SPEAKER BIOS

TOM BLAINE

Tom Blaine, P.E., is the New Mexico State Engineer and is well-versed in the critical water issues facing New Mexico, bringing a career of engineering experience in the private and public sectors to the Office of the State Engineer. Blaine recently held the position of director of the Environmental Health Division in the New Mexico Environment Department. Tom’s background includes extensive experience in civil and transportation engineering, with service to the City of Albuquerque as a senior civil engineer as well as to the State of New Mexico with both the Department of Transportation and the Office of the State Engineer, and in the private sector. Between his years of public service, Blaine also owned and operated his own engineering firm, focusing on surface and groundwater hydrology and water distribution systems. He holds a BS in engineering from New Mexico State University.

BONNIE G. COLBY

Bonnie Colby is a professor in the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture, where she has been a faculty member since 1983 in the Departments of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Hydrology and Water Resources. Colby’s work focuses on voluntary, incentive-based arrangements to improve water supply reliability and reduce regional economic losses during drought.  Over the past 35 years, Colby has served on multiple design, implementation and evaluation teams for the leading drought impact mitigation and water banking programs across the western U.S.

Colby has provided invited testimony to state legislatures, the Western Governors Association and the U.S.  Congress. She has taught water resource economics at Harvard University’s Executive Training Programs and has provided water economics trainings for the coalition of federal and state water judges and water masters, as well as for many professional associations. She works with private firms, water districts, NGOs and public agencies to develop and implement new strategies to improve regional resilience to drought and to resolve conflicts over water.

Dr. Colby has authored over one hundred journal articles and eight books, including Risk And Resilience: The Economics Of Climate, Water and Energy In The Arid Southwest, Water Markets in Theory and Practice, and Braving the Currents: Resolving Conflicts Over the Waters of the American West.

DEAN E. EDSON

Dean Edson is the Executive Director of the Nebraska Association of Resources Districts and has 28 years of professional experience in water law and trade association work. The Nebraska Association of Resources Districts is a trade association of Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts, who are responsible for managing the natural resources in Nebraska.  All 23 natural resources districts are members of the association.

Dean is responsible for the financial and staff management of the association. He coordinates the public relations and legislative activities. He also oversees a retirement and insurance program for more than 350 employees of the individual districts. 

Dean works closely with the association president, board of directors and local NRD employees to implement the programs and policies determined by the members.  He is responsible for maintaining and increasing communication with members as well as working with other associations, groups and governmental entities to achieve the natural resource protection goals of the districts.

His previous experience included 11 years as the Director of State Government Relations with Nebraska Farm Bureau.  Dean also owns and manages the family farming operation.

Dean holds several degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, including a Bachelor of Science degrees in Animal Science and Agribusiness from the College of Agriculture and a MBA from the College of Business.

ORRIN FERIL

Orrin Feril is the District Manager for both Big Bend Groundwater Management District #5 and Central Kansas Water Bank Association in Stafford, Kansas. Orrin is a native of central Kansas and has a passion for insuring security of water quality and quantity for future generations in the region. In 2001, he received his BS degree in biology from Lubbock Christian University and continued his education at the graduate level in agronomy at the University of Missouri. Throughout his time in college, he was employed at Texas Tech University and University of Missouri researching drought tolerance in several crop species.

When he returned to Kansas in 2006, he began working for Big Bend Groundwater Management District #5 as the GIS Specialist. Six years later, Orrin accepted the position as District Manager. Throughout his time with the District and the Association, he has used his knowledge of the local area, in conjunction with his training in agronomy, to assist area water users in efficient application of the local water resource.

SAM FERNALD

Sam Fernald was appointed director of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute (NM WRRI) in July 2013 after having served as interim director since January 2011. As director, he will lead the institute in its mission to develop and disseminate knowledge that will assist the state, region, and nation in solving water resources problems. The NM WRRI, one of 54 water institutes in the nation, encourages university faculty statewide to pursue critical areas of water resources research while providing training opportunities for students, and transfers research findings to the academic community, water managers and the general public. Professor Fernald also is a faculty member in the Department of Animal and Range Sciences at New Mexico State University.

