Happy 100th, Sand Man, and here’s to many more years

Thumbs up: Sand Man

It’s taken a lot of dedicated volunteers, planning and physical labor to keep the Sand Man afloat over the decades. All that hard work and sense of accomplishment will be celebrated with the public today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Olympia Port Plaza with music, food, speeches and tours of the tug boat marking the tug’s 100-year birthday. The Sand Man is one of South Sound’s best known — and best preserved — maritime treasures, the last of a historical group of tugs that plied the waters of Puget Sound in the early 1900s, towing barges filled with sand, gravel, oysters and other products at a time when the water was the main transportation corridor linking communities on the shores of Puget Sound. After a long history as a working tug for several owners, the boat fell on hard times as its hull deteriorated. It sank twice and required a complete overhaul to return to running shape. The Sand Man Foundation, the non-profit group that cares for the Sand Man and offers tours 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends from the boat’s Percival Landing moorage, has reason to be proud of their efforts to preserve the Sand Man. They’ve done an outstanding job. Come join the party today.

Thumbs down: Food Web Decline

More alarming news on the environmental front: According to a study published in the journal Nature, levels of phytoplankton in the world’s oceans have declined 40 percent since the 1950s. Despite their miniscule size, phytoplankton are the foundation of the marine food web, provide about 50 percent of the world’s oxygen and help sequester carbon dioxide, a global warming gas. The probable cause of the decline is climate change. As the surface of the ocean warms, the warm water near the surface fails to mix with the cooler, nutrient rich waters at greater depths, depriving microscopic phytoplankton, which are light and live near the surface, of food. “It’s concerning because phytoplankton is the basic currency for everything going on in the ocean,” said one of the Canadian researchers, Dalhousie University biology professor Boris Worm. The study is yet another indicator of an ecosystem in what could turn out to be irreversible decline.

Thumbs up: Bill Ruckelshaus

After decades of service advancing sound environmental policy in the Puget Sound region and across the nation, Bill Ruckelshaus is retiring from his position as chairman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council. The former director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration has long been a voice of reason in the effort to restore the health of Puget Sound. Well-respected for his vision and ability to work with Democrats and Republicans alike, Ruckelshaus has repeatedly made the convincing argument that it’s in everybody’s best interest to restore and protect Puget Sound. He’s known for a long time that a strong economy and a healthy environment go hand-in-hand. His leadership and unifying abilities will be missed. But after decades of public service, Ruckelshaus deserves a right to kick in to retirement mode.

Thumbs down: Lobbying Expenses

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation filed complaints last week with the state Public Disclosure Commission, alleging that 68 public entities have either failed to report or improperly reported lobbying expenses totaling $4 million from 2001 to 2009. These are serious charges that deserve prompt investigation by the PDC. Research by the foundation also showed that taxpayer-funded lobbying by public agencies at the state level totaled about $42.6 million between 2000 and 2009, including $6 million in 2009 in the midst of the recession. In tough economic times, lobbying efforts are a questionable use of taxpayer money.