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Current Projects

Chehalis Flooding & Fish

In late 2011, the Center was asked by the Washington State Governor's Office to help create a report to the Legislature that identifies recommended priority flood hazard mitigation projects in the Chehalis River Basin in southwest Washington. The Center's tasks were to coordinate the report, using technical information provided by other agencies and organizations, and to conduct a situation assessment of flood alternatives and relationships between the responsible parties and stakeholders. The report was completed in December 2012. In August 2012, then-Governor Gregoire asked the Center to facilitate a work group convened to advise her on recommendations for her biennial budget proposal. A framework document containing the group’s consensus recommendations was presented to the Governor on November 14, 2012. She endorsed the recommendations, as has current Governor Inslee. In June 2013, the Legislature passed a biennial capital budget with $28.2 million to fund the work group’s recommendations. The Center remains involved facilitating and coordinating the work group's efforts.

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Joint SR 530 Landslide Commission

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick formed a joint commission in response to the SR 530 landslide of March 2014 that took the lives of 43 people in the Stillaguamish Valley. The Commission was tasked with reviewing the incident and the collective response, and providing recommendations to help plan and respond to similar events. The 12-member Commission operated independently, and did not determine liability, cause or fault, or act as a substitute for the courts in any way. Regional business leader Kathy Lombardo served as the Commission’s Executive Director; the Ruckelshaus Center facilitated the group. The Commission report of prioritized recommendations was released in December 2014.

Read more about the Commission and the final report

Capitol Lake Assessment

The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services asked the Ruckelshaus Center to conduct an interview-based situation assessment to explore issues and opportunities regarding the future management of Capitol Lake in Olympia. This assessment explored relevant issues and interests of involved parties, along with the dynamics of the situation. The Center reached out to a balanced cross-section of parties to capture a wide range of perspectives.

The assessment culminated in a report articulating the major issues and key parties involved and documenting their interests and perspectives. The report also analyzed and explored the prospects for a collaborative process to address those issues. In this context, a collaborative process means a solution-focused dialogue among all the key interests, participating willingly, that is convened and facilitated by a neutral third party. For more information, contact project manager Chris Page.

Read the Situation Assessment for Capitol Lake Management Report (950 KB PDF)

Eldercare Workforce

The Center is partnering with the University of Washington’s Health Policy Center (UW HPC) on a project that will examine eldercare workforce capacity in Washington state, including mapping the issue, convening stakeholders statewide to listen and learn from one another about areas of conflict and consensus, and facilitating those stakeholders as they create and put into operation a Washington State Eldercare Workforce Alliance. In December 2012, the Center and UW HPC received a grant to begin the first phase of this project. The Center is also participating in a University Network for Collaborative Governance (UNCG) initiative to launch similar efforts in states across the country that will engage health care and workforce stakeholders in developing eldercare workforce strategies. The UNCG initiative will focus on: 1) Hosting a national colloquium on Eldercare Workforce Collaboration, resulting in a report to serve as the basis for a multi-state pilot; 2) A pilot to evaluate and report on results and lessons learned of the assessments; and 3) Convening assessments in several states through UNCG centers, including the Ruckelshaus Center. For more information, contact Project Manager Patricia Lichiello.

Read the Eldercare Progress Reports: Number 1, April 2013 (360 KB PDF); Number 2, December 2013 (650 KB PDF); Eldercare Workforce Assessment Impact Report

Aviation Biofuels

The Center has been involved in two related projects designed to promote sustainable aviation biofuels in the Pacific Northwest, to help the region meet its clean energy goals. The first was called Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Northwest (SAFN). The second is a $40 million, five year grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to support a team of academic and private sector researchers called the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA).

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Spokane River Toxics

The Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force (SRRTTF) is a collaborative group of governmental agencies, private industries, and environmental organizations attempting an innovative approach to the reduction of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) within the Spokane River. The goal of the Task Force is to develop a comprehensive plan to bring the Spokane River into compliance with water quality standards for PCBs. In 2012, the Task Force expressed a strong preference for a university-based provider of facilitation and coordination services, and asked the Center to play those roles. The Center is now facilitating the meetings, communications, and decisions of the Task Force and its Work Groups. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page or visit the SRRTTF website.