Sam’s earned degrees include a 1987 B.A. in international relations from Stanford University, an M.E.M. in 1993 in water and air resources from Duke University, and a Ph.D. in watershed science from Colorado State University in 1997. His primary research interests include water quality hydrology; land use effects on infiltration, runoff, sediment yield, and nonpoint source pollution; and effects of surface water/groundwater exchange on water availability and water quality. Sam received a Fulbright Scholarship to Patagonian National University, Trelew, Argentina in 2008, and another Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Concepcion, Concepcion, Chile in 2000. Sam currently is leading a multi-institutional, five year, $1.4 million water research project funded by the National Science Foundation. In addition to NMSU, partners in the study include the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, Sandia National Laboratories, the New Mexico Acequia Association, and the Maxwell Museum.

LISA HENNE

Lisa Henne has been an associate with the Law Office of Steven L. Hernandez, PC since 2014. Lisa has a multidisciplinary background with expertise in water law and policy, aquatic ecology, water quality, and watershed planning. She holds a JD from the University of Arizona and a PhD in regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to becoming an attorney, Lisa was a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where her work included evaluating the impacts of LANL operations on stream health and serving as an aquatics expert on environmental impact statements for nuclear power plant relicensing. She was also a program manager for LANL’s New Mexico Small Business Assistance program, which provides no-cost technical assistance to small businesses, including farmers in Elephant Butte and Carlsbad irrigation districts. While at LANL, Lisa also served for over five years as Secretary of the Governor Richardson’s Blue Ribbon Water Task Force, where she got to know Task Force member Steven Hernandez. Lisa’s work with Hernandez Law includes the Lower Rio Grande stream adjudication and litigation related to the Rio Grande Project.

J. PHILLIP KING

J. Phillip King is the John Clark Distinguished Professor and Associate Department Head in the Civil Engineering Department at New Mexico State University. His research includes river and groundwater system modeling and management, optimization and decision theory, basin-scale management and policy, and hydrologic forecasting. His activities also include projects to enhance the diversity of the country’s STEM workforce. Phil is also Principal Engineer for King Engineering & Associates, a small New Mexico–based consulting firm. Phil has worked with government agencies, irrigators, municipalities, Native American tribes, and environmental groups to develop new and innovative approaches to water management and education. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, Africa, and as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science at the National Science Foundation. Phil has a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, a B.S. from Berkeley, and an M.B.A. from NMSU. He is a registered Professional Engineer in New Mexico.

GREG SMITH

When one is born in an Army hospital, chances are pretty good that the future will include travel. Such was certainly the case for Gregory Z. Smith. Gregory was born at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, and he’s lived in Alaska and Argentina and traveled as far east as the Black Sea and as far west as Hawaii. Much of that travel occurred during his childhood as the son of an Army Artillery Officer, but plenty has occurred since college graduation.

Greg’s late father was Donald Evans Smith. His mother is a local artist, Jo-an Richardson Smith. His wife, Allison Kuper Smith, is a graduate of Las Cruces High School and of the Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management School at NMSU.

Greg studied architecture at Texas A&M University and holds a Bachelor degree in Environmental Design from A&M as well as a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction degree from the University of Texas at Austin. After 20 years teaching elementary school, Greg came home to Las Cruces where three generations of his family have lived. Here he started a residential design business and also quickly became involved in several local non-profit organizations.

Elected to represent District 2 in 2011 and to the position of Mayor Pro Tem in 2013, Councillor Smith sees Las Cruces poised to take on a huge range of exciting new possibilities. From the treasures in the rocks of Prehistoric Trackways National Monument to the phenomenal opportunities soaring out of Spaceport America, neither the ground nor the sky is the limit for Las Cruces.

STEVE VANDIVER

Steve Vandiver is a graduate of La Junta, Colorado High School and the University of Colorado with a BS degree in civil engineering (1972). He worked for the Colorado Division of Water Resources as a hydrographer and dam safety engineer for nine years, then 24 years as the Division Engineer for the Rio Grande Basin in Colorado for CDWR before retiring from the State. Steve was on the initial Recovery team for the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow while serving as the Engineer Adviser for Colorado for the Rio Grande Compact for 14 years.

