Tag Archives: Bill Ruckelshaus

Bill Ruckelshaus ‘retires’ from PS Partnership

When I returned to work today after two weeks of vacation, I learned that Bill Ruckelshaus was “retiring” as chairman of the Leadership Council — the governing board for the Puget Sound Partnership.

It has always seemed to me that Ruckelshaus was the steady hand on the wheel as the Puget Sound Partnership moved through stormy seas. Certainly, Ruckelshaus deserves to retire after a long career of public service and business enterprise.

But wait. Bill does not retire the way you or I might. In a conversation this afternoon, I learned that he is preparing to lend a hand to the Puget Sound Foundation — the educational and private-fund-raising arm of the Puget Sound Partnership.

Oh, I said to him, with government funding drying up, you think you can go out and find private money to save Puget Sound?

He laughed. “It might be awkward to raise money as the chairman of a state agency,” he noted. The first step, he said, is to establish goals for how donations might be spent. Private donors generally want firm guidelines, he said.
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President Obama raises ocean issues to a high priority

President Obama is being praised for his decision to pull together all the ocean-related challenges this nation faces and for plotting a unified course of action.

On Friday, the president issued a memorandum calling for a task force to develop a national ocean policy along with a “framework” for action and a set of objectives. See the Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, along with a news story by reporter Doug Palmer of Reuters.

I was tempted to state cynically that actions speak louder than words, so we should curb our enthusiasm about what can be done to save the oceans. But then I talked to Bill Ruckelshaus, who co-chairs the Joint Ocean Commission, a national group dedicated to this topic.

Ruckelshaus seems to be thrilled with this latest development, following years of failed promises from the Bush administration.

“This is quite a significant event, really,” Bill told me. “It moves the oceans up on the presidential agenda, which means they will get more attention from Congress and from agencies in the administration. Presidencies are all about setting agendas, and this means more attention will be paid to the recommendations we made.”

I’ll tell you a little more about what my conversation with Mr. Ruckelshaus, but first I’ll review the history.

Five years ago, similar praise was accorded to President Bush after the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy — a presidentially appointed body — released it’s comprehensive examination of the major problems facing the oceans. The report included a list of potential solutions.

Adm. James D. Watkins, a retired Navy officer who chaired the commission, expressed enthusiasm for the reception he felt the report was getting from the Bush administration.

“President Bush’s response to the Commission’s Report and his signing of Executive Order establishing a Secretarial-level Committee on Ocean Policy … sets into motion the important process of developing and implementing a new national ocean policy,” Watkins declared.

Despite the positive reaction, I don’t believe a whole lot came about. (Review the last three “report cards.”) A separate report written by the Pew Oceans Commission received even less attention.

After the two commissions dissolved, some members — including Ruckelshaus — moved into a new organization called the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, a nongovernmental group that maintained pressure for action through annual “report cards” relating the progress, or lack thereof, on ocean issues.

In April of this year, the joint commission issued an urgent new report called “Changing Oceans, Changing World: Ocean Priorities for the Obama Administration and Congress” (PDF 280 kb). I outlined that report in a Water Ways entry on April 7.

And so now we come to today, five months into the new administration, which seems to be trying to do everything at once. Can there really be much energy left for a discussion about the oceans?

Bill Ruckelshaus is undaunted. “I think holding back and doing things one at a time just doesn’t work,” he said. “You have to act while the energy is there.”

Ruckelshaus, the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Nixon, now chairs the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership, where he is heading the effort to reverse the degradation of our inland waterways.

President Bush created the U.S. Commission on Oceans, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. But pulling all the environmental agencies together and getting Congress to focus on budgets, regulations and international treaties just never came to pass.

Why is Obama’s action different?

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Joint Ocean Commission issues ‘urgent’ recommendations

Bill Ruckelshaus and David Dicks, major figures in the Puget Sound Partnership, are in Washington, D.C., today with a delegation calling on top federal officials to take action on ocean issues.


Among others, they are meeting with Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ruckelshaus, a member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, told me four years ago that the oceans are so important that he would never give up working to invigorate the nation’s laid-back approach to ocean issues.

