Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today praised President Obama's intent to nominate Michael L. Connor to serve as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. Since 2009, Connor has served as Commissioner of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation.
"Mike will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position after two decades in public service working on energy, conservation and water issues," Secretary Jewell said. "He has proven himself to be a thoughtful and collaborative leader on some of the toughest challenges at the Department -- including finding sustainable solutions to water challenges in the West and resolving Indian water rights claims. Interior will be well served by his commonsense approach in the Deputy position."
If confirmed by the U. S. Senate, Connor would be the second highest ranking official at Interior, with statutory responsibility as the Chief Operating Officer to help lead a Department of more than 70,000 employees and an annual budget of about $12 billion. Connor will continue to serve in his capacity as Reclamation Commissioner, overseeing the nation's largest water wholesaler and second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the West with 58 power plants, including Hoover and Grand Coulee Dams, while his nomination is being considered.
As Commissioner, Connor has promoted the sustainable use of water to address current and future challenges facing water supply and power generation. From his work to complete two major agreements with Mexico on the Colorado River, to negotiating and implementing five Indian water rights settlements, to leading negotiations on the California Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, his record at Interior is marked by taking on complex natural resource conflicts and bringing together diverse stakeholders.
Connor has made water conservation, river restoration, and clean energy development top priorities for the water management agency. Under his leadership, the WaterSMART program has used conservation and reuse to increase water supply across the West by over 700,000 acre-feet per year; Reclamation has restored thousands of miles of riparian habitat; and the Bureau has identified over 370 MW of additional generating capacity on Reclamation facilities and installed over 100 MW of new capacity during the last 4 years.
With many water basins across the West facing record drought conditions, Connor has also led efforts -- dating back to his work in the U.S. Senate to craft the SECURE Water Act -- to develop water basin studies and additional science that will help find solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change on water resources.
From 2001 until 2009, Connor served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and senior advisor to Chairman Bingaman where he worked on issues related to energy development, land and water management and tribal nations. Connor managed legislation for the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey for the Committee. He also handled Native American issues within the Committee's jurisdiction, helping to resolve a number of key Indian land and water rights settlements.
Prior to the Senate, Connor also served at Interior from 1993 to 2001, first in the Solicitor's Office, and then as Director of the Secretary's Indian Water Rights Office.
Connor received his J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from New Mexico State University and worked for General Electric for several years in the power generation services branch.
Connor, a New Mexican, currently lives in Maryland with his wife, Shari, and their two children.