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Wednesday, January 26, 2000 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sometimes getting a new home is an upstream battle

Seattle Times Snohomish County bureau

EVERETT - At least one denizen of the Snohomish County administration building has gotten too big for his space, but it has nothing to do with bureaucracy.

Hog, a rainbow trout, has lived in a fish tank on the building's first floor the past three years. Now almost 13 inches long, he's ready to move from the confines of his tank into an outdoor trout exhibit planned for the Northwest Stream Center in Everett.

"If he gets any bigger, he'll start to bump into things," said Tom Murdoch, director of the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation. "This guy's got to have a bigger home."

The foundation, an environmental-education group that operates the Northwest Stream Center, plans to build a 160-foot artificial stream to sustain up to 40 trout.

Murdoch has secured a $150,000 contribution from the Tulalip Tribes to pay for the project. The Tulalips have worked extensively with private groups and government agencies on water-quality issues, said Daryl Williams, chairman of the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation's board of directors and a member of the Tulalip Tribes.

But the nonprofit foundation still needs additional money for maintenance. Electricity alone for the stream's water pumps would cost about $500 a month, Murdoch said. He is making grant proposals.

Fish have greeted visitors to the administration building since 1993, when offices of the Adopt-A-Stream Foundation were located there.

The first batch of fish were released into a pond when they had grown to about 14 inches. Murdoch picked up Hog along with two other rainbow trout from a hatchery near Little Bear Creek in Woodinville. Hog's companions did not survive, in part because Hog kept eating their food. That habit led to his name.

Hog's become an ambassador

Hog has been an ambassador for the streams. His fish tank, laden with information-filled pamphlets, has become an educational tool for passers-by, County Executive Bob Drewel said. Children particularly enjoy the tank.

"If the parents bring them over here, their kids are absolutely mesmerized," Drewel said. "It's a way to talk to people about the streams."

Environmental education about watershed areas is the primary purpose of the proposed stream exhibit, Murdoch said. Watershed issues affect all plants and animals in the habitat, he explained.

To give people a better understanding of the habitat, one side of the artificial stream would consist of glass panels, which would allow visitors to walk the length of the stream and observe fish underwater as they appeared in their natural habitat.

Signs describing features of the habitat would line the walkway.

A moving stream would be an adjustment for Hog, who has lived his whole life in the temperature-controlled 55-gallon fish tank next to the county Auditor's Office. Trees and bushes would shade the stream from the sun during summer, but Hog still would have to acclimate to temperature changes.

Exhibit could be built in a year

A Seattle engineering firm, Gray and Osborne, designed the artificial stream exhibit for free, and the plans were completed last month. A construction timetable wouldn't be determined until additional money is secured, but Murdoch estimated that the exhibit could be built in a year.

And that would suit both Hog and Murdoch just fine.

"If he were released into a stream, he'd probably end up on someone's dinner plate," Murdoch said. "I've really gotten attached to this guy. I don't want that to happen."

Frank Vinluan's phone message number is 425-745-7814. His e-mail address is fvinluan@seattletimes.co.

Copyright (c) 2000 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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