10c. Memo

Urban Kelp Research Project

AGENDA MEMORANDUM                        Item No.      10c 
ACTION ITEM                            Date of Meeting       April 26, 2022 

DATE :     April 6, 2022 
TO:        Stephen P. Metruck, Executive Director 
FROM:    Sarah Ogier, Director  Maritime Environment & Sustainability 
Jon Sloan, Sr. Manager, Environmental Programs, ME&S 
Kathleen Hurley, Sr. Environmental Program Manager, ME&S 
SUBJECT:  Urban Kelp Project  Competitive Exemption Request 
Amount of this request:                 $120,000 
Total estimated project cost:            $120,000 
Request Commission authorization (1) for the Executive Director to execute an Agreement with
the Seattle Aquarium for a project investigating urban kelp forests in the amount not to exceed
$120,000; and (2) that Commission exercises its authority under RCW 53.19.020(5) to determine
a competitive solicitation process is not appropriate or cost effective for this action. 
As entities located along the shores of Elliott Bay, the Port of Seattle (Port) and the Seattle
Aquarium (Aquarium) share common interests in promoting healthy coastal ecosystems,
resilience, habitat restoration, carbon sequestration and habitat improvement. Kelp in relatively
pristine areas of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca have historically been the focus of
bull kelp research; whereas urban kelp forests, such as those found along the shorelines of Elliott
Bay and in the East and West Waterways, have been understudied. Kelp forests are ecologically 
important and provide critical habitat and nursery ground for several species of fish and support
healthy bird and marine mammal populations. Additionally, kelp forests  are effective at
sequestering carbon and enhance coastal resilience to ocean acidification. The Port and the
Aquarium are interested in increasing understanding of the conditions under which bull kelp
thrives in urban areas to better inform effective conservation and restoration efforts in Puget

Template revised January 10, 2019.

COMMISSION AGENDA  Action Item No. 10c                                  Page 2 of 6 
Meeting Date: April 26, 2022 
Urban kelp beds will be studied using a novel combination of an underwater drone and artificial
intelligence along with scuba to characterize these critically important kelp forests and inform
future restoration and/or enhancement efforts. The work will document urban kelp abundance
and distribution while deepening understanding of the environmental drivers of these kelp
This work is aligned with the Port's Century Agenda goal of becoming the "greenest and most
energy-efficient port in North America" as well a number of statewide initiatives, including the
Puget Sound Kelp Conservation and Recovery Plan, recent state legislation Senate Bill 5619,
known as the Kelp Forest and Eelgrass Meadow Conservation Initiative, the proposed new Puget
Sound Partnership vital sign indicator for Puget Sound  Floating Kelp Canopies and with
recommendations in the Port's Ocean Acidification Action Plan. Additionally, the research will
inform the feasibility to incorporate kelp enhancement in future Port habitat restoration
Unless a new contract falls under one of the five exemptions in RCW 53.19.020, it must be subject
to "competitive solicitation" defined as "a documented formal process providing an equal and
open opportunity to qualified parties and culminating in a selection based on criteria, in which
criteria other than price may be the primary basis for consideration." RCW 53.19.020 lists five
exemptions from competitive solicitation. The fifth exemption is for "other contracts or classes
or groups of contracts exempted from the competitive solicitation process by the commission
when it has been determined that a competitive solicitation process is not appropriate or costeffective."
RCW 53.19.020(5). 
For this contract with the Seattle Aquarium to fall under the exemption in RCW 53.19.020(5), the
Commission must make a reasoned determination that the competitive solicitation process
would not be appropriate or cost effective. In making such determination, the Commission can
avoid  acting  arbitrarily  and  capriciously  by  noting  and  discussing  relevant  facts  and
circumstances. In reviewing this issue, the Commission may establish that a reasonable basis
exists, including wider policy considerations, to exempt the contract with the Seattle Aquarium.
Such considerations may include that the Seattle Aquarium is uniquely positioned to undertake 
specialized  scientific  research  alongside  environmental  interpretation  and  outreach. The
Aquarium has highly qualified staff and equipment on hand to undertake this specialized research
and translate results into information for public educational purposes. By leveraging this
expertise, the Port will further its objectives related to both habitat stewardship and public
Diversity in Contracting 
The Aquarium has a stated commitment to continued diversity, equity and inclusion learning and
practices. The Port will work with the Seattle Aquarium to identify opportunities to include
individuals who have historically been underrepresented in this type of research. 

Template revised June 27, 2019 (Diversity in Contracting).

