Bill Ruckelshaus Dies

One of the the legends of the Northwest environmental movement, William Ruckelshaus, died Wednesday at his home in Seattle, at the age of 87. He was not only the first head of the EPA ( as a Republican) but also guided the Puget Sound Partnership and many other environmental efforts both here and around the country. He was considered a visionary in environmental issues by many in this area.

Beyond his incredible early years in the Nixon and Reagan administrations, as the first and fifth administrator of the EPA,  in 2005 he was appointed by Governor Gregoire to co-chair the Puget Sound Partnership to organize the cleanup of Puget Sound. This effort is still struggling to succeed, though the date that they assigned to achieve it is only a few years away. It has been a noble goal, but one that has been plagued with a variety of mismanagement, unrealistic timelines, a lack of appropriate funding for public education on the issues, and endless bureaucratic meetings that have not accomplished a great deal by the very measures that the Partnership has put in place. The Partnership has acted more as a monitoring, prioritization and a channel to hand out funds to groups working on restoration, rather than championing laws that could more quickly produce results. The continued collapse of Chinook and resident orca whales has been an example of the ongoing controversy in recovery efforts. None of this is because of Bill, but reflects the problems with achieving the vision that he created and his low key efforts to placate all sides.

Ruckelshaus’ legacy is well documented in a variety of obituaries, which I list below. What I could sum up as someone who has been involved in the environmental movement for many years, is that everyone respected Bill Ruckleshaus, no matter which side of the issue you may have been on.

I interviewed him for an epilogue to my film, “Voices of the Strait”, the first film funded by the Puget Sound Partnership, in 2010. He was gracious and intelligent. My interview with him starts at 15:52 on the video found here.

We will miss his guidance in working out solutions between factions of polluters and protectors of the Salish Sea. Those of us who are firm in wanting to protect  the vanishing habitat of our wildlife, need someone like Bill who can sit in the endless meetings with the opposition and craft something of value.  As a moderate Republican in favor of supporting environmental protection, he was the last of a breed.

One of the better quick reads on Ruckelshaus.

NY Times version. More balanced on his achievements and some of the controversies surrounding his various stages of life.

A version that minimizes his work here in the Puget Sound.





Puget Sound Partnership on the Governor’s proposed 2019-2021 biennial budget


Statement from Director Sheida Sahandy on the Governor’s proposed 2019-2021 biennial budget
Governor Inslee’s budget proposal revealed today demonstrates his strong commitment to recovering Southern Resident orcas, salmon, and the Puget Sound ecosystem.  The ecological condition of Puget Sound came into sharp focus last summer as Talequah, one of our few remaining Southern Resident orcas, carried her dead calf on her head through a mourning journey that lasted 17 days. 


Ecosystem decline is the result of thousands of decisions that have, directly or indirectly, negatively impacted our shared resources.  Getting to recovery and resiliency will similarly take thousands of decisions that take us in the right direction of achieving and maintaining a thriving Puget Sound.  Ongoing recovery work over the years has helped to mitigate the decline, with some very positive results, but much greater investment is needed to definitively alter course.


The investments proposed by the Governor will go far in helping us turn the corner on sustaining the Puget Sound ecosystem and the creatures we share it with. These investments align with two significant, collaborative, science-based bodies of work: the recommendations of the Southern Resident Task Force and the Puget Sound Action Agenda.


Investments in Puget Sound recovery are critical to the survival of orcas and salmon. They also boost our region’s economic vitality and agricultural sustainability, enable maintenance of our abilities to fish and recreate, and help us to ensure the quality of life that draws and keeps people to this region.  These investments also support our shared obligations to the reserved treaty rights of the tribes in Puget Sound.


We hope the legislature supports and funds these critical investments.   

