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Environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan discusses the challenges of protecting Puget Sound and all things water-related.
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Posts Tagged ‘Puget Sound Partnership’

‘Pulse of Puget Sound’ series halfway done

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Sunday marked the halfway point in my ongoing series “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound,” which examines the health of our waterway and asks the question, “With all the money being spent on restoration, are we making any progress?”

food web

For me, the series so far has been an adventure and a learning experience, thanks to abundant help from the many great scientists and smart policy makers we have in this region.

The first half of the project has focused largely on species, including humans; herring and organisms at the base of the food web; salmon and marine fish; marine mammals; and Sunday’s piece on birds (subscription).

Still to come are stories about marine water quality, freshwater quality, upland habitat, water quantity and the future.

As a reporter, I regret that everyone can’t read all these stories immediately without a subscription to the Kitsap Sun, but I have to trust that these kinds of business decisions will allow me to keep doing my work. Still, many of the stories, photos and graphics in this series are available now with or without subscription, starting with the lead page, “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound,” and moving through the series:

Some of the larger points from the latest seabird story:

  • Puget Sound has about 70 common species of marine birds. Many populations are in decline but some appear to be stable and a few are increasing.
  • The winter population is about four times as large as the summer population, reaching a peak of roughly half a million birds.
  • Because birds can fly from one place to another, their choices of location can tell us something about the health of one place compared to another in Puget Sound.
  • If the population of a wintering bird species is in decline, you need to know something about its migration route and nesting area before you can conclude that conditions in Puget Sound are to blame.
  • The marbled murrelet, a “threatened” species, is an odd bird, first identified by early explorers in the late 1700s but whose nesting habits weren’t discovered until 1974.
  • Researchers are trying to learn why two similar birds — tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets — are faring differently in Puget Sound. Steep declines are seen for tufted puffins, which may be headed for an endangered species listing, while rhinoceros auklets are on the increase. Their varying behaviors are at the center of discussion.
  • Ecosystem indicators for birds, as chosen by the Puget Sound Partnership, are more involved than most other indicators. They focus on the densities of four bird species and also consider food supply and reproductive success.

Take special care to save carwashes from extinction

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

I used to feel happy for teenagers who got together on a weekend to wash cars and raise money for a good cause. I would often take time to drive in, get my car washed and praise the teens for their efforts. And I would give them a nice tip.

Now, when I see a charity carwash, I just want to know where the water is going. If the water is washing into a storm drain that spills into a stream, I can’t help but wonder if these kids care about fish and wildlife, or if they might not have gotten the message about the harm caused by dirty, soapy water.

You may wish to read the story I wrote on this topic in last Saturday’s Kitsap Sun.

Sometimes, being an environmental reporter causes one to think a little too much about the environment. Sure, carwashes probably are not going to kill everything in sight. But they are just another insult from a human society that has not yet learned how to protect the living Earth.

The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 declared that it was illegal to discharge polluted water into any natural stream or waterway. At the time, industrial discharges were so severe that soap and heavy metals from carwashes were insignificant. But now, after 40 years, those industrial point sources are greatly diminished, and researchers are learning that the greatest threat to water quality today comes from thousands of small sources.

Gov. Jay Inslee has declared this month “Puget Sound Starts Here Month,” according to a press release issued by the Puget Sound Partnership. The idea is for each of us to pay attention to how we affect Puget Sound.

Here’s the message from Marc Daily, the partnership’s interim executive director:

“It’s not just about the pipe coming out of the factory anymore. Today, stormwater runoff is the single largest contributor to our water quality problems. That pollution comes from our cars and how we wash them, from the chemicals we put on our lawns, and from not picking up after our pets. When it rains, bacteria and toxic chemicals from these and other sources end up in our local waterways. That’s a problem.”

From King County Water and Land Resources

From King County Water and Land Resources

One way to keep charity car washes alive is to capture the wash water and direct it into a toilet or sink that connects to a municipal sewer system, not a septic system. King County provides instructions for making and using a carwash kit to handle the water.

