‘State of the Sound’ handed over to the governor

There were no speeches, no press releases, no party, no fanfare when the Puget Sound Partnership approved the latest “State of the Sound” report last week. Check out the story I wrote for last Saturday’s Kitsap Sun.

“The fanfare starts now,” Alicia Lawver, the partnership’s public affairs officer, told me late yesterday afternoon after the “State of the Sound” was delivered to the governor by the Nov. 1 deadline. Read the “State of the Sound” on the Puget Sound Partnership’s website.

The partnership’s press release outlines the latest report and quotes Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the governing Leadership Council, somewhat along the lines of my story:

“The impacts of the last 100 years have taken their toll – they are not undone overnight. However, our regional efforts have reversed the decline that would likely have continued without our concerted and deliberate intervention.”

As the report neared completion last week, the Leadership Council found itself in a bit of a rush, trying to clarify issues without missing the deadline. Still, the latest version of the “State of the Sound” shows a new level of sophistication in understanding what it will take to restore Puget Sound to a healthy condition.

After some early struggles to get off the ground over the past five years, the partnership is showing new signs of maturity. Staffers at all levels seem to better understand their roles, and a new organizational structure divides “operations,” including performance management, from “implementation.”

One of the identified problems is the difficulty of identifying all the money being spent on restoration by local, state and federal agencies. After all, the partnership does not actually spend much money, though the agency is supposed to account for all the spending and assess “whether the use of funds is consistent with the action agenda,” as spelled out in state law.

This is something that Tony Wright, the new executive director, will attempt to remedy in the coming months. Tony told me that he also will push for a solid number or perhaps a range that approximates the full cost of ecosystem restoration, though any estimate will remain a moving target as more is learned about how the ecosystem functions.

The partnership also needs to figure out a way to explain the numbers better. For example, the cost of reducing stormwater impacts from existing development has been estimated to be more than $3 billion. This number is not accounted for in the costs of implementation, even though stormwater is one of the partnership’s three “strategic initiatives.” The others are protection and restoration of habitat and recovery of shellfish beds.

Another issue that came up during the last Leadership Council meeting is the need for scientific data to assess the level of success for individual restoration projects and for changes in the overall ecosystem. The intent has been expressed, but the money has not been available for adequate biological accounting, better known as monitoring.

The following are selected comments from the Science Panel in the chapter of the State of the Sound dealing with performance management (PDF 1.9 mb):

“Assessing recovery will require much more detailed information about individual recovery actions, longer monitoring records, and careful interpretation grounded in models that incorporate considerations of important ecosystem processes, spatial and temporal scales, and other factors.

“While the PSP has made progress in choosing ecosystem indicators, creating a ‘dashboard’ of indicators from the broader set of ecosystem indicators, setting targets and developing the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, the Washington Academy of Science’s external review of the PSP’s indicators should be used as a tool to improve the Partnership’s indicators, targets and overall monitoring.”

Among other things, the Washington State Academy of Sciences has suggested that the partnership clearly spell out how its ecosystem indicators support the function of a biological system known as Puget Sound. Check out the Academy’s Review of Indicators (PDF 4.0 mb).

2 thoughts on “‘State of the Sound’ handed over to the governor

  1. “The impacts of the last 100 years have taken their toll – they are not undone overnight,” said Martha Kongsgaard, Chair of the Partnership’s Leadership Council. “However, our regional efforts have reversed the decline that would likely have continued without our concerted and deliberate intervention.”

    Martha Kongsgaard is right.

    “We must redouble our efforts to fund this critical work,” says Wright. “The cost seems significant when contrasted with competing needs in our state, but pales in comparison to the benefits we derive from Puget Sound, and that cost we pass on to our children if we wait.”

    Tony Wright is right.

    Ignorance and short term interests are the root cause of the problems developed over the past 100 years and remain an obstacle to redoubling our efforts to fund this critical work. Our ignorance is immense, our short term interests enduring. Hopefully these obstacles will be overcome.

  2. I’d just like to kayak on Dyes inlet without the odor of sewage wafting (and the crud that seems to be drifting) from so many of the homes and the water near the homes. I’d like to see living sea creatures on the Port Orchard waterfront again, for the first time in what? 20 years? I’d like to see the hilarious “Green” sign removed from the water district site on Beach Drive with the signs across the street warning how dangerously polluted the water is.

    I’m glad to read that the partnership is gathering information and attaining maturity to deal with these issues. I support you!

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