Sac River Trust’s Executive Director selected to attend the Water Education Foundation’s 2015 California Water Leaders Class

“I desire to learn more about how the Sacramento River can continue to remain a viable ecological system while serving the other needs of California; the Water Leaders Program is a great place for that learning to take place.”

Lucas Water leader Pic #2

~Lucas RossMerz


(Photo from WEF’s Bay-Delta Tour, 2012)

Our Executive Director (ED), Lucas RossMerz, has been selected to participate in the Water Education Foundation’s 2015 William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class. Each year the Water Education Foundation receives applications from around the state from young professionals working in the water worlds of California. The criteria for acceptance and credentials of participants is impressive. Lucas is interested in learning more about how all of California’s diverse water users and natural systems can better function and thrive together. Our board of directors is impressed with Lucas’ solutions oriented approach to symptoms and problems. We would like to inform our Sacramento River Watershed partner groups, agencies, farmers, ranchers, and community members that Lucas will be representing the best interest of our region and our Sacramento River.

Each year the Water Education Foundation solicits applications from water leaders throughout California to be part of their William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class program. Those selected attend workshops and water tours throughout the state, attend the Water Education Foundation’s Executive Briefing, and work collaboratively on a water related project to help generate new approaches to improving California’s water management systems and programs. This years class is full of diverse professionals from all over California. We here at the Sacramento River Preservation Trust are excited to see what comes out of the class this year, and we are thrilled that Lucas will be a part of the process.

In his application letter Lucas wrote:

“The Sacramento River is the major source of water for California and serves as my outdoor office. The Sac River Trust has worked with the Water Education Foundation (WEF) for decades on tours and we are excited to continue our partnership for years to come. In fact, we are currently working with Renee Cashmere on incorporating more river elements into the WEF tour programs. The WEF Water Leaders Program will help further my understanding of the entire California water system. I like WEF’s mentorship plan and feel that I would benefit greatly from the perspectives and knowledge gained through my participation in it. I desire to learn more about how the Sacramento River can continue to remain a viable ecological system while serving the other needs of California; the Water Leaders Program is a great place for that learning to take place.”

 Congratulations Lucas, we look forward to hearing all about your experience in the months to come.

To visit the website and learn more about this program please click here.




Ian Achimore
Senior Watershed Manager
Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority

Samantha Adams
Principal Scientist
Wildermuth Environmental, Inc.

Anna Brathwaite
Staff Attorney
Modesto Irrigation District

Jennifer Capitolo
Senior Policy Advisor
Nossaman LLP

Danielle Dolan
Project Manager, Water Programs
Local Government Commission

Anna Fedman
Environmental Compliance Planner
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Katrina Harrison
Program Engineer
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

Nashelley Sara Kaplan-Dailey
Program Coordinator

Jeanie Mascia
Environmental Scientist
State Water Resources Control Board

Prosenjit Mitra
Project Manager
MBK Engineers

Ryan Reeves
Senior Engineer
California Department of Water Resources

Sara Reid
Credit Manager

Sarah Rhodes
Project Manager
San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

Lucas RossMerz
Executive Director
Sacramento River Preservation Trust

Calla Schmidt
Assistant Professor
University of San Francisco

Heather Shannon
Supervising Hydrologist

Herb Smart
Public Information Specialist
Turlock Irrigation District

Alexis Stevens
Somach Simmons & Dunn

Wendy Wang
Associate Attorney
Best Best & Krieger LLP

Nancy Warfel
Assistant Resource Specialist I
Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

Steven Wiesner
Geotechnical Engineer



The William R. Gianelli Water Leaders Class is a one-year program that identifies up-and-coming community leaders from diverse backgrounds, including members of minority and ethnic communities, and educates them about water issues. The program enhances individual leadership skills and prepares participants to take an active, cooperative approach to decision-making about water resource issues. Leading stakeholders and top policymakers serve as mentors to class members.

The program began in 1997 and we are particularly proud that several of our “Water Leaders” have gone on to achieve top positions in their companies, the state Legislature, government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

William R. “Bill” Gianelli served as Assistant Secretary for the Army in charge of the Corps of Engineers from 1981 to 1984 and Director of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) from 1967 to 1973 during major construction on the State Water Project. He began his career with DWR in 1946 and continues as a Consulting Civil Engineer. He is past president of the Water Education Foundation. He resides in Monterey, California.

Criteria for Acceptance

  • Commitment to understanding water issues;
  • Interest in seeking leadership roles on public boards and commissions, or key staff positions;
  • Commitment to the community through volunteer activities;
  • Potential or existing opportunities for advancement to key leadership roles within their own organizations.

Participant Requirements

Designed as a program for working professionals, participation involves a time commitment from both the class member and the employer. Class members are required to:

  • Attend a special one-day class orientation in January;
  • Attend two Foundation water tours (each tour is three days);
  • Attend the Foundation’s 1 day Executive Briefing in the Spring and participate in auction at the Executive Briefing;
  • Spend a day “shadowing” a major water leader (from government, urban, agriculture, environmental organization, private businesses, or public interest group);
  • Interview the water leader about an issue selected by the class;
  • Attend special work-group meetings to develop a class PowerPoint presentation about the assigned water topic;
  • Attend the Foundation’s Winter Board meeting to present the PowerPoint.
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