People can also sell tickets to commercial carwashes, which is the method being pushed by most water-quality programs across the nation. It’s not just here that carwashes are getting increasing attention.

How much harm do they cause? It varies from place to place, but some students from Central Kitsap High School calculated the amount of various chemicals produced by capturing the water from washing cars and conducting lab tests on some of the pollutants. See “Characterization of Runoff from Charity Carwashes in the Dyes Inlet Watershed” (PDF 475 kb).

Like many people, I feel a tinge of sadness that carwashes will probably die out. Like many harmful traditions, such as burning garbage and smoking, it might be time to give this one up.

Still, if you want to operate a weekend car wash, get yourself a carwash kit to deal with the wash water. Then stand on the corner and wave signs promoting the fact that this is a clean and safe carwash that protects the environment. If I see you, I’ll even stop and donate to the cause.


Pulse of Puget Sound: starting at the bottom

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

I just completed the second part of a yearlong series I’m writing about the Puget Sound ecosystem and the 21 “vital signs” indicators chosen by the Puget Sound Partnership to measure the health of the sound.

This second part, published in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, consists of stories about the food web, including plankton and eelgrass; forage fish, including herring; and bulkheads, which are generally considered a threat to the nearshore ecosystem.

I was trying to cover the lower half of the food web, to build a foundation for the other parts to come.

Phyto

I talked to a lot of experts on these issues and ended up writing one of the largest story packages I’ve ever written. Still, I barely touched the surface of these topics. I guess I’ll have to return later to dig a little deeper.

Scientists often say, the more they know, the more they realize what little they know, or something like that. I’ve always tried to help people understand the complexities of environmental science, but there are no simple answers.

That’s why the Puget Sound Partnership is an important bridge between policymakers and scientists. We have enough tools to know what should be done to save Puget Sound, but how do we know what projects should come before others? What can we afford to do? And how do we measure success or failure? Those are the questions challenging the partnership at the moment.

Zoo

I would like to thank all the researchers willing to give their time to this project as well as Kitsap Sun staffers who helped crunch the numbers and produce the graphics for the story package, as well as the editors who offered ideas along the way.

The overall series is called “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound.”
The second part is pulled together on a webpage called “Food web’s base”
Stories in the second part are:
Environment’s health starts at the bottom
The foundation of all life in Puget Sound
Herring, other forage fish, at risk
Eelgrass is both food and shelter
Shoreline armoring threatens base of the food web

Sinclair Inlet last August was awash in colorful plankton. Photo by Christopher Krembs, Eyes Over Puget Sound

Sinclair Inlet last August was awash in colorful plankton. This photo was taken over Port Orchard, looking toward Gorst.
Photo by Christopher Krembs, Eyes Over Puget Sound


Puget Partnership sees another leadership change

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

I have to admit that I was surprised when Tony Wright, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, announced last week that he would soon be leaving to return to private consulting. But I suppose I have only myself to blame.

I went back and looked at former Gov. Chris Gregoire’s announcement (PDF 127 kb) of Tony’s appointment back in July. She clearly stated: “I thank Normandeau Associates for graciously loaning Tony, and appreciate Tony’s willingness to serve in this role.”

I don’t know why, but I never asked how long he was committed to staying, and nobody else brought up the issue.

I became distracted by more than a few people who talked about Tony’s prospects for staying in the post regardless of the governor’s election. He was seen as a person who could fit into a Republican administration if Rob McKenna were elected, and Jay Inslee had no immediate plans to shake up the agency. (Kitsap Sun, Nov. 15, 2012)

Behind the scenes, Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the partnership’s Leadership Council, was pushing for Tony to stay on, as she confirmed to me last week as I prepared to write the story about Tony Wright’s departure. (Kitsap Sun, Jan. 18, 2013)

Neither Wright nor the governor emphasized the short-term nature of the job “which would make me a lame duck the day I started,” Tony explained to me.

