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.