Duvall, WA—The town I’m proud to call home boasts a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment facility, wherein the key word is art. The old sewer plant was declared to be at capacity in 1999, at which time a city-wide Building Moratorium (BM, for short) was imposed until the new facility could be completed. There was No More Room at the Inn, so to speak. Our Cup Had Runneth Over, as it were. Construction of the new facility was the largest public works project in the history of Duvall, and the town folk were elated when the plant came on-line in 2006. Good riddance to the BM!
Mind you it’s not just those of us living here in Duvall (pronounced DOO•vall, please) who are quite proud of the facility—in fact I recall reading about like-minded sewage dignitaries from all over who paid homage to the little hamlet of Duvall for the sole purpose of pining over the new facility. After all, the plant employs Membrane Bioreactor (MBR, for short) technology—the first of its kind to treat municipal sewage in the state of Washington! The new treatment plant was awarded a 2006 “Project of the Year” by the American Public Works Association (APWA, for short). The result is that here in Duvall, ultimately our sh#t does, in fact, not stink.
Butt the point of my exposé is less about sewage and more about art, specifically Fish Art (FART, for short). On a recent trip to meet with some of the folks who run the City of Duvall Public Works Department (CDPWD, for short), I paused to admire the many steel piscatorial sihlouettes adorning the sewer plant overlook area. These beautiful metal creations were fabricated by artist and blacksmith, John A. Hicks of Steelhead Fabrications (Steelheadfab.com).
FART at the sewage plant, you ask? Absolutely! Salmon and steelhead are indigenous species to our Pacific Northwest (PNW, for short) waters, including the very nearby Snoqualmie River, into which pours MBR-treated effluence from the sewer treatment facility. These fish are an important part of our history and local culture, so much so that the steelhead trout is, in fact, the state fish of Washington. What many laypersons may not realize is that beyond the significance of sport fishing, these fish that return to their natal rivers after a lifetime in the ocean are a very important cog in the biological wheel. When salmon and steelhead die after spawning, their decomposing bodies are like food for the river ecosystem thanks to Marine Derived Nutrients (MDN, for short). In other words, the fish give back for the betterment of all. And so it seems fitting, then, that FARTwork in the likeness of these anadromous salmonids would grace the Duvall facility. But there’s one piece of FART on display that doesn’t quite fit—or, does it?
Now, before you roll your eyes and accuse me of engaging in sophomoric “corn-eyed brown trout” humor, bear with me for a moment. A bit of research into the sewer plant FART revealed that the many sculptures include the following species of fish: Steelhead, Male Chinook (spawning), Female Chinook (spawning), Male Sockeye (spawning), and Mature Brown Trout (these descriptive titles come directly from a list provided to me by the CDPWD. There is also a Great Blue Heron and smaller fish in the likenesses of a rainbow trout and immature Bull Trout. All are native species, except the troublesome Brown trout: browns are not native to any water in America, although they do enjoy a widespread distribution thanks to stocking programs of the past.
Salmo trutta are in fact a very popular fish among fly anglers, many of whom are fanatical in their quest for a big brown. This Brown trout mania is easily evidenced by countless photos gracing the internet and it’s generally accepted that those seeking to catch the Hawg Brown do so by fishing big streamers. Personally I’ve not yet caught a brown trout worth writing home about, but I have caught a few lesser browns on a “Turd” (Pat’s Rubber Legs, brown). I’m sure they would also hit a Moose Turd, although that’s generally considered a steelhead pattern. All this attention given to Brown trout may be well and good, but it doesn’t answer the big question: Why the presence of a Brown trout at, of all places, a sewer treatment facility? Your guess is as good as mine. I’d like to think that someone simply had a very keen sense of humor.
Getting back to the overall presence of FART at the sewage treatment plant, you may be surprised to find artwork of any kind at such an unsavory location. Well, don’t be. Art knows no bounds and appears nearly anywhere in today’s modern world. And Duvall has a very strong artist community so it makes sense, here, to put lipstick on a pig. The only downside to all this is that visitors to the sewage treatment plant may be confused by the presence of FART, thinking that the facility is actually a fish hatchery. Of course that’s clearly not the case, although with just a bit of imagination one could envision rearing ponds teeming with—what else? Brown trout.
Despite the fact that both release diluted crap into our rivers, personally I’d much rather have such a fine sewage treatment facility in town than a fish hatchery. This, however, is neither the place nor time for the anti-hatchery argument—suffice it to say that hatcheries are not very popular with most anglers in these parts. Neither are dams, but I digress…
My friend, Evan Burck, a big wig at Allen Fly Fishing who moved to Duvall not so long ago, had a splendid suggestion:
“We should decorate fish hatcheries with steel cutouts of turds.”
Pop Poop Art. Brilliant.
Until The Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW, for short) commissions the Sh#t Art (SHART, for short), we’ll just continue to enjoy what we have here in Duvall. To those for whom a trip to Duvall is out of the question, please enjoy these photos from our wastewater treatment facility, not to be confused with a municipal Brown trout hatchery. As pointed out by another buddy of mine, Derek Young (no, not Derek DeYoung, the FARTist), “It’s the #2 attraction in town.”