So we now come to the understanding that another director of the partnership must be hired. Martha says the new hire must possess many of the qualities that Tony Wright brought to the job. Here’s how she put it:

“Tony was the right guy at the right time. He got people’s attention, and in some ways he articulates how to get the work done. Tony can talk to anyone, from the oil industry to the environmental community. The next leader has to have that same kind of fluency.”

The first director of the partnership, David Dicks, put the fledgling agency on the map. He reached out to communities across the state and got everyone involved. He worked with the Legislature. But he was not as focused on the inner workings of the partnership, and some mandated deadlines were missed. Some financial accounting mistakes were made.

The second director, Gerry O’Keefe, focused intently on getting the staff up to speed on the work products demanded of the agency, and they were numerous — from ecosystem indicators to a Science Update to a new Action Agenda.

Tony helped complete work on the Action Agenda and reorganized the staff while reaching outside the agency to plan a strategy for getting the work done at the federal, state and local levels. The agency’s organizational chart (PDF 680 kb) shows clearer lines of authority, with much of the staff focused on implementing the various plans.

Still, the partnership has not fully developed the administrative structure envisioned by the Legislature, according to a new report by staff of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee. What is needed is a clear understanding of what a healthy Puget Sound would look like, along with measurable goals to achieve that condition and an accounting of how various actions can contribute to those goals. See today’s Kitsap Sun or review the draft JLARC report for yourself.

The Legislative mandate sounds simple enough, but the job becomes exceedingly complex as one delves into it. First, there’s the question of what a health Puget Sound would look like.

Joe Gaydos of the SeaDoc Society, who chaired the Puget Sound Science Panel last year, once compared a healthy ecosystem to a healthy person. Do you want the person to be healthy enough to walk around and hopefully avoid a heart attack, or do you want him to be prepared to run a marathon?

The Puget Sound ecosystem will never be as vigorous and dynamic as it was in its “youth” before development, and perhaps avoiding collapse is the first step on the way to a healthy ecosystem. This issue deserves a wider discussion among the people who live here. What are our “alternative futures” for Puget Sound? Can we discuss what it will take to change the present course to varying degrees?

We also need a greater understanding about the connections between land and water at various depths, the behavioral relationships among species, the energy pathways in the food web and much more. Scientists are beginning to come to grips with these issues, but the science must make its way into policy decisions and become accessible to you and me.

The “links” between actions and progress toward a healthy ecosystem could be better understood, and researchers need to measure the success of restoration projects so that funding agencies can replicate what is working.

Puget Sound Partnership is making progress. If the legislative mandate does not recognize the complexity of the task, maybe it is time to refine our expectations written into law. Maybe it is time to have a broad discussion about what the partnership has accomplished and what is yet to be done.

It is equally important to remember, however, that the partnership is a coordinating agency. The work itself gets done by numerous government agencies and by many other groups — including what people do in their own backyards.


What’s to happen with funding for Puget Sound?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Finding money for Puget Sound restoration is likely to become more difficult next year as legislative power shifts to Republicans in the state Senate and the Legislature wrestles with funding for education.

The power shift follows the defection of two Democratic senators to effectively create a Republican majority in the Senate. See reporter Mike Baker’s story for the Associated Press.

The upcoming budget debate will no doubt revolve around new funding for education. The State Supreme Court has ruled that the Legislature must find more money to fund basic educational needs, as required by the Washington State Constitution. Gov. Chris Gregoire has been talking about proposing a new dedicated tax, but now opponents of tax increases will have a stronger position.

Gov.-elect Jay Inslee ran on a no-new-taxes pledge, so it is likely that all state programs will go back on the chopping block, and nobody can predict what will come out of the turmoil.

Inslee told me a month ago that he could not predict whether Puget Sound programs would get more or less money, but he considered the state’s “paramount duty” to be education. Please review the Kitsap Sun story on Nov. 15.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gregoire told Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber that her greatest disappointment was not getting more done to restore Puget Sound:

“Because that’s forever. That’s a big forever issue for this state. What I think happened… is we were on our way, and then we just got taken to our knees by the recession. While I kept funding it through other means, it didn’t get the focus I think it needs and deserves because I was so consumed by the recession.”

