No one is irreplaceable, or so they say, but some people are raising that question when it comes to Rich Batiuk, who retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Bay Program Office at the end of July.
For me and for others, he was a valued source of information and, if he didn’t know something, he’d direct you to someone who did. Even though he worked legendary long hours, he always answered his phone if he was in, rather than letting it go to voice mail.
Though Batiuk announced his retirement plan a couple of years ago, I — like many others — was more or less in denial until the months just before his departure. Although he never led the Bay Program office, he was a fixture there since 1985 — starting work just a year after it opened. Ultimately, he became the most quoted person in Bay Journal history. (See Batiuk, the boy, knew Bay was his destiny; as a man, he helped change its fate, on page 12.)
Batiuk was so thoroughly versed in the Bay, you might think he would bleed its brackish water if cut. He worked his way up from intern to associate director for science, building solid relationships among a constantly changing array of state officials and stakeholder groups.
I like going to science meetings, learning new things and figuring out how to take cool new information and explain it in a story. Batiuk, though, used that information to make a difference. “It wasn’t science for science sake, it was translating it into policy,” said Jon Capacasa, former head of EPA Region 3’s water protection division.
More than once, I remember talking to Batiuk about how a particular initiative he was working on might pan out, and I’d go away thinking, “That’s an interesting concept, but I’m not sure it’ll work in reality.” But he usually found a way.
Batiuk was a driving force behind developing the Bay’s unique system of water quality standards and the cleanup effort. He would take science and figure out how to mesh it into a policy framework others hadn’t envisioned.
That vision has left the Bay in a better place than he found it and set a course to guide the region for years to come.
Thanks for your thoughts
To the thousands of Bay Journal readers who filled out and returned the survey we mailed this summer — thank you! The response rate has far exceeded our expectations — so much that it is going to take more time than we imagined to tabulate all of them and read all of the comments.
I know that readers are overwhelmingly positive about the Bay Journal, but we want to learn about your ideas for fine-tuning our products as we plan for the future. I’ll keep you posted as we analyze the information.