I heard a similar commitment from retired Navy Adm. James D. Watkins, who now heads the Joint Ocean Commission — a consolidation of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission.

Today, the Joint Ocean Commission released an “urgent set of recommendations” that includes 20 “priority actions needed for improving ocean and coastal policy and management, bolstering international leadership, strengthening ocean science and funding ocean and coastal policies and programs.”

The recommendations, to be sure, are not much different from separate reports issued by the two commissions in 2004.

Watkins stated in a press release (PDF 48 kb):

“Our continuing complacency in the face of rising threats to the health and economic viability of our oceans and coasts from climate change, pollution and intense coastal development is no longer tolerable. Unless we commit to advancing our understanding, management and conservation of oceans and coasts, I am afraid the result will be enduring, and perhaps irreversible, changes that will jeopardize their contributions to this and future generations.”

Ruckelshaus, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said in the press release:

“Our oceans and coasts together are one of the biggest drivers of the U.S. economy. Improvements in ocean policy are absolutely critical if we are to restore the economy anytime soon.”

The Joint Ocean Commission released a report today titled “Changing Oceans, Changing World: Ocean Priorities for the Obama Administration and Congress” (PDF 280 kb).

A summary of the 20 recommendations:

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Shoreline issue stirs emotions from opposite sides

Few issues separate people into two groups as much as shoreline management regulations.

We are guaranteed to have a lively debate in Kitsap County and in jurisdictions throughout the Puget Sound region beginning later this year and possibly continuing for the next three years. See my story on this issue in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

A preview of this debate was provided in the comments attached to that story. Here’s a condensed version:

None of this will matter when a KC employee can give a variance from the 100′ buffer down to 10’… and change the 20′ road rule down to 6′ from the road…both variances done for the same property.


If the county or state wants to tell us what we can and can’t do with our waterfront property, then why don’t they pay part of our property taxes which are already inflated.

yep…Government intrusion into our lives and property has already become suffocating. the next 4 years will be epidemic. it is so sad that the democrats have a stranglehold on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Too bad the shorelines here are largely private, rather than public, as in Oregon. Puget Sound could be lovely — instead it is a disappointing cesspool. In many places you can’t even see it for the homes and fences that block views, including the views of those who formerly could see it from their homes.

Let’s not kid ourselves. There is no such thing as private property and hasn’t been since at least 1971. The government, and especially the ‘Garridoites’ and their ilk that think it all belongs to them and their band of land grabbers.

Regulating shoreline uses is a hot topic because the property is at the pinnacle of value, both in terms of land costs and in terms of ecosystem processes. Many land owners think they can protect the environmental values of their property without governmental interference, and they get tired of the regulations getting more and more restrictive over time. On the other hand, the decline of the Puget Sound ecosystem has created an urgency to protect intact or even damaged shoreline ecosystems.

As David Dicks, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, said today on KUOW’s Weekday, the solution to cleaning up Puget Sound relies on some combination of regulations (cheaper for the government) and purchase/restoration (which costs the government more but can be more acceptable in some ways).

In that same broadcast, Bill Ruckelshaus, chairman of the Partnership’s Leadership Council, talked about how it can be easier during an economic downtown to purchase lands important to the ecosystem. But it’s also a time when government budgets for such thing are the tightest.

Ruckelshaus also spelled out his philosophy in a straightforward way:

“Ecosystems are not indivisible from human habitation and there are a lot of humans that live in Puget Sound, and there’s going to be a million and a half more by approximately 2020… We can’t treat the other living things as though they are separate from us humans.

“If we don’t act wisely and intelligently in the way we develop and the way we live, then these … other species we share this ecosystem with can’t survive. What we need to do is put into place systems and processes that allow us humans to prosper — that’s our charge under the statute — and at the same time allow the ecosystem itself to be healthy.”

The KUOW broadcast, by the way, includes some new information about using the federal economic stimulus money for environmental restoration — such as moving up removal of the Elwha dams to 2010. Under the current schedule, the federal money won’t be available until 2012. I’ll be covering this issue in more detail later.