Health Care Policy Assessment

The Ruckelshaus Center is currently assessing opportunities to expand its services in the health care sector. Health care reform has complicated policy debates and challenges that affect a wide variety of stakeholders across Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. Combining WSU and UW expertise and perspective into an effective, university-based neutral third party may help to resolve many policy issues that impact government and industry stakeholders, labor, community partners and advocates. For more information, contact Kevin Harris, Adjunct Faculty for Health Care Policy at

Read the Health Care Assessment Flyer (1 MB PDF)

Tri-Cities Governance

The Center is conducting research and a public engagement process on the topic of improving governance in the Tri-Cities, WA region. This project builds upon the "4Cs Project" conducted several years ago by the Three Rivers Community Roundtable (now called Tri-Cities Evolution) that explored mechanisms for enhancing efficiencies and service through multi-jurisdiction or multiple agency activities characterized as “Coordination, Cooperation, Collaboration or Consolidation." The project will be done in three phases in collaboration with WSU's Division of Governmental Studies and Services, UW Evans School of Public Affairs, and UW Information School.

Phase I focused on what could be learned from the experiences of other communities in similar circumstances, especially with regards to inter-jurisdictional consolidation. The Phase I report was presented at an event in September 2012 attended by over 400 community leaders. It recommended not pursuing formal consolidation, but deliberate pursuit of appropriate activities and arrangements that would provide the benefits of “functional consolidation,” without the risks and costs associated with the formal effort. Phase II included research engagement in the communities, to assess perspectives and opinions of key actors, opinion leaders and senior officials regarding governance alternatives. Nine facilitated and well-attended community leader discussions took place in 2013. This research confirmed that there is a large number of existing approaches to achieving the perceived benefits of functional consolidation. And there are significant opportunities to activate more such approaches, to achieve greater efficacy in regional governance. Phase III would assess broad citizen perceptions, attitudes, and support for collective governance through surveys and public events (note: this phase is contingent upon a review of Phase II and the preferences of the Tri-Cities Evolution).

Read the Phase 1 of the Tri-Cities Governance Study (600 KB PDF)
Read the Phase 2 of the Tri-Cities Governance Study (509 KB PDF)

Columbia River Gorge Commission

The Columbia River Gorge Commission asked the Center and the Oregon Consensus program at Portland State University to conduct a series of individual and group interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and regional leaders to identify aspiration, concerns and willingness to find common ground for resource protection and community development in the Columbia River Gorge. The assessment summarized the interviews and offered recommendations about the feasibility of collaborative problem solving. The Assessment also recommended the Gorge Commission engage in internal development work, to strengthen collaboration between the Commission, other agencies, communities and the public. To that end, the Commission asked the Center and Oregon Consensus to provide training for Gorge Commissioners that included tools for communication, collaboration and problem solving. The Commission is also asking the Centers to remain involved as it seeks to take on several of the collaborative challenges identified in the assessment.

Read the May 2, 2012 Launch Press Release (280 KB PDF)
Read the September 12, 2012 Report Release Announcement (320 KB PDF)
Read the Collaborative Engagement Assessment Report (1.5 MB PDF)
Read the February 28, 2013 Completion Press Release (120 KB PDF)

Civil Public Discourse

Recognizing that civil public discourse is a fundamental element of collaborative public policy, the Center is exploring the current status of civil discourse in the state, region and nation. The Center seeks to understand how the current state of public discourse compares to other periods in history, what effects this is having on the policy process, and what the Center and other organizations can do about it. In September, Amanda Murphy and Chris Page provided communications, conflict resolution and consensus-seeking training to incoming students participating in The Evergreen State College’s 2013 Civic Engagement Institute.

Read more about the Center's focus on Civil Public Discourse (900 KB PDF)

Collaboration Training

As part of its efforts to build capacity for collaborative policy within the state and region, the Center provides training in collaborative problem-solving, conflict resolution and building long-term working relationships. The training is structured to be useful to individuals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Seasoned trainers work with agencies and organizations to tailor the curriculum to their needs. For example, the Center has held workshops to assist newly-elected state legislators with the transition from candidate to legislator. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WFDW) asked the Center to provide trainings to meet the needs of WDFW habitat biologists in successfully managing interactions and relationships with permit applicants, while providing protection for fish and their habitat. The Center teamed with the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University to provide collaboration training to the staff at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources' Aquatics Division. And the Center is a part of a University Network for Collaborative Governance that has issued a Guide to Collaborative Competencies. We use that guide to help agencies understand what types of collaborative skills university centers can help develop. More information

Updated on February 13, 2015

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center, PO Box 646248, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6248, 509-335-2937, Contact Us