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Confederated Tribes, Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation of Washington

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An irrigation wasteway near Sunnyside filled with spawning coho salmon created a problem for farmers, not to mention the fish. On their way up the Yakima River to spawn, more coho have exited at the Sulphur Creek Wasteway this fall than any time in recent memory. At least 200 were spotted Oct. 25, a sign the nation's coho hatchery program is working. So many were milling around in the rocky ditch, there wasn't enough spawning area, so the Yakamas captured 56 and trucked them to the Yakima River. The abundance appears to indicate progress improving the quality of water farmers return to the river. The water in the past was laden with pesticides, manure and dirt. But the fish look like trouble to irrigators, who use the ditch to drain excess water to the river. The fish have drawn curious residents and poachers for weeks. State Fish and Wildlife crews counted 58 salmon nests, along with 27 coho carcasses and roughly 200 live salmon in a short stretch Oct. 25. The wasteway, which runs full in the irrigation season, is down to a trickle. "It's a small victory," said tribal fishery technician Mathew Tomaskin. "... we haven't really won the war."