Group sues feds to force Washington to protect Puget Sound – AP

Northwest Environmental Advocates have been around since the 1970s, and they were part of the groups that originally opposed the Satsop Nuclear Plant. I talked with their executive director, Nina Bell about the lawsuit today. Ms. Bell told me that the lawsuit is specifically addressing non-point pollution, which both the Tribes and environmental organizations have been requesting of the Washington State Department of Ecology (WDOE) deal with for some years. Many of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning might remember that during the last round of the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) that Governor Gregoire did a temporary exemption of agriculture from the CAO buffers.  This was due to extreme pressure on her from dairy and other large scale farmers in rural areas, such as Yakima. This exemption, I believe, is still in place, though the next round of CAO work is supposed to address it. The background on this is that there has been a lot of very signficant  amounts of cow and hog waste allowed to be dumped into rivers in the central part of the State. Over here on the coast, I have also witnessed, near Willapa Bay, out south of the Niawiakum Natural Preserve Area, between Bay Center Road and Dike Road, cows standing directly in the water that spills out into the bay. In that bay, there is also an oyster farm. Additionally, I have seen cows standing directly in Chimicum creek on occasions. While I don’t know the details of why they are allowed to do that in those particular set of fields, it is that kind of non-point source pollution that the suit is attempting to force the state to correct, and that the state admits is a violation of the Clean Water Act. The NEA and the Tribes have been pushing for WSDOE to forumlate the Best Managment Practices (BMPs) that can address these non-point source pollution problems for over 20 years. The NEA is asking the   Feds to withhold funding until actions are taken that do address the issue. Ms. Bell was very clear that the funds that the State gets, are considered earned funds. If the State has not been achieving its goals, then she believes that the Feds need to act, or be forced to act, to withdraw those funds. I will be recieving a copy of the lawsuit today, and will get back to readers as I understand more of the specific language it is using to describe the problem and remedy they seek.

An environmental group is suing the federal government to force Washington state to do more to protect Puget Sound from polluted runoff from roads, farms, logging and boats. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, seeks to force the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to cut funding to the state for failing to protect coastal water quality. A similar lawsuit by the same group – Portland, Oregon-based Northwest Environmental Advocates – resulted in the agencies cutting $1.2 million in grant funding to Oregon this year. The group says the agencies first told Washington in 1998 that it was failing to control such pollution, but there’s no evidence Washington has done any better, and the feds have not cut off funding in response as the law requires. The EPA declined to comment. (Associated Press)

2013 NW Straits Conference Overview

Just got back from a great two days at the NW Straits conference, held in Bellingham. The good folks that steer our Marine Resource Committees always put together a  conference worth attending, and the only unfortunate thing is that they can’t invite the world at large.

Pictured below, Caroline Gibson and Sasha Horst from the NW Straits Commission greet attendees, while Jefferson County Commissioner and ex-fisherman, Phil Johnson discusses net pens.

2013 NW Straits Collage

This year, Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker and Dr. Terrie Klinger started off by giving an update to the state of the science and legislative activity around  Ocean Acidification.  Washington State is at the forefront of global science on this emerging issue, and the Governor has taken the step to create a commission to look into it and get some actions going on this.

Funding for research and data collection is underway, and we were told that funding for educational activities is not,and pressure needs to be exerted to get this to the schools as new curriculum.

Hugh Shipman of the Washington State Department of Ecology spoke on Sea Level Rise in the Puget Sound basin, and Tina Whitman of Friends of the San Juans along with Andrea MacLennon of the Coastal Geographic Services brought people up to speed on how the scientists and policy makers are measuring and planning for sea level rise in San Juan County.

Kathleen Herrmann of the Snohomish County MRC gave a very interesting talk on a new method for gaining public acceptance of MRC goals, using Collective Impact, which is a model framework applied here for marine conservation. Kathleen has done a great job of researching this and applying it to their issues.

Will Stelle, who is the west coast regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries, closed out day one, with a really entertaining overview of the issues facing the west coast. I would have to say that this overview should be mandatory for all of us trying to get a good overview of the state of affairs right now. It’s a huge span of work. Will presents it with humor and passion.

