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Fish troubles at Blackmans Lake should be halted by city worker ingenuity

SNOHOMISH — Keeping Blackmans Lake draining without its fish fleeing has turned into a time and money consuming chore for city staff, but inventive employees think they have a solution.
To keep $20,000 worth of trout stocked in the lake every year from swimming out the drainage pipes, the city installed mesh screens over the pipes last summer. The escaping fish had led to a complaint from a resident.
But decaying flora, falling leaves and algae create a thick, slimy, pulpy substance that constantly clogs the mesh during the rainy season according to Tim Jackson, the city’s public works utility manager.
The clogging is sometimes so severe that it has caused flooding downstream along Swifty Creek near the Snohomish Aquatic Center.
Keeping the pipes clear has required daily visits during the long rainy season. Daily inspections often lead to cleanings, which take two staff members one to three hours, Jackson said.
Jackson said he estimated the screens required 100 to 150 cleanings a year. Labor is $35 to $50 per person, per hour.
At an average cost of $170 for 125 two-hour cleanings, the city would be spending $21,250 in labor, more than the cost of the fish.
Necessity being the mother of invention, the city has devised a solution. The new device, a modified screen design, would drastically reduce the need for cleanings.
Jackson said he had just received word around July 11 that the lake owner, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), has approved the new screen concept.
“The new fish screen device will have an overflow on the top of the screen that will allow water to flow into the culvert if the screen gets clogged with debris,” said city engineer Yosh Monzaki in an email.
The city is working with WDFW to get the permit to install the new screens, Monzaki said. Then the city will take bids for production and installation.
If all goes well, Blackmans Lake might get the upgrade by early fall, Jackson said.
Meanwhile, local lake activist Bob Roush is organizing for a Blackmans Lake revival, which means even without the screen cleanings, the lake will likely keep their attention for quite a while to come. Next on the list for the popular spot are water quality testing, removal of invasive lily pads, scaring off unwanted waterfowl, and reducing pollution.


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