Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Puget Sound Partnership: Who Cares?

Tarboo Bay (K.Kennell)
The Senate Democrats today release their state budget proposal and we’ll see how the Puget Sound Partnership fares.

According to The Olympian, the House Democratic budget proposal cuts the Partnership’s budget by 31 percent and the House Republican budget proposes doing away with the agency.

How sad it would be to have this effort to make the Sound “swimmable, fishable and diggable” by 2020 die with a whimper. It would be the third major effort in the last 25 years — following the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority and the Puget Sound Action Team — to fall into political oblivion.

The Olympian editorializes that the value of the Puget Sound Partnership is threefold:

 • Convenes scientists to figure out what’s wrong with Puget Sound, and what can be done to fix the problems.

 • Reports on progress and setbacks on the road to Puget Sound recovery.

 • Keeps the 600 Puget Sound partners working together on common goals through an action plan that sets specific targets and holds partners accountable.

I asked one observer of the Olympia political winds what’s in store for the Partnership’s budget and future. The two-word reply: “Think McKenna.”

Puget Sound recovery and the Puget Sound Partnership were key components of Governor Chris Gregoire’s adminstration. The Partnership has suffered from past mismanagement. Its main champion the Governor is moving on. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Inslee hasn’t championed Puget Sound recovery and is trailing Republican candidate Rob McKenna in polling.

Who is still in the Puget Sound Partnership’s corner?

I hope the final budget won’t be quite so draconian for the Partnership but it will raises the relevant point as to what the Partnership does and whether what it does is critical to the restoration of Puget Sound.

The Partnership, like the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority of the past, has no authority so theirs is a coordinating and oversight function with ‘moral authority,’ as it were. I think that ‘authority’ and the role of being the keeper of the Puget Sound Action Agenda and its performance benchmarks are reasons enough to keep the Partnership functioning.

That the Republicans  would do away with the Partnership gives enough reason to keep the Partnership and to keep the flame of Puget Sound recovery glowing.

The Partnership has squandered so many opportunities and social capital and disappointed its supporters that it would be easy to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face and say, let ‘em disappear .

But I want to keep our eyes on the prize— that of a Sound that is swimmable, fishable and diggable — and protect what we have in place, as imperfect as it has been and might even seem to be presently--  to help move us forward to that prize. I want the Puget Sound Partnership to speak out and use its "moral authority" to get that job done.

Save the Puget Sound Partnership.

--Mike Sato


  1. The partnership in all its iterations since the mid 80's never confronted its own irrelevance. At best it was an employment club for the politically/environmentally correct; a recycling placeholder for career bureaucrats between assignments; a platform for faculty egos to expound without serious challenge and it was the ultimate process machine it's only product. It was a generally disliked and snubbed by the Washington Department of (add anyone of your favorites here)for all the selfish bureaucratic turf reasons. It made an arrangement with Governor Booth Gardner and his successors that they could live with its moral dispensations spoken softly from a small pulpit by a feeble preacher living on the paltry offering of a tiny congregation.
    Ken Pritchard

  2. Maybe a leaner and meaner Partnership will be a good thing. If they did nothing more than "simply" describe a few issues/problems to the public and then show ideas and approaches for helping improve things (by ordinary citizens and also by various agencies/consortiums) followed by periodic "report cards" and success stories, then I think the public would be more supportive.

    Right now, J. Q Public really does not know what they do or want. (But then, from my few interactions with the PSP brass, I don't think they do either - except for platitudes!) For example, the Wash. State Ferries give millions of people a front row seat to Puget Sound. But the few times I have been on one the past few years, all I have seen about "problems" is please help recycle while on the ferry.

    Frankly, many people equate the "poor" health of Puget Sound with too few salmon. And I think probably those people generally see the solution as "Stop Catching Them" for awhile until they recover. I also don't think those folks believe unpicked dog poop is causing much of a Puget Sound problem - certainly not a multi-million dollar one! No beaches are closed because of it, no shellfish are poisened because of it, and no dead zones are being caused by it.

    Wow - feel better ... now if the Samish behaves itself for 4 months ....