Conservation biologist Thor Hanson was the after dinner speaker, giving an overview on his new book, Feathers. Thor’s enthusiasm for his work is quite funny and, yes, I bought the book.

On day two: there was tracks on Tools for Promoting Ocean Acidification (O.A.) Literacy, and in another room, an overview of Nearshore Habitat Restoration: From Idea to Reality, Advice from Local Experts. In the O.A.literacy program, Alexis Valauri-Orton, the Thomas J. Watson Fellow presented a really interesting look at her recent research work in talking to various cultures around the world being affected by O.A. Paul Williams of the Suquamish Tribe updated us on their efforts to teach the issue, and Meg Chadsey of Washington Sea Grant also presented.

After lunch, in addition to an overview of evaluating metrics and outreach projects, Dan Tonnes and Helen Berry gave great insight into Rockfish recovery efforts and Kelp monitoring and management in Puget Sound.

Will Stelle – NOAA West Coast Fisheries Administrator on Fisheries and Furloughs – 45 minutes long. Download the audio file and listen.

All these presentations will be put up in both audio and video formats for download within the next week.  Check back for the links to them. 

Puget Sound Partnership Leader Highlights Year’s Accomplishments

Just in from Executive Director Tony Wright on the accomplishments of the Puget Sound Partnership and the associated partners who they have helped fund.  Remember that the Partnership’s work is to help coordinate and prioritize the various players in the recovery efforts, and establish ongoing monitoring to let us know if we are making progress or not. While there has been much criticism of the Partnership, it’s perhaps expecting too much from a political organization that reports to the Governor. It would just be nice to see them show up for more meetings that impact their work, such as taking public stands for Shoreline Master Plans rather than letting a few dedicated local activists take all the heat. If we are going to be their foot soldiers maybe they should pay us instead of their staff in Tacoma! (all in good humour).

And now, Tony’s assessment:

December 19, 2012

Dear Puget Sound partner,

As I reflect on the many accomplishments of 2012, I want to thank our more than 750 partner organizations throughout Puget Sound who are working together to reverse more than 100 years of human impact on this ecosystem. Our 2012 State of the Sound reportshows that your work has indeed slowed the decline of Puget Sound, but our current pace will not get us where we need to be by 2020. We need to build on our successes, continue to collaborate and accelerate our actions.

This week Governor Gregoire proposed a budget that includes a strong investment in Puget Sound recovery. Her proposal gives significant support to the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, the Puget Sound Estuary and Salmon Restoration Fund and other key programs that mark a vital start in restoring a fishable, swimmable, diggable Puget Sound.

We also celebrate the hard work of our many partners working to advance projects in their communities and their own backyards. This year we created a “Puget Sound Champions” award to honor those, chosen by their peers, who serve as outstanding examples of how we can advance our ecosystem recovery effort. Each of our individual actions is integral to our collective success.

By working together as a region, we are able to coordinate funding and human capital on high-priority, science-based projects. This update highlights some of the recent successes, including:

  • Habitat restoration and flood prevention projects at Port Susan Bay
  • 280 acres of shellfish beds reopening for harvest in Hood Canal
  • Salmon returning to Midway Creek after 100 years

As we move into 2013, we welcome Governor Inslee to what has become a mass movement guided by both science and passion for Puget Sound. To all of our partners, thank you for tirelessly championing Puget Sound protection and restoration. You are the key to saving Puget Sound. Please contact me at with your questions and to share more success stories.

