration’s Interior Department.

The water lawyer and native New Mexican will serve as the principal deputy assistant secretary for water and science. The position oversees the work of the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Tanya Trujillo testifies before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in 2013. Trujillo, who has served on the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, will join the Biden administration.

Trujillo was one of more than 20 whose appointments to Interior leadership positions were announced last week.

Jennifer Van der Heide, Biden’s incoming Interior chief of staff, said the team members “exude talent and experience.”

“We look forward to working with the dedicated civil servants at the Department to fulfill Interior’s missions, advance President Biden’s vision to honor our nation-to-nation relationship with Tribes and uphold the trust and treaty responsibilities to them, address the climate and nature crises, and build a clean energy future that creates good-paying jobs and powers our nation,” Van der Heide said.

Trujillo has made a name for herself in the water world with her expertise on Colorado River supply issues, calls for “prudent water management” and negotiations of Native American water rights settlements.

She has worked as the lower basin project director for the Colorado Sustainability Campaign and the executive director of the Colorado River Board of California.

Her departure leaves a vacancy on a New Mexico commission responsible for big state water decisions.

In 2020, Trujillo voted to end planning work on the Gila Diversion project. The state had spent more than $16 million planning a controversial project to dam and divert the Gila River for farmers in southwestern New Mexico.

Trujillo said at the June 2020 ISC meeting that the group should instead find a balanced approach to spending federal money on water infrastructure that would benefit all residents.

“I do strongly urge us to find a path forward to continue to work on planning efforts in southwest New Mexico,” she said.

On Tuesday, the commission elected Bidtah Becker as vice chair, a position previously held by Trujillo.

“I have huge shoes to fill,” Becker said.

The power to appoint a new commissioner lies with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Trujillo received degrees from Stanford University and the University of Iowa College of Law.

She worked as an Interior Department lawyer during the Obama administration. Her résumé also includes work as general counsel to the Interstate Stream Commission, legislative aide to former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.,and as an advisory board member for the Rio Grande Agricultural Land Trust.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.


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