Sunday, October 7, 2007

Puget Sound Partnership Comes to Tacoma

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the good news that she had selected Tacoma as the office for the Puget Sound Partnership.

The Partnership is a state coalition established in 2007 and charged with leading efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound. The Partnership's first and primary task is to work with governments, tribes, scientists, businesses and citizens to create a 20-year action plan by September 2008. Every two years, a short-term work plan for cleaning up the Sound will be developed from their 20-Year Action Agenda, corresponding with the state's budget cycle.

The City of Tacoma had been lobbying for months to get the Puget Sound Partnership to open an office in the City of Tacoma’s Urban Waters marine research center on Thea Foss Waterway. The satellite office will operate in close proximity to Tacoma’s environmental services division labs and UW-Tacoma research labs. It will bring about 32 jobs to the east side of the Thea Foss Waterway and expand the reach of Urban Waters, a public-private partnership that boosters hope will become a leading marine research lab.

The main user of the planned 40,000-square-foot Urban Waters building was shaping up to be scientists and engineers from the city’s environmental service department. It is hoped locating Puget Sound Partnership facilities alongside local, academic and private Puget Sound restoration efforts will encourage collaboration and lead to intellectual and technological marine research developments.

Adding the Puget Sound Partnership to the mix will likely require building a larger facility. Karen Larkin, an assistant Tacoma public works director, has said the state office would need 5,000 to 10,000 square feet. Officials probably would add a third story to the planned two-story building to accommodate the Partnership.

After years of planning, Urban Waters is gaining momentum. In March 2007, the Tacoma City Council agreed to spend $5.6 million to buy 3.1 acres along East D Street for the project. Tacoma is using city ratepayer money to fund construction of the estimated $18 million facility.

The University of Washington Tacoma is expected to sublease space, too. In July, UWT selected Professor Joel Baker to serve as the first Port of Tacoma chairman. He will conduct research and teach classes at UWT and serve as science adviser for Urban Waters. The Port of Tacoma, UWT, the City of Tacoma and container terminal operator SSA Marine contributed $3 million for an endowed chair.

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