The governor told me during an interview last month that she still hopes the Legislature can find more money for Puget Sound — including a stable funding source — once the state gets to a stronger financial footing:

“We kept putting money in… I kept pushing for ongoing funding, and we will have to continue to do that for awhile.

“When the recession hit, I have to say that everybody’s attention got drawn away. People wondered, ‘Can I put food on the table? Am I going to lose my job?’ It was so all-consuming that I couldn’t focus on the sound.

“There was a lot of talk about a flush tax. We have never really done the research on it. The last couple of years was no time to be thinking about that. We have demands for education and transportation. But at some point we will have to find the ability to (pay for) more capital projects.

“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. We have to kick it up. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.”

Gov. Gregoire also acknowledged to me that federal funding for Puget Sound could become more difficult with the retirement of U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, who has been a powerful advocate for Puget Sound. On the other hand, she has hope that Norm’s effort through the years and the establishment of the Puget Sound Partnership with provide ongoing credibility for the program. She also believes that Norm’s replacement, Democrat Derek Kilmer, will be a strong advocate for Puget Sound, along with the state’s two U.S. senators.

Other comments from my interview with the governor were used in the first story in what will be an ongoing series about the Puget Sound Partnership’s ecosystem indicators. See Kitsap Sun, Nov. 24.

Speaking of money for Puget Sound, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board has approved $19.2 million statewide for salmon projects next year. I focused my story in yesterday’s Kitsap Sun on estuary projects in Hood Canal, but the full list of projects (PDF 279 kb) can be downloaded from the website of the Recreation and Conservation Office.

It might be interesting to review the history of these grants, year by year. The following are the annual allocations with links to more details:

2013: $19.2 million. News release, Dec. 10, 2012

2012: $30 million. News release, Dec. 12, 2011

2011: $19.8 million. News release, Dec. 20, 2010

2010: $42.8 million. News release, Dec. 15, 2009

2009: $19.8 million. News release, Dec. 12, 2008

2008: $60 million. News release (PDF 360 kb), Dec. 19, 2007

2007: $16.6 million. News release (PDF 262 kb), Dec. 8, 2006

2006: $26.6 million. News release (PDF 262 kb), Jan. 11, 2006

2005: $26.7 million. News release (PDF 188 kb), Dec. 9, 2004 (Gov. Gary Locke)


Incoming and outgoing governors view Puget Sound

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Gov. Chris Gregoire and her replacement, Jay Inslee, still have great hopes for the future health of Puget Sound, as I learned when I interviewed them separately in recent days.

I reserved some of the governor’s comments for a story that appeared in today’s Kitsap Sun titled “Human values count in Puget Sound recovery.”

Jim Barnes of Olympia partakes of an abundance of oysters at Twanoh State Park, which meets outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire’s call for beaches that are “swimmable, diggable and fishable.” / Kitsap Sun photo by Meegan M. Reid

This is the first of an undetermined number of stories I’ll be writing over the next year or so dealing with ecosystem indicators. Indicators are selected measures to help us understand the pace of progress in restoring Puget Sound. I hope the upcoming stories will reveal something about the functioning of the ecosystem and how the various pieces fit together.

The first story today addresses human health and quality of life, which have always been a central focus of Chris Gregoire’s effort to make sure Puget Sound is “swimmable, diggable and fishable” for future generations.

“Things have not moved as quickly as I had hoped,” the governor told me, referring to efforts by the Puget Sound Partnership. “I thought we got off with a bang, including public engagement. Now, we are into the tough stuff.”

She recalled how, years ago, cleanup efforts focused on reducing industrial discharges. That includes the period from 1988 to 1992, when she served as director of the Washington Department of Ecology. Now most of the serious pollutants reach Puget Sound through stormwater runoff. The current effort is to reduce the volume of water flowing across the ground while eliminating a huge variety of pollutants at their source.

If you read the comments at the end of news stories regarding the Puget Sound Partnership, you could come to believe that the agency has a long way to go in convincing the average person that he or she is part of the problem. But many of the comments are made by cranky people who seem unlikely to be convinced of anything.

