James Eklund utilizes his background as Colorado’s lead water official to advise a range of private and public entities on environmental, public policy, regulatory and legislative matters. He has significant experience in public infrastructure projects from both the public and private perspectives. James works with sovereign governments, multistate authorities, state agencies and private interests to deliver critical water infrastructure projects and policy.
In his extensive career in public service, James set the water policy for the Headwater State (18 downstream states and Mexico receive water that starts in Colorado) and served as legal counsel to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. As Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, James was the architect of Colorado’s first strategic water plan and is regularly consulted in implementing what has become the “gold standard” of water plans in the Western US. His agency also served as the lender-of-choice to Colorado water projects through a revolving loan fund that deploys an average of US$100 million per year and has approximately US$1 billion in assets and investments. During his tenure as director, James focused on innovation in water policy, project finance, data and management.
In 2013, Colorado witnessed record flooding, drought and wildfire, all in an 18-month period. James helped lead Colorado’s state response to each with his agency administering a multimillion-dollar (US) FEMA flood response program (including US$2 million for LiDAR mapping, estimated US$45 million floodplain mapping and US$65 million National Flood Insurance Program).
For several years, James served as Colorado’s principal representative on the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people in seven states and two countries in a basin that, if counted as its own country’s GDP, would be the world’s fifth largest. Appointed to this position by Colorado’s Governor, he was responsible for negotiating and signing agreements binding the seven basin states, the Republic of Mexico and the US federal government. In near record time, James successfully helped craft and shepherd critical Colorado River legislation through the US Congress and testified in support of the bill that was ultimately signed into law by the US President.
He previously served as senior deputy legal counsel to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, where he monitored the state’s public-private partnership on a major turnpike that runs from Denver to Boulder. This concessionaire agreement for a managed lane is widely referenced in US P3 discussions and James was the Governor’s “eyes and ears” on the RFP, selection and award process.