Washington water trust names new executive director

For the Basin Business Journal | October 11, 2020 1:00 AM

SEATTLE — James Kraft has been named the new executive director of the Washington Water Trust.

Kraft, who began work on Sept. 1, is an attorney with 35 years of experience in forestry and natural resource law and management, 27 of those as general counsel for Plum Creek Timber prior to its merger with timber and paper products giant Weyerhaeuser in 2016.

“I retired in 2016, and then saw this job come open and I was intrigued,” Kraft said.

His time at Plum Creek gave him experience in crafting and implementing plans to protect critical habitat home to a number of threatened and endangered species — “fish, bears and spotted owls,” Kraft said. He currently sits on the board of Long Live the Kings, a Seattle-based non-profit devoted to preserving salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

“We find win-win solutions to water issues,” Kraft said. “It’s worth getting out of bed to do this.”

Kraft said he does not have a “deep background” in water issues, but he brings more than three decades of organizational experience working in the Pacific Northwest to preserve habitat as well as a willingness and ability to work with ranchers and farmers to improve irrigation practices so there is more water for both human beings and fish.

The scarcity of water is a problem that affects everyone, Kraft said, and he hopes to help not just find ways to capture excess irrigation flows and preserve river water but also help rebuild the state’s aquifers.

“There’s a lot going on,” he said. “I’d like to expand the Trust’s role.”

The Trust, which has offices in Seattle and Ellensburg, is not as active in the Columbia Basin as Kraft would like, and he said he believes the organization could bring expertise to bear in the region to help landowners make better use of their water.

“I could see taking it to the next level,” he said. “Everybody needs water.”

Kraft, 65, succeeds Susan Adams, who led the Washington Water Trust for 16 years and oversaw the organization’s growth from two staffers to its current team of 11 and overseeing the restoration of significant flows to dozens of rivers and streams across the state that are vital to the state’s salmon populations, according to a Water Trust press release.

“Adams will continue to be involved with the Washington Water Trust as a senior advisor,” the press release said.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com