John W. Keys III; Oversaw Federal Water Projects

Sunday, June 8, 2008

John W. Keys III, 66, a former commissioner of the Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation, died May 30 in a plane crash over Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The pilot also died in the crash. Mr. Keys was a resident of Moab, Utah.

President Bush appointed Mr. Keys as the bureau's 16th commissioner in 2001. Earlier, he had served more than three decades with the agency, which manages dams, power plants, canals and other water projects in 17 western states.

Mr. Keys was born in Sheffield, Ala., and received a bachelor's degree in 1964 from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master's degree in 1971 from Brigham Young University, both in civil engineering.

From 1964 to 1979, he worked for the Bureau of Reclamation as a hydraulic engineer throughout the western United States on issues involving the Great Basin, the Missouri River basin, the Colorado River basin and the Columbia River basin. He retired from federal service in 1998, after serving for 12 years as the bureau's Pacific Northwest regional director.

He was an Arlington resident during his tenure as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, and he retired in 2006.

A commercial pilot, Mr. Keys flew his Cessna 182 for Angel Flight, Air LifeLine and County Search and Rescue, based in Moab. He also was a college and high school football referee.

Survivors include his wife of 45 years, Dr. Dell Keys of Moab; two children, Katherine Crawford of Montrose, Colo., and Robin Fisher of Boise, Idaho; his mother, Alma Keys of Muscle Shoals, Ala.; and three grandchildren.

-- Joe Holley

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