In general, most people really care about Puget Sound and simply need help in taking the right steps, according to surveys. In my story today, the partnership’s Dave Ward talks about an indicator that could help measure changes in human behavior.

As for Gov.-elect Jay Inslee, it is hard to tell how things will change under his leadership. He reminded me in our interview that he faces severe budget difficulties — and money certainly is a major factor in Puget Sound recovery. See my story in the Nov. 15 Kitsap Sun.

To the dismay of some opponents, Inslee has always been a strong advocate for the environment. That is not likely to change. He has been a leader on climate change and clean energy, and he has a deep-rooted passion for Puget Sound and the surrounding forests. I learned a good deal about his views a decade ago during an extended interview, which involved a hike through a roadless area in Olympic National Forest. See the Kitsap Sun story from May 19, 2002.

Gov. Chris Gregoire tours an oyster nursery near Shelton in October 2010.
Kitsap Sun file photo by Larry Steagall

While the governor-elect has no immediate plans to change the structure of the Puget Sound Partnership, he stressed that he wants to ensure that restoration projects are guided by science.

Gregoire said during our recent discussion that she would advise the incoming governor to keep up the pressure on the partnership, and she hoped that more funding will become available as the economy recovers.

In October 2010, if you recall, Gregoire emphasized the importance of maintaining Puget Sound programs, despite the financial crisis.

“We are in the hardest economic problem since the deep depression, but we cannot take a recess; we cannot take time out,” she said at that time during a tour of Belfair’s new sewage-treatment plant. See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 15.

In our recent discussion, the governor said she was not able to find as much money for Puget Sound as she had hoped. Here’s how she put it:

“We kept putting money in. We couldn’t let up. I kept pushing for ongoing funding, and we will have to continue to do that for awhile.

“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not the improvement we should have. The population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are kind of treading water right now.”

She said things are unlikely to get easier right away, because the state is still struggling with its budget. Furthermore, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a successful advocate for federal funding, is leaving office. Dicks was instrumental in putting Puget Sound on a national stage, on par with Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, Gregoire said. She expressed hope that the increased profile for Puget Sound will endure with the help of others in the state’s congressional delegation.

As Washington’s economy recovers, Chris Gregoire would like to see talks turn to a stable funding source, such as a “flush tax” on residents in the Puget Sound region. Another idea debated in the Legislature was a tax on oil and chemical products that could be used for stormwater improvements. Gregoire continues:

“There’s been a lot of talk about a flush tax. We have never really done the research on that. The last couple of years was no time to be thinking about that. We have demands on education and transportation. But we need a sustained reliable source of funding.

“And we need public support. Unless and until we get everyone engaged, we are not going to make it…. I think we are well on our way. Local communities are doing a lot of volunteer work. School groups are monitoring the environment….

“When the recession hit, I have to say, everybody’s attention got drawn away by other concerns: ‘Can I put food on the table? Am I going to lose my job?’

“Now we’ve got to find a better way. We have to have a bottoms-up approach. People must consider themselves part of the solution.”


Gov. prepares to ‘pass the baton’ on Puget Sound

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Nobody doubts the passion that Gov. Chris Gregoire holds for Puget Sound or that she was instrumental in setting up the Puget Sound Partnership, which has charted a course for restoration.

But how will the work to protect Puget Sound proceed under a new governor?


Gov. Chris Gregoire (right) praises a new environmental mitigation program during a tour of Hood Canal aboard the Coast Guard cutter Sea Devil. Looking on are Martha Kongsgaard (left), chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council, and Gail Terzi, mitigation program manager with Seattle District Army Corps of Engineers.
Kitsap Sun photo by Christopher Dunagan

It’s an issue that has not been discussed much in the ongoing governor’s race. (I need to question the candidates on this issue.) But I had a chance yesterday to chat with the governor over coffee (she had tea) in the galley of the Coast Guard cutter Sea Devil on the way to Dabob Bay.