Anthony Wright


Flood protection and habitat restoration celebrated in Port Susan Bay
On Dec. 5, we celebrated the completion of two Port Susan Bay restoration projects that improved flood protection for farmers and restored habitat for salmon, birds, and other wildlife. This 150-acre restoration effort was a true collaboration success story that involved The Nature Conservancy staff, local officials, neighboring landowners, farm organizations, tribes and federal and state agencies all working cooperatively on the project from its inception. These projects supported more than 130 jobs and restored natural functions to more than 4,000 acres of tidelands in the northern end of Port Susan Bay. More big-picture projects like these are needed to make Puget Sound restoration a reality. These projects were funded in part by Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration funds, which are locally prioritized and scientifically evaluated through a collaborative process led by the Puget Sound Partnership and funded by the Legislature. Read more at:
280 acres of shellfish beds upgraded in Hood Canal
Thanks to hard work in Hood Canal, our region is 51 percent of the way to reaching our goal of opening 7,000 acres of shellfish beds between 2007 and 2020. On Dec. 4, the Department of Health officially upgraded an additional 280 acres of Hood Canal shellfish beds in Mason County from “prohibited” to “approved” for recreational and commercial harvest. When we upgrade shellfish areas it means that water quality has improved, and that means the hard work of many partners is paying off. Read more at:

70 acres of habitat protected by the Suquamish Tribe and Mountaineers
The Suquamish Tribe is showing great leadership in their work to protect and restore the Chico Creek watershed. They recently partnered with the Mountaineers Foundation and others to acquire 70 acres of high-quality Puget Sound lowland habitat in this watershed, for a total of 484 acres that will now be in protected conservation status. The majority of funding for this acquisition is from Puget Sound Federal Funding granted for habitat protection and restoration from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Suquamish Tribe. The Puget Sound Action Agenda identifies protecting intact habitat as a key priority in Kitsap County, one of the most urban areas of our region.

Salmon return to Midway Creek after more than 100 years
The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group has reported that after more than 100 years of no salmon in Mason County’s Midway Creek, dozens of spawning pairs of coho salmon have been sighted. Thanks to Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Funds (PSAR), administered by the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, a 70-foot-long fish passage culvert was installed in July to allow salmon to enter the Goldsborough Creek Floodplain. PSAR funds are locally prioritized and scientifically evaluated through a collaborative process led by the Puget Sound Partnership and funded by the Legislature. The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group partnered with Simpson Lumber, Squaxin Island Tribe, Green Diamond Resource Company, Miles Sand and Gravel, and others to help make this happen.
Read more at:

Governor announces actions to protect shellfish from ocean acidification
On Nov. 27 Gov. Chris Gregoire signed an executive order supporting the recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification. The science is clear that human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide are dramatically altering the ocean’s chemistry at an alarming rate. The acidification of our waters increases the risk to our shellfish, the health of our oceans, and the wealth of benefits they provide. Washington state is the first to develop a plan of action to tackle ocean acidification and the Partnership will support our partners in implementing the findings and actions of the Blue Ribbon Panel’s scientific findings. You can read the Governor’s Executive Order at:

King County enforces waterfront septic inspections, repairs with fines
Shellfish areas open to recreational, tribal and commercial harvesters are threatened because of contamination originating from septic systems. King County recently took the final step in the enforcement process, issuing a $25-a-day fines to a handful of Vashon Island residents who the County says have not had their septic systems inspected or repaired. Protecting public health and Puget Sound go hand in hand. We must continue working to provide low-interest loans to help residents upgrade and repair septic systems, while enforcing standards to prevent water pollution. 
Read more at:

Puget Sound Partnership promotes transparency and accountability
The Partnership’s Project Atlas and Report Card were featured during a seminar on Nov. 14 at the Capitol Rotunda as part of the worldwide celebration of GIS Day, the annual salute to geospatial technology and its power to transform and better people’s lives. The event demonstrated how GIS technology is being applied in Washington state. The Puget Sound Project Atlas GIS application shows the location, cost and status of restoration projects related to Puget Sound protection and restoration. The Action Agenda Report Card helps show progress on the Puget Sound Action Agenda, with information that can be sorted by city, county, and legislative district. Both resources promote transparency and accountability for Puget Sound recovery efforts.
Puget Sound Project Atlas:
Action Agenda Report Card:

