June 22, 2023 (Denver, CO) - The Colorado Department of Natural Resources announced today that Rebecca Mitchell will become the State of Colorado’s first full time Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission. Mitchell will now navigate the deep challenges of the Colorado River in this upgraded position, supported by an interdisciplinary team within the Department of Natural Resources and support from the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. The team, established with funding in the FY 2023-24 budget passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Polis, will greatly enhance the state’s position in Colorado River interstate issues and upcoming negotiations on the operations of Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
“The next few years are going to be incredibly intense as we shift the way that the seven basin states cooperate and operate Lakes Powell and Mead,” said Becky Mitchell, the State of Colorado's Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission. “This expanded role will allow me to fully focus on Colorado’s needs at such a critical time and actually work towards long term sustainable solutions to managing the Colorado River. Climate change coupled with Lower Basin overuse have changed the dynamic on the Colorado River and we have no choice but to do things differently than we have before.”
Mitchell has served as the Director of the CWCB for six years and, for the last four, has been serving a dual role after accepting the Governor-appointed position of Colorado River Commissioner in 2019. This is the first time Colorado has had a full-time, state-employed Upper Colorado River Commissioner.
“Water is essential to our economy, impacts housing, and plays a pivotal role in our thriving outdoor recreation and agriculture industries. Rebecca’s leadership and experience have already improved management and negotiations on the Colorado River and we look forward to her continued efforts to protect our waterways and defend our water rights,” said Governor Polis.
Mitchell serves as Colorado’s representative to the Upper Colorado River Commission (UCRC). The UCRC is an interstate water administrative agency established by the 1948 Upper Colorado River Basin Compact. The UCRC is the body through which the four Upper Division States coordinate on Colorado River matters.
“It’s been a pleasure to have worked with Becky for the last four years in her role as Colorado Water Conservation Board Director, ” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Becky rose through the ranks of the Department of Natural Resources and has changed the culture and statewide leadership on water issues at CWCB. Now, Becky can bring her expertise and passion as our State’s full time Commissioner with a well-supported team of interdisciplinary state staff from CWCB, our Executive Director’s Office, the Division of Water Resources, Attorney General's Office and others to ensure her success.”
“This role will also allow me the time to get out on the ground more—to hear from folks from all areas across the state, to listen to the needs of all water partners,” said Mitchell. “This includes Tribal communities and leaders, as it’s critical to include these voices in the Colorado River conversation.”
And while Mitchell looks forward to her new role, she also looks back at her 14 years at the CWCB. “During these years I had the opportunity to really build the team and watch it come together, as well as oversee development of the Colorado Water Plan,” she said. Mitchell will have a continued partnership with the agency. Lauren Ris, who has served as Deputy Director of CWCB since 2017, will step in as Acting Director.
“The Colorado River provides water for 40 million people and 30 Tribes spread over 7 states and 2 countries, so there’s a lot at stake,” Mitchell said. “We have the tools to solve this, we just need the collective resolve and determination to implement them in a thoughtful, collaborative way.”