City, Tribes open up the Qwuloot for Earth Day walk

Al Elliott, of the -
Al Elliott, of the
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MARYSVILLE The citys first Earth Walk let people see a side of the city that most never do and scores of folks crowded the citys sewage treatment plant on the shores of Ebey Slough during the open house on April 21.
Technicians explained how the public works department handles effluent for much of the I-5 corridor through the north part of Snohomish County, and nature lovers got to walk on the dike that keeps the Snohomish River from inundating the shores near Sunnyside Boulevard.
People making the walk saw a sewer muskrat named Cobb, who enjoys swimming in one of the settling ponds next to Ebey Slough. Hes named after a hardworking public works employee, staff explained, as technicians were holding forth on the huge infrastructure the city has been building since the late Fifties.
Birdwatchers were also out in force with telescopes and plenty of knowledge as the Pilchuck Audubon Society had a couple of bird watching stations, with people to help focus the scopes and explain what visitors were seeing. Al Elliott is known as the bird man of Ebey Slough and he said his peers had spotted 51 species by noon.
He was talking about a Cinnamon Teal duck that had just flown overhead when someone got a good look at a red tail hawk sitting in a tree a couple hundred yards away. The spotting scope brought the raptor up close and Elliott was quick with tips and statistics about habits and habitat. The man is a Latin encyclopedia when it comes to reeling off the scientific names of his feathered friends. The bird lovers were happy to help show the sights and explain the sounds to anyone who was interested, and the Earth Walk was a great way to open up the slough to the public, he said.
Its a good day, Elliott pronounced.
Nearby a fisheries expert from the Tulalip Tribes displayed maps showing how the slough will be allowed to reclaim more than 300 acres of wetlands south of Sunnyside Boulevard in the Qwuloot marsh. Maria Calvi works for the Tribes, who plan to breach the dike later this year to provide more tidal lands for salmon habitat. She was explaining how the city of Marysville did the same thing 15 years ago, just across from the Audubons bird watching station. The decade since then has seen grass and other vegetation grow and the tides have reclaimed much of the muddy plain that is home to a large part of the fish food chain.
At the other end of the slough, Ebey Waterfront Park had several booths showing how it all ended up there; motor oil, detergent, brake fluids, just about anything that runs along the ground will enter a storm drain, and then hit a creek or stream that feeds an arm of the Snohomish River, and hence, Puget Sound. Kids were fishing containers of junk from a little pool that represent the water system, and several booths were full of volunteers armed with literature and displays to reinforce the message. They had trinkets and prizes for people who completed a quiz.
I think it went pretty well, said Adam Bailey, a surface water technician who helped organize more than a dozen displays around the citys southern shoreline.
Further upstream at the treatment plant City Councilman John Soriano was listening to Eva Dale of the Washington Citizens for Resource Conservation explain why people shouldnt flush their medicines down the drain. Meds are made to affect bodies and the watershed is one big organic being that doesnt need a prescription, according to Dale. Scientists have measured pharmaceutical residue in watersheds and people need to dispose of their outdated or unused medicines properly.
We take tons of pills in this country, Dale said. Wastewater treatment plants cant handle it.
This is great, you are getting your word out, Soriano responded.

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