A marine biologist, career fish conservationist and avid swimmer, Mark Powell may as well have been born with fins.
They would have come in handy on his latest adventure. The Puget Sound program director of the Washington Environmental Council recently completed a 55-mile swim of the Green-Duwamish River.
From the headwaters in the Cascade Mountains to Elliott Bay in Seattle, he traversed roughly two-thirds of the 93-mile river outfitted in a wetsuit and goggles. Along the way, he swam with thousands of pink salmon and documented the changing landscape – from untouched wilderness to urban development and agricultural production to native fisheries.
Why swim? According to Powell, he wanted to get people involved in improving the 500-square mile watershed that drains into the Green-Duwamish River. He also wanted to bring attention to cleanup and restoration efforts, including those completed by Boeing.
“I set out with the idea that I would find the heart of the Duwamish River and I think I succeeded,” says Powell. “That’s not to say everything is fine on the Duwamish. Some species of salmon are not doing well and there are very well-known pollution problems. But, to me, the thriving wild pink salmon run is the heart of the Duwamish River. The heart is still beating. The river is alive.”
One of the biggest issues facing the river and lower industrial waterway is controlling sources of contamination. Regulatory efforts are focused on preventing pollution from entering the waterway in stormwater runoff throughout the watershed. For its part, Boeing constructed multiple state-of-the-art stormwater treatment systems at its sites near the waterway to help improve the quality of water that enters the Duwamish.