Puget Sound Champions honored
Puget Sound Champion awards recognize outstanding local partners for their contributions to the ecosystem recovery effort. These individuals and organizations are chosen by their peers for their exceptional work protecting and restoring habitat, cleaning up polluted water, and engaging the community in implementing the Action Agenda – the Partnership’s regional plan to clean up Puget Sound. Please join us in congratulating the following recipients.
Gov. Chris Gregoire (presented Nov. 20)

Island County Champions (presented Nov. 28):

  • Nancy Waddell with Whidbey Watershed Stewards
  • Pat Powell with Whidbey Camano Land Trust
  • A One Day University from WSU Beach Watchers for Sound Waters
  • Christine Longdon with CamOcean Day at Cama Beach

West Sound / North Central (Kitsap County) Champions (presented Nov. 30):

  • City of Bremerton Public Works & Utilities, Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Board, members and greens crew of the Kitsap Golf & Country Club
  • City of Poulsbo Engineering Department
  • Kitsap Home Builders Association
  • Kitsap Conservation District
  • Chris Dunagan with the Kitsap Sun

Whatcom County Champions (presented Dec. 5):

  • Whatcom Conservation District’s Conservation Reserve Enforcement Program
  • Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association’s Streamside Habitat Restoration Program
  • Whatcom County Special District Riparian Program
  • Whatcom Water Weeks

For more information on other Puget Sound Champions, visit

Human values count in Puget Sound recovery

Chris Dunagun has a solid overview of the Puget Sound Partnership as Governor Gregoire enters her last month in office. Interview with her and others in the Partnership, along with a view from the beach. Worth the read.

New indicators are being developed by the Puget Sound Partnership, now in its fifth year, to measure human health and well-being.

Read more:

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Billy Frank Jr. speaks on “Treaty Rights At Risk” at the NW Straits Annual Meeting

A moving speech, from one of the leading voices in North American tribal landscape.  Billy Frank Jr. has been there in the midst of the treaty rights battles since the late 50s, when he started demanding his treaty rights to fish next to his house on the Nisqually River. That solitary act eventually led to the Boldt Decision, the ruling that legally interpreted the tribal fishing rights and altered the landscape of the Pacific Northwest fishing industry permanently.

You can listen to the speech on your computer directly from the button above,  or download it to your smart phone, or MP3 music player.

Today, at 81, Billy Frank Jr. is still in the thick of things. Billy  is a member of the Nisqually Tribe in Washington State, along with being the Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. He writes for numerous publications and does a number of speaking engagements.  He has a personal  blog at

Mr. Frank has been the recipient of numerous recognition awards, including the 1991 Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism and 2004 Indian Country Today Inaugural American Visionary Award

If you have never heard Mr. Frank speak, or if you do not have a good understanding of what drives the Tribes demands for their treaty rights, this is a must listen recording. In it, he clarifies the history behind the struggle for treaty rights and legal interpretation of them, and the personal battles that he has endured to attain them. He also talks directly to the group of Marine Resource Committee members that were attending this meeting, many of the volunteers, all working to protect Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Washington Pacific Coast.

More audio and eventually video presentations of the conference will be found at the 2012 Northwest Straits Marine Resource Committee Web site





New Action Agenda for Puget Sound Cleanup Released

The Puget Sound Partnership has released a new Action Agenda to replace the one they created in 2009. This new one is based on a huge amount of science input, and hundreds of meetings with regional stakeholders from governments, non profits, tribes and individuals.

A first take on it is by Chris Dunagan at the Kitsap Sun, a man who I consider a trusted source opinion. More to be added as the opinions pour in. I will also be reading the document and add my comments later next week. I was a member of the regional working group for the Partnership since it’s inception here on the Peninsula. To be clear, while I have supported these efforts, I have had my criticisms of them as well. But this is a baseline document, and as such, can be built upon in the future.

Here’s Chris’ news article.  As you can see, the anti-environmental crowd is out to jump on his posts with comments, almost as if they were in concert on doing that.

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