Water Quality is Too Important for the Puget Sound Partnership, Says People for Puget Sound
When the Puget Sound Partnership was created, it was sold as a way to ensure the money we spend on water quality efforts in the Sound are scientifically grounded, coordinated among agencies and prioritized. This is an excellent approach, and the WPC has praised the creation of the PSP in our report card on the state's environmental policies.
This is why we objected when the PSP supported the idea of spending tens of millions to buy land on Maury Island in order to prevent a dock from being built associated with a gravel operation there. Every state and county environmental agency granted permits, saying the environmental impact was negligible.
Supporters of spending the $33 million on the project, however, claimed it had the blessing of the agency responsible for making the key decisions about water quality. For instance, King County Executive Dow Constantine's spokesman Frank Abe commented on our blog, claiming:
"...one need look no further than the presence of the Chair of the PSP’s Leadership Council, Martha Kongsgaard, speaking at the news conference in full support of protecting the Maury Island property."
Last September, Kathy Fletcher of People for Puget Sound wrote in the Seattle Times that funding for the acquisition came "with support from the environmental community, King County, Gov. Chris Gregoire, Glacier and state agencies including the Puget Sound Partnership."
Despite repeatedly claiming the PSP supported the acquisition, supporters are now making a different claim.
In Sunday's Kitsap Sun, Fletcher tells reporter Chris Dunnigan, "Unfortunately, the partnership felt they could not weigh in when the controversy was still hot. In the end, they did not play a key role." Despite claiming for months that the PSP was involved and supported the effort, Fletcher now says the PSP didn't play a key role. This is a remarkable claim.
The acquisition of the Maury Island property was the most expensive Puget Sound-related expenditure last year, costing state and King County taxpayers more than $30 million. Despite that, the agency whose job it is to set water quality priorities "could not weigh in" because the politics were too hot. This is an admission that the PSP's science-based approach was jettisoned in favor of a political approach. That is the very situation the PSP was created to avoid.
Fletcher shoots an arrow in the heart of the central justification for the PSP and the claim the PSP's support of the Maury Island purchase was based on science. As we noted last year, the former Director of PSP told a business group that the agency supported the acquisition in order to get a "political win."
We still believe the PSP can play an important role in putting science before politics when prioritizing efforts to clean Puget Sound. But when it came to this project, even the project's supporters now admit the PSP's science-based approach was ignored. If the Partnership is to be effective in the future, it can't let that happen.