SNOHOMISH — Every evening, about 400 trumpeter swans glide into Bob Heirman Wildlife Park to spend the night at picturesque Shadow Lake.
The elegant birds — along with thousands of ducks and hundreds of geese — spend their evenings puttering around the lake, often squawking away at each other late into the night before finally going to sleep.
That nighttime serenity could be at risk if, in the name of salmon recovery, Snohomish County pursues a plan that would turn the lake into a flowing channel linked to the nearby Snohomish River, say swan aficionados.
"It doesn’t say Bob Heirman Salmon Park," said Martha Jordan, an Everett-based swan expert. "If you create a channel through the lake it would make it useless for the waterfowl. The swans need standing water —they don’t want to roost in moving water."
Snohomish County plans to spend $690,000 making the Snohomish River safer for juvenile salmon to grow up in along three miles of river between Snohomish and Monroe. Yet that doesn’t mean that the swans’ roosting spot has to be destroyed, said a county official.
"We hadn’t really heard much about the swans until (last week)," said John Engel, an engineering supervisor for the county’s Water Management Division. "We want to have a pretty open process so we can really discuss these issues."
Opening up a river channel through Shadow Lake is only one of three options the county is considering, Engel said. The other two include leaving it as it is or repairing a damaged dike that allows some river water to flow through the park near Shadow Lake.
The Snohomish County Council last week directed Engel’s department to create a group of anyone interested to help the county decide how to spend money awarded to the county last year by the state Department of Natural Resources’ Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The state contributed $586,500 and the county $103,500.
Engel estimated his department will, with the community input, come up with a plan for what to do at the refuge by the end of the year. The County Council will make a final decision on what to do.
In the meantime, the county will move ahead with plans to clean out some clogged side channels to the river in the surrounding area, channels that the county will put logs in and plant vegetation around to make sure the water moves slow enough for juvenile salmon to use.
Jordan said she intends to join the community group, and that she looks forward to telling county officials about the swans, which, because of growth in the region, have few suitable roosting spots.
For his part, Bob Heirman, the park’s namesake, said he doesn’t want the county messing up a lake that’s just about perfect the way it is now.
"In my opinion, the best thing to do is get out of there," said Heirman, a fisherman who spent decades helping make sure the popular fishing spot was set aside.
Beavers, otters, deer and other wildlife also use the preserve, Heirman said, adding that it’s one of the most popular freshwater fishing holes in the county.
"This is a priceless park, and we shouldn’t be degrading it under the guise of saving salmon," he said. "We don’t need to go in there in mess with it."
Reporter Lukas Velush: 425-339-3449 or firstname.lastname@example.org.