Steamboat Springs A water attorney who has worked for Steamboat Springs for eight years has received an advisory position with the Interior Department, placing someone with firsthand knowledge of local and regional water issues close to the highest levels of national government.
Fritz Holleman, a partner with the Boulder legal firm Porzak Browning & Bushong, has received a presidential appointment to become deputy solicitor for water in the administration of President Barack Obama.
Holleman will report to Hilary Tompkins, solicitor for the Interior Department; Anne Castle, the department’s assistant secretary for water and science; and to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, of the San Luis Valley.
Holleman has provided counsel to Steamboat Springs since 2003, when the city filed for its recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD, water right on the Yampa River. The RICD mandates certain flow rates on the Yampa during spring and summer in an effort to provide enough water for recreational activities such as kayaking, rafting, fishing and tubing.
Holleman’s colleague Glenn Porzak also was instrumental in that effort and has worked with the city on water issues and policy in the past decade.
Holleman said he and Porzak also work closely with other Western Slope clients, such as the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which supplies water from Vail to Wolcott.
In his new role, Holleman said, he’ll work closely with Castle and provide advice on a broad range of water issues in the West, including environmental concerns, obligations to Native American tribes, storage and allocation of water from the Colorado River and its tributaries, and, above all, the challenges of increasing population and limited supply.
“Maybe even diminishing supply, in light of climate change,” Holleman said Monday. “The supply and demand lines are crossing all over the West.”
Holleman was a trial attorney for the federal Justice Department in Washington from 1995 to 2000, focusing primarily on water litigation in the West. He said his former boss there likely was instrumental in the “confluence of connections and recommendations” that led to his new position and upcoming return to D.C.
Another of his Boulder law colleagues, lawyer Steven Bushong, noted the prominence of Holleman’s new position in a May 4 email.
“This is one of the highest-level jobs related to water in the government and presents an opportunity to make a difference on important national water issues,” Bushong wrote.
Erin Light, local water engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, spoke about the importance of Holleman’s regional experience in his new advisory capacity.
“Working for the city of Steamboat, I think that he has an understanding of the Yampa and the water available here and the water uses here,” Light said. “Anybody that can bring close-up knowledge has got to be a benefit for the Western Slope.”
Holleman, 46, was born in Denver and received a law degree in 1992 from the University of Colorado Boulder. He said he’s been involved in water issues since that time.
Holleman called the new job an exciting transition and said he’d miss working with Steamboat Springs staff and all of his other clients.
He also noted the change in weather he’ll see this summer in the humid D.C.
“I think I’m really going to miss Steamboat in August,” Holleman said.
— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com