COMMISSION AGENDA  Action Item No. 10c                                  Page 3 of 6 
Meeting Date: April 26, 2022 

The project will map and study the physical and ecological characteristics of several urban kelp
forests located along the urban waterfront in Elliott Bay and East and West Waterways. The
project will survey in/around existing kelp beds utilizing the Aquarium's Blue2 ROV, create
additional subtidal monitoring sites for kelp in Elliott Bay and in the East and West Waterways,
and utilize existing spatially-fixed subtidal monitoring sites and tools, such as the King County
water quality monitoring stations, to measure physical parameters that may influence kelp
abundance and/or distribution. The information collected will help develop an understanding of
ecological structure of urban kelp forests as well as their potential contribution to coastal
resilience and inform public engagement work focused on kelp. 
Scope of Work 
The scope of the work is to better understand the conditions in which bull kelp thrives in urban
environments to enable effective restoration efforts by: 
Strategic monitoring of canopy forming and understory kelps, along with the surrounding
benthic invertebrates and fishes, 
Expand ongoing efforts to build collaboration between kelp research organizations, 
Continued research into priority stressors negatively affecting kelp forests on the sub-
regional scale and promoting awareness, 
Engagement and action from user groups and the public. 
The schedule for 2022 is summarized below. 
Commission competition waiver approval       2022 Quarter 2 
Design start                                       2022 Quarter 2 
Field research start                                2022 Quarter 3 
Summary of findings                            2022 Quarter 4 
Presentation of findings                          2023 Quarter 1 
Cost Breakdown                                     This Request           Total Project 
Design                                                    $120,000               $120,000 
Construction                                                      0                       0 
Total                                                           $120,000                $120,000 

Template revised June 27, 2019 (Diversity in Contracting).

COMMISSION AGENDA  Action Item No. 10c                                  Page 4 of 6 
Meeting Date: April 26, 2022 

Given the unique opportunity of the partnership between the Seattle Aquarium and the Port
given shared interests along the urban shoreline as well as the novel research approach
integrating underwater remotely-operated vehicles and machine-learning, as well as the
research and conservation capabilities the Aquarium possesses, only the no-action alternative
was considered. It is not deemed feasible to achieve this work with another partner so no
competitive bid process is considered. 
Alternative 1  Proceed with project as proposed 
Cost Implications: The proposed action will utilize $80,000 from the existing 2022 budget. The 
project scope was anticipated and included in the 2022 budget. 
(1)   Advance kelp research that is aligned with both Port and state priorities. 
(2)   Supports a novel research approach with a key partner along the waterfront to enhance
understanding of abundance and distribution of urban kelp beds; 
(3)    Enhance public awareness and engagement on the importance of kelp forests. 
(1)   The funds could be allocated to alternative environmental initiatives. 
(2)   Current funding sufficient for one year; however, funding for 2023 work is contingent
on budget request approval.
This is the recommended alternative. 
Alternative 2  No action, do not proceed 
Cost Implications: The proposed action will utilize $80,000 from the existing 2022 budget;
$40,000 will be requested for the 2023 budget to complete work in year 2. 
(1)   The funds would be available for application toward an alternative project within the
habitat program. 
(2)   Reduce risk related to approval of year 2 funding, if this alternative were pursued. 
(1) Forego an opportunity to contribute to the scientific body of knowledge on a key
ecosystem in Puget Sound that is important for salmon recovery. 
(2)   Forego the opportunity to partner with an entity with specific resources and skills to
undertake both scientific research and public awareness/engagement. 
(3)   Forego the opportunity to increase understanding of the conditions under which bull
kelp thrives in urban areas to better inform effective conservation and restoration
efforts in Puget Sound. 

Template revised June 27, 2019 (Diversity in Contracting).

COMMISSION AGENDA  Action Item No. 10c                                  Page 5 of 6 
Meeting Date: April 26, 2022 
The project is anticipated to over 2022-2024; $80,000 is the cost to support a research scientist
to lead the work in 2022. We anticipate include a budget request in 2023 for $40,000 to
undertake Phase 2 in 2023. The cost decreases in 2023 as the Aquarium anticipates additional
funding sources for the work. 
Cost Estimate/Authorization Summary               Capital        Expense           Total 
Original estimate                                          $0        $120,000        $120,000 
Previous authorizations                                    0                0                0 
Current request for authorization                          0        $120,000        $120,000 
Total authorizations, including this request                  0        $120,000        $120,000 
Remaining amount to be authorized                    $0       $120,000       $120,000 

Annual Budget Status and Source of Funds 
The work was included in the current Center of Expertise for Engineering, Environment, and
Sustainability 2022 budget. 
Financial Analysis and Summary 
Project cost for analysis 
Business Unit (BU) 
Effect on business performance 
(NOI after depreciation) 
IRR/NPV (if relevant) 
CPE Impact 
Future Revenues and Expenses (Total cost of ownership) 
It is anticipated that $40,000 will be needed in 2023 to complete Phase 2 of the project and will
be included in the 2023 Center of Excellence Engineering, Environment, and Sustainability budget

Template revised June 27, 2019 (Diversity in Contracting).

COMMISSION AGENDA  Action Item No. 10c                                  Page 6 of 6 
Meeting Date: April 26, 2022 
(1)   Presentation slides 

Template revised June 27, 2019 (Diversity in Contracting).

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