Administrative Hearings Office

About Us

With water rights in California historically involving complex and often contentious issues, the state legislature in 2018 adopted, and Governor Brown approved, Assembly Bill 747, which enacted  Water Code sections 1110-1114, effective July 1, 2019. (See 2018 Cal. Statutes, Chapter 668.) Water Code section 1110 created the Administrative Hearings Office (AHO) as a “neutral, fair, and efficient forum for adjudications.” The AHO is overseen by a presiding hearing officer appointed by the State Water Board. 

Water Code section 1112, subdivision (a), provides that the AHO shall preside over most hearings involving administrative civil liability complaints and proposed cease-and-desist orders in water-right matters and proposed revocations of water-right permits and licenses. In addition, subdivision (c) provides that the State Board may assign other adjudicative hearings to the AHO, may ask the AHO to assist to Board or a Board member in conducting hearings, and may request the AHO to perform other work, including non-adjudicative matters, mediations, and overseeing investigations.

Water Code section 1114 provides that, normally within 90 days after the matters are submitted, AHO hearing officers shall adopt final orders in some types of water-right proceedings involving administrative civil liability, and shall prepare proposed orders for consideration by the Board in all other proceedings.

State Water Board Organization Chart
Recording of AHO Presentation to State Water Board during October 7, 2020 meeting
AHO slides presented during October 7, 2020 meeting
Recording of AHO Presentation to State Water Board during August 2, 2022 meeting
AHO slides presented during August 2, 2022 meeting

Nicole Kuenzi, Presiding Hearing Officer

Nicole Kuenzi, Hearing Officer

Nicole Kuenzi was appointed by the State Water Board as the Presiding Hearing Officer for the Administrative Hearings Office (AHO) on February 1, 2023. Ms. Kuenzi served as a hearing officer for the AHO since 2020, and previously was senior staff counsel in the Board's Office of Chief Counsel where she advised the Board's Division of Water Rights and Groundwater Management Unit. Before joining the Board, Ms. Kuenzi worked for a private law firm in Colorado representing public agencies and private parties in water rights and land use matters, and clerked for a judge on the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Kuenzi earned a Bachelor of Arts degree summa cum laude from Tulane University and a Juris Doctorate degree from Yale Law School.

Alan Lilly, Senior Hearing Officer

Alan Lilly, Presiding Hearing Officer

Alan Lilly was appointed by the Board as the first Presiding Hearing Officer of the Board's Administrative Hearings Office. Mr. Lilly served in that role from 2019 until 2023, when he stepped into a part-time role as a Senior Hearing Officer.

Mr. Lilly has a unique combination of legal and scientific expertise and experience. For most of his career, Mr. Lilly worked for private law firms, representing public agencies and private parties in various matters before the courts and the State Board, and in contract negotiations and related proceedings. These matters involved applications of water-rights law, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the federal and California Endangered Species Acts to surface water, groundwater, water service, water quality and environmental issues. Mr. Lilly also worked as a law clerk for a United States District Court Judge in Colorado and as a Deputy Attorney General in California.

Mr. Lilly earned a Bachelor's degree in physics and biology from UC Santa Cruz and a Master's degree in physics and a Juris Doctorate degree from UC Berkeley.

Megan Knize, Hearing Officer

Megan Knize, Hearing Officer

Megan Knize has worked for private firms representing individuals and public agencies in complex litigation matters. She also served as court counsel for the Supreme Court of the Republic of Palau, an island-nation in the north Pacific Ocean. She began her career clerking for trial court judges in state and federal courts in Southern California. Ms. Knize has a Bachelor’s degree in American Studies with honors from Stanford University and a Juris Doctorate degree from UC Davis School of Law.