“I created it, so the next governor can uncreate it,” Gregoire told me simply, a comment I reported in today’s Kitsap Sun.

Still, she said, the partnership fills a need in coordinating the work of many government agencies, businesses and private groups. The effort has increased awareness and provided accountability needed to bring restoration dollars to the region. She seemed to be saying that whatever management structure is used, coordination will remain essential to the effort.

Gregoire filled me in on a story I had never heard before, one she later repeated for the 15 or so visitors on the boat ride across Hood Canal. It was about how the Puget Sound Partnership grew from a spark of an idea that erupted over a lunch with U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks.

“We were excited and got quite loud, as you can imagine with Norm Dicks,” she said. “It was quite a shouting match, and everyone in the restaurant was watching us.”

After that lunch, Gregoire called on Bill Ruckelshaus, former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to head a study commission leading up to formation of the Puget Sound Partnership, as I reported in today’s story.

Both Gregoire and Dicks will leave office at the end of the year, and the governor says she is ready to pass the baton to others.

The reason for yesterday’s boat ride was to celebrate a new in-lieu-fee mitigation program for Hood Canal, which could be a model for other parts of Puget Sound and, as some suggested yesterday, for the entire nation.

The idea is that developers would pay a flat fee rather than construct a mitigation project on their own. Money could be pooled, if necessary, to promote significant long-term ecological protections.

The Navy is expected to jump-start the effort with several million dollars for mitigation of damage from its proposed $715-million explosives handling wharf to service submarines at Bangor on Hood Canal.

Rather than rehash all the work that has gone into fashioning this rare mitigation program, I’ll refer you to my stories and other sources. One thing to note is that the mitigation plan — outlined in a document called an “instrument” — includes a complex accounting system to keep track of the money as well as ecological debits and credits. It’s all geared to ensure that the environmental damage from development is fully compensated in ecological functions.

Here are some links for further reading:

May 9, 2011: Hood Canal council could get millions from Navy for mitigation projects

Sept. 1, 2011: Mitigation program could work for counties

May 10, 2012: Navy selects builders for second explosives handling wharf

May 18, 2012: Second explosives handling wharf gets final approval

June 1, 2012: Hood Canal council OKs program to handle federal restoration money

July 6, 2012: New mitigation program approved for Hood Canal

July 18, 2012: Governor praises Hood Canal mitigation program

Documents related to the in-lieu-fee program can be found on the website of the Hood Canal Coordinating Council.

A story related to mitigation at the proposed Bangor wharf involves compensation to area tribes for the loss of certain treaty-protected fish and shellfish resources. The story, “Navy to pay $9 million to tribes in mitigation for wharf project,” has generated considerable reader comments (134), mainly about tribal rights.


Governor switches head of Puget Sound Partnership

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

I was reading my email Friday when a press release from the governor landed in my in-box.

It began, “Gov. Chris Gregoire today appointed retired Army Corps of Engineers Col. Anthony Wright to lead the Puget Sound Partnership.”

That’s strange, I thought. What happened to Gerry O’Keefe, who had served in the ranks of the partnership before being named interim director and then permanent director just 16 months ago.

What could O’Keefe have done to get fired so suddenly? There was no mention of O’Keefe until the last paragraph of the press release, where the governor stated:

“I thank Gerry O’Keefe for his work over the past year to lead this agency. He has thrown his heart and soul into the work of the partnership, and I wish him well.”

Before I wrote my story, I interviewed numerous people. As far as I could tell, O’Keefe’s departure came as a complete surprise to nearly all the staff at the partnership, to members of the Ecosystem Coordination Board and to others close to the agency.

The press release still leaves me wondering a bit, but I can thank Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council, for speaking candidly to me about what happened. To summarize, Martha said the governor wanted a higher profile person in the post, someone who could have an impact with the Legislature; converse with federal, state and local entities; and connect with the public. Clearly, the governor would like the Puget Sound Partnership (“her baby,” Martha said) to survive and hopefully to thrive as a new governor comes on next year.

