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Lester Snow to Replace Mike Chrisman as Natural Resources Secretary
by Dan Bacher
Tuesday Jan 5th, 2010 4:34 PM
Lester Snow will become the new Natural Resources Secretary as Mike Chrisman leaves the position effective February 1, 2010.
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Lester Snow to Replace Mike Chrisman as Natural Resources Secretary

by Dan Bacher

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Lester Snow as Resources Secretary on Tuesday to replace Secretary Mike Chrisman, who announced his retirement from state service effective February 1, 2010 to work in a new position at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Snow has distinguished himself by presiding over the unprecedented collapse of Central Valley salmon, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other species as Director of the Department of Water Resources. During his tenure, corporate agribusiness and southern California water agencies exported the record water exports out of the California Delta that precipitated the collapse.

Record water export levels occurred in 2004 (6.1 MAF), 2005 (6.5 MAF) and 2006 (6.3 MAF). Exports averaged 4.6 MAF annually between 1990 and 1999 and increased to an average of 6 MAF between 2000 and 2007 under the Davis and Schwarzenegger administrations, a rise of almost 30 percent.

Schwarzenegger praised Snow for his role in developing the peripheral canal and dams water package that was was rushed through a special legislative session by Schwarzenegger, Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass in early November 2009.

The water package, developed in back door negotiating sessions between Legislative leaders, the Westlands Water District, Metropolitan Water District, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense Fund, completely excluded the input of Delta Legislators, fishermen, Indian Tribes, environmental justice communities and Delta residents.

"Throughout the course of my Administration, Lester has used his high-level expertise in public resource management to protect California's water supply," Schwarzenegger gushed. "With his skills and knowledge, Lester served a key role in developing the historic comprehensive water package to reform and rebuild our state's water infrastructure that will benefit future generations of Californians. I am confident that he will bring that same level of commitment and dedication to managing the agency in this new role and I look forward to working with him to preserve California's invaluable natural resources."

"I am extremely honored by the opportunity to continue serving my fellow Californians in this new position," claimed Snow. "One of California's greatest treasures is its natural resources and I am committed to working with the Governor to promote policies that protect our environment and preserve these invaluable assets for future generations to come."

Schwarzenegger also lauded Mike Chrisman, criticized by fishermen, environmentalists and Indian Tribes for his relentless efforts to build the peripheral canal and new dams and fast track the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, for his "dedicated years of service."

"For the past seven years, Mike has worked tirelessly with me to safeguard our state's precious natural resources and I am grateful to him for his service to the people of California," said Schwarzenegger. "He is a dedicated public servant and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors."

According to Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee, "he said he hadn't anticipated leaving, but the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation job 'was an opportunity that presented itself, and I couldn't turn it down.'"

Bill Jennings, executive director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance (CSPA), said that nothing really has changed with the appointment of Snow as Natural Resources Secretary.

"Snow has always been Resources Secretary," said Jennings. "Schwarzenegger is just putting a title with his job that he's actually held for a long time. Lester was the architect of the Delta's collapse as the head of Cal-Fed. Nothing's different with his appointment today - it's basically a case of musical chairs."

In regard to Mike Chrisman's retirement, Jennings quipped, "he was a loyal deputy for Lester Snow for many years."

Snow has served as director for the California Department of Water Resources since 2004. From 2004 to 2001, he was a principal in a "water resource consulting company." Prior to that, Snow served as the Mid-Pacific regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

From 1995 to 1999, he served as the executive director of the CALFED Bay-Delta program and, prior to that, spent seven years as the general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. Snow's experience also includes six years with the Arizona Department of Water Resources including four years as the Tucson area director.

Snow, 58, of Fair Oaks, earned a Master of Science degree in water resources administration from the University of Arizona, and a Bachelor of Science degree in earth sciences from Pennsylvania State University. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $175,000. Snow is a Democrat.

The Governor also announced the appointment of Mark Cowin as director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the appointment of John McCamman as the director of the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG).

Mark Cowin, 51, of Sacramento, is a DWR insider. He has served DWR for 29 years in various positions, most recently as deputy director of integrated water management for the Department of Water Resources since 2007, where he has overseen DWR's flood management and dam safety programs, implemented integrated regional water management, coordinated DWR's efforts related to climate change, and updated and implementing the California Water Plan.

Prior to that, Cowin served DWR as chief of the division of planning and local assistance from 2002 to 2007 and assistant director for the CALFED Bay-Delta Program from 1998 to 2002. From 1981 to 1998, he served in a variety of other engineering positions at DWR. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from Stanford University.

This position requires senate confirmation and the compensation is $149,496. Cowin is a Democrat.

McCamman, 56, of Sacramento has since 2006, served as chief deputy director of DFG where he has been acting director since November 2009 and previously from 2007 to 2008. McCamman was senior vice president for Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations from 2003 to 2006 and chief of staff for U.S. Congressman George Radanovich from 1994 to 2003. Prior to that, he was county administrative officer for Shasta County from 1992 to 1994 and Mariposa County from 1987 to 1992.

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $142,965. McCamman is a Republican.

John Lewallen, a member of the Ocean Access Network, was hopeful that Schwarzenegger's new appointees will cancel the Memorandum of Understanding that gives all power of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to the Resources Legacy Foundation, a private corporation. "This will allow Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a chance to avoid leaving a legacy of fisheries fascism and the privatization of California resources management before he leaves office," said Lewallen.