Puget Sound Partnership: Can anybody here figure out a plan?–Crosscut

Another highly critical view of the Governor’s surprise firing of the head of the Puget Sound Partnership, and the installation of a new, more outspoken one. The takeaway here is that author Todd Meyers believes that we are in for more politics and less science. Not sure we are so skeptical. Many of the projects that the Partnership faces are ones involving engineering on a scale that the Corps is familiar with, such as the eventual replacement of old fashioned highway culverts that block returning salmon.  We’re  willing to withhold judgment on the Director while he finds his feet, and shows us what he made of.  


Governor’s Surprise Pick For New Head of Puget Sound Partnership

From Martha Kongsgaard, the Leadership Chair of the Partnership. This announcement was totally unexpected, and it remains to be seen as to the reasons why. But on it’s surface, putting an ex-Army Corp of Engineers person at the head of the cleanup efforts, at least to this reporter, seems an odd choice and odd timing. Gerry O’Keefe had only recently become the Director, so we assumed he would be in until after the election.

This kind of appointment could have the tendency to de-focus the Partnership on the smaller organizations that actually get the huge bulk of work done at low cost, like Streamkeepers, HCCC, NOSC and others, in favor of big ticket projects that generate much larger jobs. While these big projects are important also, we continue to see the NGOs struggle for funds while the Partnership gets large funding for their offices and centralized marketing efforts, that to date, have had marginal success.

It is unfortunate, because with Gerry O’Keefe in control, we had finally started to see HQ staff leadership,rather than representatives, show up at regional events like the NW Straits Commission, which rarely happened under David Dicks. The Partnership is not so big a bureaucracy that they can’t actually plan ahead and show up for these critical localized planning events. We hope that Col. Wright will get out of the office a lot, as Gerry seemed to be doing. It really helps to get the leadership into the trenches. They often seemed quite isolated as to what we on the ground are actually doing.

To be clear, Col. Wright has a reputation as outspoken, and as someone who gets things done, but the Corp are not the first group you think about when you consider saving Puget Sound. We wish Col. Wright well, and hope that he grows in this job into thinking bigger than just engineering projects that the Corp have worked on.

If we find more information about why this change happened, we will keep readers informed.

    Here’s the announcement:

Puget Sound Partnership friends,

I am writing to let you know that Gov. Chris Gregoire today appointed retired Army Corps of Engineers Col. Anthony Wright to lead the Puget Sound Partnership. Wright is currently a vice president at Normandeau Associates, a consulting firm specializing in environmental issues, and will be taking a leave of absence to serve as director of PSP. Those of us who have been laboring in the field of Puget Sound restoration certainly recognize Tony, in his role as the district engineer and commander of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Seattle District, as an outspoken advocate and a practical but visionary leader around issues pertaining to the recovery of this national treasure. At the Corps. while overseeing 1000 employees and an annual budget of over $650M, he served as a vocal and active member of the Ecosystem Coordination Board and the Puget Sound Federal Caucus. His 25 years of engineering, management, and regulatory experience throughout the United States and abroad coupled with his long standing passion for Puget Sound make him an obvious choice for director during the implementation phase of our region’s recovery plan.

As he joins us at the helm, we say good bye to Gerry O’Keefe who came aboard as the deputy director of the Partnership in March of 2010 and who rose to director in February of last year. During his important tenure, Gerry brought a steady hand to the Partnership, especially internally, overseeing the development of the crucial performance management and accountability functions for the region’s recovery work. He has hired a full complement of expert internal managers making our operations run professionally and a group of the region’s best-in-class environmental specialists whose work in the field brings capacity to jurisdictions and governments as they link to a single agreed upon plan for recovery, the Action Agenda. The team assembled under his leadership works with expertise, deep passion, and to acknowledged great effect. He also aggressively led the region in a process to reach a first of its kind agreement about what we mean by ‘a recovered Puget Sound’ and developed the methodology to measure our progress against it. Finally, Gerry has guided the complex public and scientific process of up-dating the Action Agenda, the road map to recovery, which is now, mid-summer, nearly complete. We wish him the very best. He will be missed.

With Gerry leaving and Col. Wright joining us, we take pause to consider how far we have come and how far we have yet to go. The signature work of this generation of Puget Sound inhabitants is to break with the traditional and widely accepted historical distinctions between people and the environment, markets and ecological health and to restore resilience to the ecosystem we all depend upon. This work will not be complete in our life time; not under the leadership of our current Puget Sound champion, Governor Gregoire, nor seven governors hence. This is a never-ending project, let us not kid ourselves.

Now, as into the future, it does or does not get done because of the Partnership’s very talented and dedicated staff, remarkable and devoted Boards, Panels and Scientists, and the legions of concerned and engaged citizen partners who ring this stunning estuary and who work for both the present and for those we will never know, but who are coming whether we plan for them and safeguard this place or not. We all deserve what Jane Jacobs called a durable prosperity, a resiliency that expresses equally our rights and responsibilities to each other in a world with a reduced carrying capacity. This announcement, although of great import in the moment and to the people involved, is a mere punctuation mark in the long horizon ahead of us. We need to get back at it today and everlastingly by keeping our eyes on the prize – the protection of this national treasure, what some call Cascadia or Salmon Nation or to paraphrase the author Tim Egan, any place that salmon can get to, or what Wm. Dietrich calls “a universe in a mountain cradle,” this geographers’ delight, Puget Sound, the Salish Sea – out at least seven generations.

