Testimony of Kameran L. Onley,
Nominee to be
Assistant Secretary of Water and Science,
Department of the Interior
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Domenici, and members of the committee. It is an honor and privilege to appear before you today as the President's nominee for the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. I am both humbled and honored that President Bush and Secretary Kempthorne have recommended me for this position.
I appreciate the fact that my husband Doug can be here with me today. We were married during my second year at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and he has been such a great friend and support to me during these past years of public service. I'd also like to thank the committee for inviting our new baby girl to join me here today, but my husband and I opted to spare everyone her spontaneous bursts of enthusiasm; it might be music to my ears, but I can't promise everyone would see it that way.
A little bit about my background. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and still consider the “Evergreen State” home. I am the only grandchild of ten who has left the state and quite frankly no one in my family can understand why. It was during the family camping trips along the Sauk River in the Cascade Mountains that I first developed my passion for the environment and I feel fortunate to have been able to parlay my passion into my professional life.
My formal education consists of a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Biology from Seattle University and an M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Clemson University. I was in my junior year at Seattle University when I realized the linkages between the fields of economics and biology – both are studies of systems – human and animal – and both provide ways of understanding how complex systems interact and evolve. The insights that have come from both of these fields can help to inform and improve public policy.
Since graduate school I have worked in varying roles in public policy. As a Research Assistant at the Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research, I worked with the dairy industry in rural Texas to address water quality issues; as Research Assistant at The Mercatus Center - the position I held before joining the Administration – I analyzed the impacts of federal regulations on the public. I also worked as a Program Officer for the Charles G. Koch Foundation, where I experiencedfirst-hand how the non-profit sector plays a crucial role in generating public policy.
For the last six, almost seven, years I have had the privilege to serve the public as a member of the Bush Administration. I joined the White House Council on Environmental Quality in July, 2001, where I focused the majority of my time on ocean and coastal policy. Most notably I was responsible for leading the interagency group in the development of the President's “U.S. Ocean Action Plan.” I entered the Department of the Interior in January 2006 as Assistant Deputy Secretary, where I have continued my work on ocean and coastal issues and serve as the Secretary's principal policy advisor on Everglades restoration. My work chairing the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force has required me to build consensus with all partners, federal, state, local and Native American governments, and the private sector, to advance restoration goals.
My professional experience has provided me with the insight into the complex interface of environmental, economic, and cultural merit. I understand the management challenges that result from this complexity and, if confirmed, I am committed to bringing the same collaborative problem-solving focus to a new position within DOI.
In July of last year, I assumed the responsibilities of the Acting Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, including overseeing the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey. During this short time, I have developed an even greater appreciation for the complexity of water issues in the West and the necessity of employing sound science in the public interest.
I have found that both Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey are committed to identifying new and better approaches to deal with the water challenges facing our nation. Secretary Kempthorne has outlined the “Water for America Initiative” to ensure that communities have reliable water supplies for the 21st century. Last year, the National Science and Technology Council reported that: “Abundant supplies of clean, fresh water can no longer be taken for granted.” As we can see from watching the evening news over the last year, water scarcity is no longer just a problem for the arid West—it is a problem for the Nation. We are seeing prolonged droughts and water conflicts in areas such as the Southeast, where people are used to having unlimited water. Through this Water for America Initiative, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey will leverage information, technology and local and state partnerships to help communities secure reliable water supplies. If confirmed, I will work with the Committee on implementing legislation to make this initiative a success.
If confirmed, it will be an honor to work with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Nation's premier science agency. The U.S. Geological Survey provides reliable information and scientific products for natural resource managers, emergency response organizations, land use planners, decision-makers at all levels of government, and citizens in all walks of life. USGS's broad spectrum of scientific expertise includes geography, geology, hydrology, and biology, and its products inform a range of activities from recreational hiking and fishing to dam operations and earthquake and volcano prediction. USGS science helps the Department and others manage resources in cost effective and environmentally sound ways.
Finally, I share the commitment of the President and Secretary Kempthorne to conservation of our natural resources. I know from personal experience that broad consultation produces better decisions, that transparency in the deliberative process, including good communication, avoids needless conflicts, and that cooperation is preferable to and often can head off litigation. I pledge that if confirmed, I will consult with you on issues that are of interest to this Committee, I will communicate with your constituents, and I will search for cooperative solutions to the complex issues that would fall within my ambit.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.