From 2005 to the present Steve has been the General Manager for the Rio Grande Water Conservation District responsible for the Closed Basin Project local sponsorship. He has been active in the Colorado Water Congress, the Intrastate Basin Compact Commission, sponsoring Groundwater Subdistrict formation, implementation and administration, a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Rio Grande Natural Area Management Plan and administration with BLM on the river corridor along the RG from the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge to the state line. Steve is also involved in Land Trust and River Restoration Projects throughout the basin.

FRANK A. WARD

Dr. Ward currently serves as a Distinguished Achievement Professor of Water Economics and Policy in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business. Dr. Ward’s research and teaching activities are primarily focused on conservation, valuation, and efficient use of water resources in New Mexico, in southwest, nationally, and internationally. His research program thrust includes water policy planning and development, analysis of river basins, transboundary water sharing, and strengthening of public institutions for water management. He has also made significant methodological contributions that are used for developing economically informed water allocation policies, identifying economic value of water and other natural resources, formulating interdisciplinary approaches for analyzing water policies and regulations, and valuing key ecological assets.

Dr. Ward has conducted river basin assessments that integrate hydrologic, agronomic, institutional, and economic linkages. These linkages provide a framework by which science can inform sustainable river basin management and help in developing and guiding public policy. His recent work on sustainable integrated river basin analysis has been funded and applied to policy debates at several places around the world. These include the Rio Grande and Lower Colorado River Basins of North America, Tigris-Euphrates Basin (Iraq), Jordan Basin (Israel and Palestine), Nilufer Basin (Turkey), Murray-Darling Basin (Australia), Nile Basin (Africa), Amu Darya Basin (Central Asia), Zayandeh-Rud Basin (Iran), several basins in Afghanistan, and more recently to urban water sustainability challenges in Saudi Arabia.

Despite his heavy teaching and research agenda, he also finds time to perform service for his profession in various capacities. For example, he served as associate editor for four peer reviewed journals: Transactions for the American Fisheries Management (1997-98), North American Journal of Fisheries Management (1997-98) Water Resources Research (1991-2000) and the Journal of Hydrology (2008-2011). He is currently on the editorial boards of Water Resources and Economics (2012-present) and Water Economics and Policy (2014-present). He also shares his research findings to the general public through NMSU website at http://agecon.nmsu.edu/fward/water/.

RICHARD J. WENSTROM

Richard holds a BS degree in agricultural engineering from North Dakota State University, and a MS degree in irrigation engineering from Colorado State University. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Kansas, Colorado, and California. He began his career in the irrigation industry, serving as Agricultural Sales and Marketing Manager for the Rain Bird Corporation, Glendora, California.

In 1976, he and his wife Jane relocated to Kinsley, Kansas where they took over ownership, operation, and management of their family farm. He developed the farm to center pivot irrigation, and was an early adopter in using computer-based climatic data irrigation scheduling and computer control & monitoring. Since the early 1990s he has been involved in analyzing and solving local water issues, chiefly with a group of local irrigators who formed the Water Protection Association of Central Kansas (Water PACK). It was during this time that he helped lobby for and establish the Central Kansas Water Bank (the only water bank in Kansas). He is currently President of the Water PACK Board of Directors, and has won local and national awards for irrigation water conservation.

Richard and Jane retired from farming in 2007. They have two grown sons and four grand-children.

RICHAEL YOUNG

Richael Young specializes in market design for the exchange of natural resource rights. As an economist, engineer, and entrepreneur, she brings together complementary skillsets for natural resources management and policy. She strives to create tailored solutions that meet local needs and economic goals.

In 2014, Richael cofounded Mammoth Trading, where she serves as president. In this capacity, Richael led the development and implementation of the first smart market for groundwater in the world. Mammoth Trading’s smart markets help producers put limited groundwater to its most productive uses, all while meeting stream flow and regulatory obligations.

Richael holds a B.S. in civil and environmental engineering and an M.S. in agricultural and applied economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.