Feel free to give me a call any time or e mail me with any concerns you have during this time. And thank you for the role you play in this effort. It will take all of us.


C H A I R, L E A D E R S H I P C O U N C I L P U G E T S O U N D P A R T N E R S H I P

After 5 years, Gregoire’s Puget Sound progress is uncertain – Crosscut

A very balanced look at the issue of the effectiveness of the Puget Sound Partnership. Daniel misses a bit of the positive that has been done by the partnership, but my main criticism of it has been that it has not taken politically sensitive stands for key processes done on the local levels, such as support for the Shoreline Master Programs. There is never anyone from the Partnership coming out to the local meetings to help show it’s support for the issue. Often these public meetings are the only place that the opposition to these protections show up. The meetings can be truly ugly, and the non profits, local government officials and environmental supporters are left to take the heat from the angry crowds. Usually these crowds are fueled by stands with no scientific support, promoted by people who stand to profit by a lack of shoreline protections. Support from the Partnership would be of immense help in these meetings, and has been, to put it kindly, nonexistent.

In other areas, the Partnership has done some good, with their attempts at bringing together the various factions. It’s been my opinion though, as one who has attended years of the Partnerships meetings, that we are stuck in analysis paralysis, many people who used to go to the original meetings no longer attend, and that there is much more that could be done that is not being done. There could be much more time spent in actually figuring out exactly how the Partnership could help and getting that support tuned in. Many of the people that the Partnership is helping, have stated that they are unclear that the Partnership is actually making a difference. The Partnership needs to do a better job of showing how it’s is actually achieving it’s mandate, if it actually is.

An example: It has dribbled out funds to help educate the Puget Sound population to the issues, and the actual work on this has been left to the local groups, which is a good thing. But the amounts given to these local regional efforts, while appreciated, is not enough to make a dent in the issue.

I would have to say that if needing to give a grade to the Partnerships efforts, it would be a C, meaning that I would say it’s close to failing, but certainly not living up to it’s immense potential. Can any government based agency do so anymore? My guess is no. Are we better off for it’s existence? Yes. I do think so.


The great crusade to restore Puget Sound is five years old. What crusade? People who’ve moved here since that start of the financial crisis may not recall that on May 7, 2007, Gov. Chris Gregoire stood on the shore of Puget Sound, signed the law that created the Puget Sound Partnership, and launched a campaign to restore the Sound by 2020. The time laid out for the cleanup is more than one-third up. By now, some political insiders have grown to think badly of the Puget Sound Partnership, but most people don’t think of it at all. The Sound currently inspires little or no visible leadership. Dan Chasan at Crosscut writes.


Four honored for work to protect and restore Strait of Juan de Fuca

Four honored for work to protect and restore Strait of Juan de Fuca

TACOMA – Four “Puget Sound Champions” were honored on Friday, May 11 by the Puget Sound Partnership, the agency charged with coordinating Puget Sound cleanup and restoration.

The awards were presented by Gerry O’Keefe, the Partnership’s Executive Director, and Ron Sims, former King County Executive and current member of the Partnership’s Leadership Council, at a meeting of the Strait Ecosystem Recovery Network. The Network is one of eight regional sub-groups that coordinate and prioritize projects and programs aimed at creating and sustaining a healthy Puget Sound.

The award recipients are:

The North Olympic Salmon Coalition, which was honored for its work to implement salmon recovery plans in the Strait, and to work with landowners, local tribes, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and others to initiate projects such as the Salmon Creek Estuary and Morse Creek Restoration.

Micah McCarty and Chad Bowechop of the Makah Tribe, were honored for their effective leadership to improve oil spill prevention, preparedness and response in Puget Sound. Micah McCarty was also honored for his policy work as a member of the National Oceans Council and the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification.

Michelle McConnell, Jefferson County planner, was honored for her work on the Shoreline Master Program maintaining fresh and saltwater migratory pathways for fish and wildlife, creating complementary policies among neighboring jurisdictions, and for initiating an ambitious community-wide planning process for a complex county divided by a national park, and bordering Hood Canal, the Strait and the Pacific Ocean.

Bob Campbell, Facility Coordinator with Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles, was honored for providing accessible, high-quality information about the Sound, and training docents for the more than 1,600 visitors who come to the Center each year. Campbell also provides educational, hands-on experiences with near-shore environments to 1,800 students a year, encouraging scientific inquiry and appreciation for the natural wonders of the marine environment.

“I commend you all for your dedication, commitment and collaboration in ecosystem recovery. We are all indebted to you. The Strait Ecosystem Recovery Network has done impressive work, and serves as an excellent example of local coordination,” said Ron Sims.

“Although we are recognizing four recipients today, there are many other hard working individuals and organizations making important contributions in the Strait Action Area. Today’s recipients were nominated by their peers for doing outstanding work that deserves to be recognized and to serve as an example for others,” said Gerry O’Keefe.

The Partnership will honor Puget Sound Champions in other local coordinating entities it collaborates with to advance Puget Sound recovery. Upcoming meetings include June 11 in the greater Seattle area and June 20 in Hood Canal. More information about these meetings will be available at http://www.psp.wa.gov or by contacting Michael Grayum at Michael.grayum@psp.wa.gov.

“There’s lots of work to do to ensure a healthy future for the Sound,” said O’Keefe. “Only by working together can we restore this natural asset and keep it thriving for generations to come.”

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