Overview

Wes Strickland is a water project and finance attorney in Holland & Knight's Austin office. His clients include U.S.-based and multinational water companies and financial institutions that develop and manage water resources and infrastructure. He has been involved in many of the largest and most significant water development projects in the United States for the past 20 years, across multiple states and regions, with a strong focus on California, Texas and the West. The value of his past projects has exceeded $12 billion.

Typical projects and transactions for which Mr. Strickland is engaged include:

  • development of new water supplies, especially using new technology, recycling or desalination
  • formation, management and adjudication of surface water and groundwater rights
  • ideation and negotiation of sustainable resource management plans
  • conservation, marketing and transfer of water rights
  • acquisition, disposition and consolidation of water systems and supply projects
  • formation, merger and acquisition of private and governmental entities
  • planning and development of new certificated service areas for investor-owned utilities
  • formation and governance of California mutual water companies, Texas water supply corporations and similar entities
  • negotiation of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and operating agreements
  • multiple-sponsor projects, public-private partnerships and projects accomplished using project finance

Mr. Strickland frequently advises international companies pursuing business opportunities within the U.S. His clients have included companies based in North America, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Asia and Australia. He has participated in select projects located outside the U.S.

Mr. Strickland is a regular writer and speaker on water resources and the private sector. He has been quoted by numerous media, including Bloomberg, Reuters, Al Jazeera, Debtwire, Circle of Blue and Global Water Intelligence, for which he also serves as the U.S. legal columnist. Earlier in his career, Mr. Strickland served as a captain and judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he handled water right matters for the western U.S. and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) utilities privatization initiative.

Experience

  • Represented the San Diego County Water Authority for acquisition of 277,700 acre-feet per year of Colorado River water from the Imperial Irrigation District; this water transfer is the largest in U.S. history and was accomplished as part of the settlement of claims to California's share of the Colorado River, through the Quantification Settlement Agreement
  • Represented an investor-owned utility for adjudication of the Los Osos Groundwater Basin in California, including development of the Basin Plan, an innovative water resources plan with significant projects related to urban water use efficiency, groundwater treatment, water reuse and recycling, prevention of seawater intrusion and establishment of a watermaster
  • Represented an investor-owned utility for the establishment of a new service territory covering 7,500 acres in northern California; the transaction included acquisition of 19,500 acre-feet per year of surface water from the Sacramento River and development of an innovative infrastructure financing approach, which has been approved by the California Public Utilities Commission
  • Represented the developer of the Napa Pipe Project in Napa, California related to water supplies and infrastructure; this large brownfield redevelopment project faced significant water challenges, which were successfully resolved during the entitlement process, avoiding litigation
  • Represented an investor-owned utility for protection of groundwater rights from contamination, including development of alternative water supplies and litigation against potentially responsible parties
  • Represented the owner of ranch properties covering more than 150,000 acres on the Central Coast of California for water rights administration and management
  • Represented a bottled water company for evaluation of potential spring sources in multiple states
  • Represented multiple investor-owned utilities and other companies in defense against anti-private water and environmental activists
  • Represented several cities in southern California for adjudication of groundwater basins
  • Represented sellers of water to the California Drought Water Bank of 2009
  • Represented buyers of water during the California drought of 2014
  • Evaluated and developed strategies for inventories of water resources for multistate water utilities, industrial water users and agricultural growers

  • Represented multiple infrastructure funds for evaluation of potential investments in water development projects across the western US
  • Represented an agricultural bank for strategy related to water infrastructure lending in a number of western U.S. states
  • Represented a lender with respect to groundwater development project in Nebraska
  • Represented multiple rural water companies for securing financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Rural Development, state revolving funds and commercial lenders

  • Represented EPCOR Water (USA) Inc. for acquisition of the 130 Project in Central Texas; the project supplies up to 20,000 acre-feet of groundwater from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer to several water purveyors in the Austin, Texas area
  • Represented EPCOR Water (USA) Inc. for acquisition of Hughes Gas Resources, Inc., which owns a natural gas utility in the Houston area
  • Represented institutional investors in the take-private acquisition of SouthWest Water Company in 2011
  • Represented an institutional investor for acquisition of a 25 percent indirect managed interest in SouthWest Water Company in 2018
  • Represented investor-owned for bolt-on acquisition of water system assets of in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.
  • Represented the City of Fresno, Calif. for evaluation of potential transfer of its water, wastewater and solid waste utilities to an independent special district
  • Represented investor-owned utilities for development of strategies for bolt-on acquisition of water systems in California and Texas, including potential privatization of municipal enterprises

  • Represented developer of the Vista Ridge Project in Central Texas, which upon completion will deliver up to 50,000 acre-feet per year of groundwater from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer to the San Antonio Water System
  • Represented the developer of a brackish groundwater desalination project in the Central Valley of California
  • Represented the potential developer of a binational desalination project in Mexico and southern California
  • Represented the developer of a recycled water pipeline project for agricultural growers in the Central Coast of California
  • Represented a geothermal energy producer for public-private partnership with a California city related to potential development of recycled water for industrial reuse
  • Developed a strategy for development of produced water collection, disposal and reuse for an oil and gas producer in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico
  • Represented developer of an industrial groundwater supply project in Georgia

  • Advised on the State Highway (SH) 288 Toll Lanes Project in Houston
  • Advised on the US 181 Harbor Bridge Replacement Project in Corpus Christi, Texas
  • Advised on the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project in Long Beach, Calif.
  • Advised on the Zero Emission Container Mover System in Port of Long Beach, Calif.
  • Advised on the State Route (SR) 241 Toll Road in Orange County, Calif.

Credentials

Education
  • UNC School of Law, J.D.
  • Yale University, B.A.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Memberships
  • American Society of Civil Engineers
  • National Association of Water Companies
  • Texas Water Conservation Association
Honors & Awards
  • Top 50 Environmental Law Blog, LexisNexis, 2011

Speaking Engagements

News