Port commissioner McAuley appointed to Puget Sound cleanup advisory board

The Puget Sound Partnership has added Port of Bellingham Commissioner Michael McAuley as one of two new port representatives to its Ecosystem Coordination Board, an advisory body where citizens, governments, tribes, scientists and businesses come together to cleanup Puget Sound.

Commissioner Bill Bryant of the Port of Seattle will serve as the primary representative to the board; McAuley will serve as the alternate.

Together, they will represent the state’s 75 port districts.

“Ports have an important role in improving the environmental and economic health of our region, which is integrated through the health of Puget Sound,” said Gerry O’Keefe, executive director of the partnership, in a press release. “We look forward to the knowledge, experience and perspective commissioners Bryan and McAuley bring to this coordinated effort. Puget Sound is connected to our quality of life, economy and our environment. It’s important we work together as a region, invest in the highest priorities and make it healthy again.”

The Ecosystem Coordination Board helps develop the partnership’s regional ecosystem recovery plan, offering advice on strategic initiatives and key policy decisions by developing science-based priorities, implementing the regional recovery plan and holding officials accountable for effective outcomes.

The 27-member board is comprised of representatives from various stakeholder groups operating in and around Puget Sound.

“The appointment comes at a really important time in terms of the effort to protect and promote the health of Puget Sound, but also in terms of the effort that ports are making to preserve the Sound,” said Bryant, who is leading a new Puget Sound Restoration initiative at the Port of Seattle. “I grew up on Hood Canal and spent hours scavenging the beach, collecting specimens of all kinds. That abundant ecosystem I knew so well as a child is threatened, so I am committed to restoring Puget Sound to the health and diversity it had only a few decades ago.”

The Port of Seattle is currently accepting comments on a draft motion on Puget Sound restoration, which Bryant says will be finalized this fall.

The proposal calls for leadership and collaboration on a variety of metrics such as enhancing biodiversity in and around Puget Sound and reducing concentrations of dissolved oxygen, a phenomenon blamed for annual “dead zones” in Puget Sound and Hood Canal.

The motion also calls on other ports to join the effort, according to Bryant, who was nominated by the Washington Public Ports Association.

“We’re really pleased both of these commissioners have stepped forward and taken leadership in coordinating efforts with other ports in our region,” said Johan Hellman, who directs the port association’s environmental policy program. “Ports around the state are absolutely committed to being good neighbors and stewards of a healthy Puget Sound. The kind of leadership we see from these two commissioners harmonizes all of the individual efforts we see at ports around the state.”

Among ports, the Port of Bellingham joins the Port of Seattle as a standout leader on environmental issues, according to Hellman.

“Ports tend to reflect the values of their local communities and when you look at Bellingham the port clearly embraces the community’s stewardship ethic,” Hellman said, citing the port’s efforts to clean up historic industrial contaminants and promote sustainability. “Commissioner McAuley really embraces this ethic and represents the kind of thinking that is leading his port and ports around the state as they plan for a more sustainable future.”

McAuley said growing up while working on a farm in Lewis County instilled in him an appreciation for the natural environment.

The Bellingham commissioner earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from the Evergreen State College and a master’s in geology from Western Washington University.

“As a commissioner and now as a member of the partnership, I’m fortunate to have opportunities to make positive changes in areas I really care about,” McAuley said.

The next meeting of the Ecosystem Coordination Board is on July 25 at the Port of Everett.

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