Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Puget Sound Partnership Director Introduced

Above: Sheida Sahandy, the new executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, and Governor Jay Inslee address the Partnership today in Olympia.
By Janine Unsoeld

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee introduced Sheida Sahandy, the new executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, to the Partnership's Leadership Council today in Olympia.
The meeting was held in the General Administration Building on the Capitol Campus.

“We now have a leader…who has an incredible diversity of background,” Inslee said.
On January 7, Governor Jay Inslee announced his appointment of Sahandy as the new executive director for the Puget Sound Partnership, the agency formed by the state Legislature to lead the recovery of the Puget Sound. She starts with the Partnership on February 4.

According to a press release, Sahandy has worked for the City of Bellevue since 2006, where she has served as the assistant to the city manager and was responsible for creating Bellevue’s first city-wide environmental stewardship initiative.

Sahandy earned her Master of Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she concentrated her studies on climate, energy and environment. She earned a Juris Doctorate from Columbia University’s School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Berkeley, where she studied environmental design and the biological sciences.

Calling Sahandy the “perfect person for the job,” the Governor addressed the Council and laid out three main priorities for her and the Partnership:
“One, focus the organization on projects that will deliver…I think at times we’ve had a little too much butter spread around and not really focused on one particular part of the we actually get a functioning habitat....I think this is worthy of consideration moving forward. Two, continue efforts to align our agencies…and three, obviously, continue public engagement….”

Sahandy said she was looking forward to the challenges ahead.
Having a conversation with Partnership Council members, Inslee admitted some of the challenges that have faced the Partnership.

“As we know, the Supreme Court decision says we need to put millions of dollars into the K – 12 system and I’m supportive of that effort but it’s really important…to say that we’re not going to finance the education of our children to learn about the biology of aquatic systems and then reduce the budget of this agency....It’s important for us to realize the connection....If we’re going to teach children about how sea stars and limpets work, we have to have an agency that makes sure there are sea stars and limpets in Puget Sound for students to enjoy….”
Inslee credited the state departments of Transportation, Commerce, and Agriculture for their carbon reduction programs and efforts.

“…Commerce is recruiting low carbon businesses…and Ag understands irrigation needs….China wants to buy our wine like crazy, but if we don’t have water from the snow pack (if it’s reduced, associated with carbon pollution) we’re not going to be able to sell wine because we won’t be able to grow grapes!”
After Council member Diana Gale mentioned the Partnership’s success of working with the Tribes, Inslee acknowledged that success, but continued to press his concerns.

“…My concern though… is every 20 yards of Puget Sound is precious, (but) we have a situation where we’ve been planting eelgrass, (then) hardening (the shore) 40 miles up the beach, then doing nutrient loading reduction 30 miles up the beach from there…we haven’t really put those pieces all together in one spot where we can actually get the whole habitat working….I think it’s a challenge for the Partnership to respond to that but I will back you if you decide to concentrate some resources to get one functioning habitat even if it means…we might not get something back right away.”
Partnership chair Martha Kongsgaard agreed, saying that backing will be very important. She acknowledged the challenges, saying they need to do a better job describing the Puget Sound's story.

Billy Frank, Jr. said that the Tribes stand with Inslee, ready to move.

“We have a lot of problems…the salmon can’t get through the Narrows Bridge before they die…same with Squaxin Island coho...there are no flounders anymore, the little critters are all gone….”

Inslee also praised the efforts of U.S. Senator Patty Murray, acknowledging her for preserving funds for Puget Sound.
Murray, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced in August that she included almost $30 million for Puget Sound cleanup and recovery efforts in the Fiscal Year 2014 Senate Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.

Kongsgaard said Senator Murray told her personally that she has the Partnership’s back.
After Inslee’s remarks, the Council continued with its agenda for the day. They reviewed their 2013 ‘report cards’ on shellfish, stormwater, habitat nearshore and water resources issues, and heard recommendations on future approaches to these issues from staff with the state Departments of Health and Natural Resources, and Washington Sea Grant. The Council also heard board updates from the Partnership’s Science Panel and the Ecosystem Coordination Board.

The Leadership Council will meet again tomorrow to receive a 2014 State Legislative update and hear a panel discussion on vessel traffic safety, coal trains, and oil by rail transport.

Meanwhile, the Partnership has plenty of critics.

