This West Is OUR West

Interior's Bernhardt keeps Mikkelsen on Board


By MICHAEL DOYLE | Feb 7, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the appointment this week of two science advisers, acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is starting to reshape his office.

One day after President Trump announced his intention to nominate Bernhardt for Interior secretary, the acting chief advised department employees he was appointing William Werkheiser as science adviser.

He also expanded the role of the current senior adviser for water and Western resource issues, Alan Mikkelsen, who will continue with a portfolio that includes all departmental water issues.

“Alan has decades of experience handling this subject, and recently he served as Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation,” Bernhardt stated. “He knows water as well as anyone.”

Bernhardt added that Mikkelsen “will continue coordinating” with the assistant secretary for water and science as well as the commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation on “priority water matters.”

Bernhardt’s predecessor, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, appointed Mikkelsen as the Bureau of Reclamation’s deputy commissioner in April 2017. Mikkelsen had previously served as the treasurer for the National Water Resources Association and as chief of staff for former Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.

A fishing guide, Mikkelsen also worked for years as a Montana-based political consultant and served as Zinke’s campaign manager.

“I am committed to using the best science in our policy making process,” Bernhardt declared, adding, “I will depend on Bill and Alan to help meet this objective.”

Regarding Werkheiser, “Bill has dedicated his life to public service, having worked for 30 years in the Federal Government, most recently as Deputy Director of U.S. Geological Survey,” Bernhardt noted in the department-wide email.

Werkheiser previously advised Bernhardt in the latter’s capacity as deputy secretary.

Werkheiser was USGS’s associate director for water, overseeing all aspects of the bureau’s programs in water science. He began his 30-year federal career “as a scientist investigating issues ranging from the impacts of development on water supplies, the movement and fate of pollutants, and the effects of rising sea level on coastal aquifers,” according to USGS.

He has held a number of leadership positions, including director of the USGS Pennsylvania Water Science Center.