Reflecting on the Water Week National Water Policy Fly-In

Getting involved in water-related policy at a national level wasn’t ever truly on my radar. It wasn’t until I saw an e-mail come through to the Students and Young Professionals (SYPs), announcing a scholarship to attend the Water Week National Policy Fly-In, with a note at the bottom stating that participants from certain states (including Wyoming) were of particular interest. That piqued my interest. Wyoming’s Senator Barrasso, from my hometown, is the chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee. Of all the ears that need to hear from water professionals, his was at the top of the list.

Next thing I know, I’m working on convincing my employer, Trihydro, that this is something they should support. I thought this was going to be difficult, but WEF’s Government Affairs Committee staff prepped me, and I went in to my company leaders with that very convincing list of reasons. Once I explained that the Fly-In provided opportunities to learn about the current state of regulatory policy, network with regulatory agencies, fellow consultants, and municipalities, and have face time with my state’s delegation, I was swept out the door with a clear “yes, we want you to go!”

So, feeling like a proverbial fish out of water, I headed from smaller-than-small-town Wyoming to Washington, D.C. If it wasn’t for the reassurance that the WEF experts on current water-related policies would prep and guide me, I wouldn’t have been so confident.

When I arrived, I immediately connected with Steve Dye, WEF Director of Legislative Affairs, and Jamie Eichenberger, who is WEF treasurer, a past SYP, and a veteran Fly-In participant. The first meeting was a luncheon with fellow SYPs and WEF staff. As with all WEF functions, everyone was incredibly welcoming and supportive of the new members, and I really appreciate the efforts taken to get us connected, talking, and learning from each other.

The first panel discussion, with various heads of EPA departments, was very interesting. They reiterated that water-related research and funding infrastructure projects were definitely on their list of priorities.

The next morning, I met with an American Water Work Association member from Wyoming to tag-team our Wyoming delegation. We attended “Wyoming Wednesday,” where Wyoming’s constituents meet with the delegates. There, I connected with Senator Barrasso’s Water Resource Advisor and was able to discuss WEF’s key points on funding and support, as well as some of the concerns that are specific to Wyoming’s small rural communities and businesses. WEF prepared great packets of information to hand off. As soon as Sen. Barrasso was available, we were able to bend his ear as well.

Once Sen. Barrasso realized he was talking with water-centric folks, he invited us to sit in on the Environment and Public Works Committee’s Senate hearing on the definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS). It was fascinating to hear the discussions between senators and the panel of experts. They really dug into the details and consequences of regulation related to WOTUS. After the meeting, Sen. Barasso and his advisor came over and asked about my experience working on projects that fall under federal regulation (under WOTUS) versus state regulation.

After the hearing, I joined in on the water week briefing, which felt like a pep rally! Everyone was getting geared up and ready for more congressional visits.

I really appreciate WEF’s support to help bring SYPs to the Fly-In! As this was my first Fly-In, I had expected to be more of a wallflower, watching and learning the process. But I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging and interactive it ended up being.

 

Carol Kinzer, P.E.
Engineer at Trihydro Corp.

Seven of WEF's Young Professionals flew in from all over the country to represent their various states, network at the YP Luncheon, and meet with their respective Members of Congress at the National Water Policy Fly-In, held in conjunction with World Water Week. Carol Kinzer of the Rocky Mountain Water Environment Association shares her experience.

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