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
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
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).