Tag Archives: Puget Sound Action Agenda

Leadership Council adopts ‘leaner’ Action Agenda for Puget Sound

Puget Sound Partnership continues to struggle in its efforts to pull everyone together in a unified cause of protecting and restoring Puget Sound.

This week, the Puget Sound Leadership Council, which oversees the partnership, adopted the latest Puget Sound Action Agenda, which spells out the overall strategies as well as the specific research, education and restoration projects to save Puget Sound.

Some 363 projects, known as near term actions, are included in the latest Puget Sound Action Agenda. They line up with three strategic priorities. PSP graphic
Some 363 projects, known as near-term actions, are included in the latest Puget Sound Action Agenda. They line up with three strategic priorities. // PSP graphic

The goal of restoring Puget Sound to health by 2020 — a date established by former Gov. Chris Gregoire — was never actually realistic, but nobody has ever wanted to change the date. The result has been an acknowledgement that restoration work will go on long after 2020, even though restoration targets remain in place for that date just four years away.

A letter to be signed by all members of the Leadership Council begins to acknowledge the need for a new date.

“As the scope and depth of our undertaking expands along with our understanding, federal and state funding is on the decline,” the letter states. “We’re increasingly forced into a position where we’re not only competing amongst ourselves for a pool of funding wholly insufficient to accomplish what needs doing, but we are also feeling the impacts of cuts to programs supporting other societal priorities as well. If we continue at our historic pace of recovery, which is significantly underfunded, we cannot expect to achieve our 2020 recovery targets.”

The cost for the near-term actions total nearly $250 million, with most going for habitat restoration. PSP graphic
The cost for the near-term actions in the Action Agenda total nearly $250 million, with most going for habitat restoration.
PSP graphic

This is not necessarily an appeal for money to support the Puget Sound Partnership, although funds for the program have been slipping. But the partnership has always been a coordinator of projects by local, state and federal agencies, nonprofit groups and research institutions — where the on-the-ground work is done. That much larger pot of money for Puget Sound efforts also is declining.

“These are threats that compel us to action, fueled by our devotion to place,” the letter continues. “We at the Puget Sound Partnership, along with our local, tribal and regional partners, have a vision of a resilient estuary that can help moderate the increasing pressures of a changing world.

“How we aim to accomplish our vision is found in this updated Action Agenda. For the next two years, this is the focused, measurable and scientifically grounded roadmap forming the core of the region’s work between now and 2020 and beyond.”

The newly approved Action Agenda is the outcome of a greater effort to reach out to local governments and organizations involved in the restoration of Puget Sound. Priorities for restoration projects were developed at the local level with an emphasis on meeting the priorities and strategies developed in previous Action Agendas.

Who will do the projects? Most are to be done by *local groups, including cities, counties, special purpose districts, local integrating organizations and lead entities. PSP graphic
Who will do the projects? Most are proposed by *local groups, including cities, counties, special purpose districts, local integrating organizations and lead entities. // PSP graphic

The latest document is divided into two sections to separate overall planning from the work involved parties would like to accomplish over the next two years. The two parts are called the “Comprehensive Plan” and the “Implementation Plan.”

As determined several years ago, upcoming efforts known as “near-term actions” are focused on three strategic initiatives:

  • Stormwater: Prevent pollution from urban stormwater runoff, which causes serious problems for marine life and humans.
  • Habitat: Protect and restore habitat needed for species to survive and thrive.
  • Shellfish: Protect and recover shellfish beds, including areas harvested by commercial growers and recreational users.

Actions are focused on 29 specific strategies and 109 substrategies that support these ideas. Projects, which may be viewed in a list at the front of the “Implementation Plan,” are aligned with the substrategies.

“This leaner, scientifically grounded strategic recovery plan is a call to action,” the letter from the Leadership Council states. “We know that our restoration efforts are failing to compensate for the thousands of cuts we continue to inflict on the landscape as our population grows and habitat gives way to more humans.

“We know that salmon, steelhead and orcas — the magnificent beings that in many ways define this corner of the world — are struggling to persist as we alter the land and waters to which they’re adapted,” the letter concludes. “And we know that warming temperatures and acidifying seawater are moving us toward a future that we don’t fully understand and are not entirely prepared for. Hard decisions are ahead, and we’re past the point where additional delay is acceptable.”

Pieces coming together for Kitsap Forest & Bay

Work is progressing rapidly around the edges of the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project — an effort to protect a 7,000-acre mosaic of lowland forest, shorelines and wetlands in North Kitsap.

Pope Resources lands for sale Click to enlarge

The ecological values of the undeveloped landscape is becoming known among government officials and the public. So far, nobody has jumped in with millions of dollars to buy the land for conservation. But, as the year comes to a close, there are plenty of reasons for optimism among supporters.

When I consider what it will take to make this project happen, I keep thinking of a jigsaw puzzle. I realize the puzzle metaphor is overworked, but let’s stay with it. A good way to begin picture puzzles is by first lining up all the edges and later filling in the middle. To me, that is what is happening with the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project.

First, Forterra — formerly Cascade Land Conservancy — has embraced the project, bringing to the table extensive experience in acquiring lands for conservation purposes. When an option to buy the land from Pope Resources was announced, Forterra president Gene Duvernoy stated, “This is probably the most important project we can accomplish to save Puget Sound.” See Kitsap Sun, Oct. 17.

