Monday, July 26, 2021 - 01:00 pm

Gov. Doug Burgum today appointed North Dakota Parks and Recreation Director Andrea Travnicek to lead the state’s Department of Water Resources, subject to approval by a majority of the members of the State Water Commission on Friday, July 30. The governor also appointed eight members to the State Water Commission with broad experience in water supply, flood protection, engineering and other water issues. 

As a result of House Bill 1353 passed during the 2021 legislative session, on Aug. 1 the Department of Water Resources will be the primary state water agency, replacing the State Water Commission.

In addition, the legislation provided for an agency director appointed by the governor who will serve as a Cabinet member. The legislation further reorganized the Office of the State Engineer and associated regulatory roles. The new director will hire and oversee the State Engineer and Department of Water Resources staff.

Travnicek was appointed Parks and Recreation director in April 2020, returning to North Dakota after nearly three years of service in top leadership positions at the U.S. Department of the Interior, including as principal deputy assistant secretary of water and science assisting with overseeing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Prior to that, she served as a senior policy advisor for natural resources in the North Dakota Governor’s Office from 2010 to 2016 under then-Govs. John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple.

“Andrea’s deep background in natural resources and broad experience as an agency leader at the state, federal and international levels will serve the water stakeholders and citizens of North Dakota well,” Burgum said. “We appreciate her leadership in Parks and Recreation and look forward to her bringing that same passion and forward-looking leadership to the Department of Water Resources for the benefit of all North Dakotans and our communities.”

“It’s an honor to continue serving the citizens of North Dakota in this new role,” Travnicek said.  “I have enjoyed managing our state’s public lands and enhancing recreational offerings across the state and am looking forward to managing the diverse, important water resources for North Dakota and working with the dedicated team at the Department of Water Resources to improve our state’s quality of life and strengthen the economy. I’m grateful to the outstanding team at Parks and Recreation for their tireless efforts to maintain and enhance our first-rate parks system in North Dakota.”

Paul Taylor, deputy director of Parks and Recreation, has been appointed interim director effective Aug. 1. Taylor brings a strong background in park planning, design and construction, most recently serving as chief of park planning and development for the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission. Applications for the Parks and Recreation director will be accepted beginning July 30.

The State Water Commission consists of Burgum as chairman, Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, and eight members appointed by the governor to six-year terms, with one member from each of the drainage basins in North Dakota.

The governor appointed four new members and reappointed four current members to the State Water Commission.

New members appointed to the Commission are:

  • James Odermann, a Belfield rancher, who will represent the Little Missouri, Upper Heart and Upper Cannonball river basins.
  • Connie Ova, CEO of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp., who will represent the James River Basin.
  • April Walker, consulting firm owner and former Fargo city engineer, who will represent the Upper Red River Basin.
  • Gene Veeder, a McKenzie County rancher and board member for the McKenzie County Job Development Authority, who will represent the Upper Missouri River Basin.

The governor also reappointed the following commissioners:

  • Michael Anderson of Hillsboro, who represents the Lower Red River Basin.
  • Richard “Dick” Johnson of Devils Lake, who represents the Devils Lake Basin.
  • Jay Volk of Bismarck, who represents the Lower Missouri River Basin.
  • Jason Zimmerman of Minot, who represents the Mouse River Basin.

“This year’s historic drought has highlighted the importance of water for everything we do in North Dakota, from agriculture and energy development to recreation and daily life,” Burgum said. “These Water Commission members bring diverse background and a broad range of expertise and experiences that will allow the Commission to continuing developing and managing our water resources for the benefit of our state’s quality of life and economic health. We are grateful for their service and for all of the great candidates who applied. We also extend our gratitude to John Paczkowski, who served as interim leader of the State Water Commission since April 1, 2020.”

Burgum also expressed his gratitude for outgoing commissioners Katie Hemmer of Jamestown, Mark Owan of Williston, Matthew Pedersen of Valley City and Steven Schneider of Dickinson for their service to the Commission and the state of North Dakota.