You can read Martha’s comments to me in the story I wrote for yesterday’s Kitsap Sun. Martha also prepared a written message for the Puget Sound Partnership’s website, recognizing O’Keefe’s contributions in more detail than the governor.

I could not reach O’Keefe Friday, so I can’t report how he’s taking the news, but Martha and others have told me that he is likely to take a job with the Washington Department of Ecology. No doubt the position will be less stressful.

As for Wright, everyone I have interviewed is impressed with his success as district engineer and commander for the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers. “I like him,” is a direct quote from several people.

I have never been formally introduced to Col. Wright, but I do recall his testimony before the Puget Sound Leadership Council about a year ago, when he told council members they need to get some “courage” in dealing with land-use issues, such as development along the shoreline. Of course, he realized that much shoreline development falls under the purview of cities and counties, but it is the job of the Puget Sound Partnership to push local governments to do the right thing for Puget Sound.

When I reached Tony Friday, he began with a few straight-laced comments, such as, “I am glad to join the team” and “Puget Sound has lots of big challenges.”

But when I reminded him of some of his more outspoken comments, he became a quotable figure, perhaps foreshadowing how he will communicate about Puget Sound — something many people agree needs to be brought to a new level. From my story:

“I’ve been told that I’m outspoken. It is time for some plain talk, because the sound has serious problems. Some people don’t think it does. Some people want to rearrange the deck chairs. That’s not my style…

“Some things are really challenging. Sometimes you have to embrace the porcupine.”

He also told me that, as an Army officer, he has tried to be apolitical, which could help him work across party lines on restoring Puget Sound and managing the partnership.

“I think the organization is important and has a really key role…,” he told me. “It will be a lot of fun.”

I’m glad he is bringing that kind of attitude to the Puget Sound Partnership. I’m looking forward to reporting on how Col. Anthony Wright leads the way.


Puget Sound Science Panel completes two-year plan

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I wonder if anyone has noticed that I’ve been away from this Water Ways blog for a time. Aside from visiting my youngest daughter in Yakima, where she had her first baby, I’ve been occupied with breaking news for the Kitsap Sun.

There is no shortage of things to talk about, however, and I’d like to start with the recently approved two-year Science Work Plan for the Puget Sound Partnership.

Joe Gaydos

In developing a plan to investigate science-related questions, the Partnership’s Science Panel set out to identify weaknesses in our overall understanding of the Puget Sound ecosystem. The panel chose to be strategic about filling the gaps in our knowledge.

“We want to know everything, of course,” chairman Joe Gaydos told me. “But just because there’s a gap in our knowledge does not mean we should go out and do a study.

“The real question is, where does the lack of science hinder our ability to make decisions? We’re not just doing science for science’s sake but to help us make better decisions.”

(more…)


Experts make progress on state shellfish initiative

Saturday, April 21st, 2012

Work on the Washington State Shellfish Initiative is shifting into high gear, as I learned yesterday during a meeting of the Shellfish Initiative Advisory Group.

The initiative is being directed by a “core group,” made up of representatives from seven state and federal agencies. Advice is coming from a much larger advisory group in quarterly meeings like the first one yesterday. See “Purpose Statement” (PDF 44 kb) for details.

Manchester Research Station
NOAA photo

During the meeting, the group reviewed progress on a work plan that includes more than 30 different tasks, each assigned to a small working group. I made notes on many of the projects, which I’ll share with you in future news stories or blog entries.

I did focus on one Kitsap County project with relevance for the entire Puget Sound region: a new oyster hatchery at Manchester Research Station to produce baby Olympia oysters. It will be part of an ongoing effort to restore the native Olympias. See the story I wrote for today’s Kitsap Sun.

One anonymous person commented at the bottom of the story: “Hey, an organization that actually accomplishes something! Keep up the good work and don’t get bogged down in doing studies and producing reports that no one will read or respond to.”

I understand why people are sometimes frustrated by the planning that seems to go on and on. But without planning, I’m not sure who would grap the limited money. Without planning, the projects would have no focus and the work would be done haphazardly.

(more…)


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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."Baba Dioum, Senegalese conservationist

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