Another major step came recently when the Puget Sound Partnership released a draft of its Puget Sound Action Agenda. The Action Agenda is designed to recognize the most important preservation and restoration actions that can be taken in the next two years. Although the actions have not yet been lined up in priority, the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project was called out as a high-priority action. Read the story with links in Kitsap Sun, Dec. 21.

Something similar happened in the first Action Agenda in 2008, when the Partnership called for the acquisition and restoration of lands in the Nisqually River delta. The value was so highly considered that some action areas agreed to delay their own projects to move Nisqually to fruition. Perhaps something like that will happen for the North Kitsap lands. Check out the video “The Nisqually Estuary Returns.”

KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn visited the North Kitsap property and produced a radio piece that outlines the value of the 7,000 acres and discusses the potential acquisition. She did a nice job, as you can see on Earthfix.

Michelle Connor, executive vice president of Forterra, said Ashley’s story will help spread the word about the project throughout the state and beyond.

“This is something that the Kitsap community has known for a long time,” Michelle told me. “Now other people are catching up with us. There is nothing comparable in the Puget Sound region.”

Further bolstering the project is an upcoming study that will examine the ecological values of the 7,000 acres, including nearly two miles of undeveloped shoreline.

A grant of $270,000 will be used to characterize ecosystem values across the landscape and determine which areas are best suited for preservation, forestry and possibly development. A portion of the grant will be used to decide whether revenues can be generated from timber harvest without upsetting the ecological integrity of the region.

The $270,000 study was part of some $6.3 million provided by the EPA’s National Estuary Program for 23 grants earmarked for protecting and restoring Puget Sound watersheds. See Kitsap Sun, Dec. 23.

Acquisition funding for the Kitsap Forest & Bay Project will depend on a variety of public grants and private donations, each with their own requirements. At the same time, the 7,000 acres under discussion contains a variety of small ecosystems that could qualify for one or more restoration and preservation grants.

The 7,000-acre jigsaw puzzle is rather formidable and almost overwhelming, but Michelle Connor is undaunted. Her optimism is infectious. Few people know as much about public conservation grants and philanthropic efforts, and Michelle has an army of people behind her.

The clear strategy moving forward is to assemble this massive puzzle — with all its shapes and colors — one piece at a time.

EPA now holding hands with Puget Sound Partnership

An essential piece of the puzzle for restoring Puget Sound was put into place last week when the Environmental Protection Agency endorsed the Puget Sound Action Agenda.

The Action Agenda, which I covered extensively last year, was written by the Puget Sound Partnership. It is the guiding document for restoring Puget Sound.

EPA’s endorsement means money will continue to flow to the Puget Sound effort as part of the National Estuary Program. Federal officials might get even cozier with their state counterparts.

Michelle Pirzadeh, EPA’s acting Regional Administrator, had this to say in a news release about the endorsement:

“This makes official what has been true all along: EPA is fully committed to bringing our resources to bear on the critically important work of protecting and restoring our treasured Puget Sound. We pledge to continue to act hand-in-hand with our partners — the state, tribes, local governments and citizens — to ensure a healthy Sound for future generations.”

David Dicks, executive director for Puget Sound Partnership, added this in a separate statement: “Today’s action is yet another signal that Puget Sound is a national priority.”

Dicks said the endorsement could help in the effort to increase the money coming to Puget Sound through the National Estuary Program.

A Seattle PostGlobe story by Sally Deneen provides additional perspective from Paul Bergman, spokesman for the Partnership, and Mike Sato, spokesman for People for Puget Sound.

Meanwhile Dicks’ father, U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, is the man working to deliver an increase in the estuary funding from this year’s $20 million to $50 million next year. Dicks is chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which first looks at the EPA’s budget.

“This is a much more appropriate federal commitment, on par with the multi-jurisdictional program that we have been funding on the Chesapeake Bay and, similarly, complementing pollution control efforts at the state and local level,” Dicks said in a statement after his committee finished its work.

The appropriations bill subsequently passed the full House with the $50 million intact.

Meanwhile, the Ecosystem Coordination Board, a wide-ranging advisory group within the Puget Sound Partnership, is scheduled to discuss the structure and function of the board at its next meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Ferndale.

Questions that need to be answered, according to the agenda, are these:

  • How should ECB interface or integrate with the Salmon Recovery Council?
  • Are there groups missing on the membership that should be included?
  • How should ECB members liaison with constituencies, staff, and other boards (Leadership Council and Science Panel)?
  • Should the Board have bylaws and if so, how should they be developed?
  • Should an Executive Committee be created to work between meetings?
  • How often does the ECB need to meet?

The Action Agenda contains plenty of solid information. But I think those involved in the Partnership would agree that the work was a bit rushed at the end. The document contains a few holes, such as how to measure progress toward Puget Sound restoration. Now, the organization has some time to make sure the Action Agenda is the document that the Legislature envisioned.

Partnership releases outline of Action Agenda

The staff of the Puget Sound Partnership has released a proposed outline for the Puget Sound Action Agenda. This much-anticipated document is due to be completed by Dec. 1.

The outline is a pretty good description of how the action agenda will be structured. For illustrative purposes, I’ve included the top-level topics below on this entry. If it piques your curiosity, you’ll want to go to the Partnership’s Web site to see far more details than I’ve included here.

Meanwhile, I covered a meeting of the Hood Canal Action Area Tuesday afternoon. We learned that many groups are doing many things to protect and restore Hood Canal. The need for money is always an issue. My brief story on the meeting was published in today’s Kitsap Sun.
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