The Freedom Foundation, a conservative think-tank based in Olympia, issued a report last month calling for the abolishment of the Puget Sound Partnership. The Foundation says the Partnership is politically corrupt, squanders millions of dollars, and has failed to fulfill its responsibilities as a state agency. 

"Instead of spending money on environmental restoration, the Partnership has squandered millions on 'marketing' and 'branding' campaigns that do nothing to benefit the health of Puget Sound...and it's long past time the state's taxpayers pulled the plug."

About the Partnership
The Puget Sound Partnership, created in 2007, is a state agency focused on the recovery of Puget Sound. It is the latest incarnation of previous Puget Sound clean up efforts coordinated by the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, later called the Puget Sound Action Team.

The Partnership coordinates the efforts of citizens, governments, tribes, scientists, businesses and nonprofits to set priorities, implement a regional recovery plan and ensure accountability for results.

The Leadership Council is currently composed of Steve Sakuma, Billy Frank, Jr., Ron Sims, Martha Kongsgaard, David Dicks, Diana Gale, and Dan O’Neal.

Marc Daily served as the Partnership’s interim executive director after the resignation of retired Col. Anthony Wright in early 2013.
For more information, go to

For previous stories at Little Hollywood about the Puget Sound Partnership, go to and type key words into the search button.
Above: Governor Jay Inslee and incoming Partnership executive director Sheida Sahandy meet with the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council today.


  1. I hope the Freedom Foundation can be proven wrong and the Puget Sound Partnership can do some real good with the new Exec Dir and Gov Inslee's support.

    1. Janine, I am always glad to see someone write an article about PSP. Very few journalists are interested in covering PSP, so thanks!

      I would like to reply to Zena's comment. I did all the research and wrote the report calling for the abolition of the Puget Sound Partnership while I was still working at the Freedom Foundation.

      I think there is a very good case for abolishing the Puget Sound Partnership that both environmentalists and conservatives can come together on. PSP has failed to fulfil any of its responsibilities as a state agency, and doesn't spend a single dollar on environmental restoration.

      In addition to this, PSP is not even a regulatory agency.

      PSP wastes approximately 10 millions dollars a year on bureaucracy and marketing campaigns; that's money that could be much better spent on worthy environmental restoration projects.

      I hope you will read the report and make up your own mind:

      Please don't hesitate to contact me at (206) 473-7587 if you have any questions about anything in the report. Remember: abolishing the Puget Sound Partnership shouldn't be a partisan or idealogical issue: it's just good government reform.

      -Conner Edwards

  2. Conner you say: "I think there is a very good case for abolishing the Puget Sound Partnership that both environmentalists and conservatives can come together on. PSP has failed to fulfil any of its responsibilities as a state agency, and doesn't spend a single dollar on environmental restoration. "

    By this logic, we should abolish the National Institute of Health because the research they carry out and support has not yet resulted in a cure for cystic fibrosis, or multiple sclerosis, or any other number of complicated, chronic, debilitating and deadly human diseases. Your comment that the Partnership “doesn’t spend a single dollar on environmental restoration” is just plain wrong. They actually direct tens of millions of dollars annually towards worthy, well vetted on the ground projects.

    Protecting and recovering Puget Sound is a complicated, far reaching challenge on the order of, or perhaps several orders more difficult than isolating and treating specific disease mechanisms in the human body. It is not Rocket Science, it is much harder than that. The Puget Sound Partnership is tasked with identifying whether we are making progress on recovery, identifying gaps in our efforts, and working with all affected parties and authorities to craft solutions that will actually work. No single other agency has this broad mandate or perspective, nor do they have the buy-in and participation of so many diverse interest groups, stakeholders and rights holders.

    And if we were to do away with the Partnership as you suggest, you have not provided us with a model of what entity or agency would replace it. Who will independently assess whether Ecology, Departments of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, Health, the federal resource agencies, tribes or local governments are doing what they are legally obligated to do to protect the Sound and its wildlife, and whether what these entities are obligated to do is in fact enough to recover the Sound? In your analysis of the Partnership you document agency missteps, but you have done nothing to map a different approach or lay out a set of alternatives that have a realistic chance of success going forward.

    I invite you to use your energy and critical thinking to work with the Partnership, bringing your personal interest in good government and advancing personal property rights to work with the Puget Sound Partnership and help them and the rest of us truly recover Puget Sound. It has taken us over 150 years to put Puget Sound in its current condition, it will take the Partnership and all their partners more than 5 years to reverse the downward trend.

    Jacques White