The William D. Ruckelshaus Center University Of Washington Washington State University Extension Ruckelshaus Center Home Page


Current Projects

Chehalis Flooding

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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Puget Sound Monitoring

The Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) has asked the Ruckelshaus Center to conduct a review of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP), to assess whether essential characteristics, particularly transparent decision-making, availability and credibility of data, and accountability and trust, are being achieved. Such a review was included in the resolution that created PSEMP to evaluate progress towards ecosystem recovery and improve the scientific basis for management actions throughout Puget Sound. The Center will be interviewing involved parties and stakeholders to capture a wide range of perspectives about whether these characteristics are being achieved and will prepare a report outlining key findings and any recommendations for improvement. For more information, contact Project Manager Amanda Murphy.

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)

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)

Public Records Act Assessment

The 2013–15 Washington State Operating Budget contained a proviso directing the Center to “collaborate with representatives of the public, the media, and local governments regarding public records requests made to local government” and “report to the appropriate committees of the Legislature,” including "recommendations related to balancing the need for open public records with concerns of local governments." The report included recommendations related to balancing the need for open public records with concerns of local governments. The Center’s report was derived from a situation assessment, an interview-based process undertaken to better understand and explore relevant issues and interests of involved parties and situation dynamics. The Center reached out to a balanced cross-section of parties to capture a wide range of perspectives. Interview candidates were identified via the Center’s background research, selection criteria, and/or referral. The assessment articulated the major issues and key parties involved, and documented their interests and perspectives. It also analyzed and explored the prospects for a collaborative process to address those issues. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.

Read the Report (388 KB PDF)

Columbia River Salmon

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) has asked the Ruckelshaus Center - in partnership with Oregon Consensus at Portland State University - to conduct a situation assessment of regional views about salmon and steelhead recovery planning in the Columbia River Basin over the long term. A situation assessment is an interview-based process undertaken to better understand and explore relevant issues and interests of involved parties and situation dynamics. An assessment team featuring practitioner and academic expertise from Washington, Oregon and Idaho will reach out to a broad array of regional parties over the next several months to capture the full range of perspectives.

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Tri-Cities Governance

The Center is conducting research and a public engagement process on the topic of improving governance and governance structure in the Tri-Cities, WA region. This project builds upon the "4Cs Project" conducted several years ago by the Three Rivers Community Roundtable 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.

Based on the successfully completed Phase One report (which was attached to the fall 2012 Board book) and community event in September 2012 – which 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 – the Center has executed a task order for Phase Two. That Phase Two task order calls for research engagement in the communities, to assess perspectives and opinions of key actors, opinion leaders and senior officials regarding governance alternatives. Primary data collection will be accomplished by WSU researchers, with collaboration in analysis and reporting from UW team members.

Read the Phase 1 of the Tri-Cities Governance Study (600 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.

Updated on April 7, 2014

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