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Funds approved for projects, salmon recovery

SAN JUAN ISLAND, Wash. - Pacific Northwest tribal nations will benefit from $39.9 million in federal funding to complete various projects.

The money includes $21.7 million to restore the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, including breaching two dams. Puget Sound tribes say breaching the dams will improve salmon runs in the region.

The money is included in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill approved by Congress in March and signed by President Bush.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., worked to retain her state's priorities in the final House-Senate compromise on the bill. Working with her Republican counterparts on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, Murray retained funding levels for projects that she had previously secured in the Senate's fiscal year 2003 Appropriations bill.

"In the face of significant cuts, I am pleased to have maintained this critical federal funding for our state's urgent transportation, health care and education needs," Murray said. "I know this increased federal support will make a real difference for families and communities in our region."

* Elwha River Restoration: $21.7 million.

The money will continue the restoration of the Elwha River, the largest construction project under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. It includes $12 million for the removal of two dams.

"This project presents a tremendous opportunity to restore a declining salmon run without impacting the local economy," Murray said.

* Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund: $12 million for coastal and Columbia River tribes.

A total of $90 million is allocated for habitat restoration and other programs to restore endangered and listed salmon runs in Alaska, California, Oregon and Washington.

The $90 million includes $28 million for Washington state, $9 million for coastal tribes and $3 million for Columbia River tribes to participate in these efforts.

* The Makah Tribe of Neah Bay: $5.4 million.

This funding will allow the 4.3-mile Route 1 from the Tribal Center to Cape Flattery to be paved and for bike and pedestrian lanes to be added. Road improvements are expected to help increase tourism.

* The Northwest Straits Commission: $795,000.

This funding will enable the commission to continue its work protecting and restoring marine resources in northern Puget Sound.

The Northwest Straits Commission was created in 1998 in response to growing concerns about the declining health of marine ecosystems in the Northwest region of the state.

The commission coordinates efforts by tribal, county, state and federal governments, non-profits and volunteers to protect and restore marine resources in the region.

* The Lummi Nation near Bellingham: $90,000

This funding will be used for the Semiahmah Memorial and Coast Salish Heritage Park. Lummi Public Affairs Director Aaron Thomas said the nation will use the funding to complete plans and begin development of the memorial and heritage park.

During expansion of the City of Blaine's wastewater treatment facility in 1999, a tribal burial ground was desecrated and human remains transported across state lines. Blaine later moved its project and gave the nation $1.25 million; the nation dropped a $40 million lawsuit. The money has been used to repatriate the remains.

The Lummi Nation and other local partners are now working together to restore and enhance the tribal burial grounds.

* Also of interest to tribal governments, the bill includes $40 million for the Pacific Salmon Treaty between the United States and Canada.

These funds are the final payment needed for the federal government to fulfill its international responsibilities under the Pacific Salmon Treaty. The $40 million provides $25 million for the Northern Boundary Restoration and Enhancement Fund and $15 million for the Southern Boundary fund.

The treaty, established in 1985, was written to monitor, conserve and manage Pacific salmon stocks. Support is provided to treaty tribes for salmon recovery, according to the Pacific Salmon Commission.

Correspondent Richard Walker reports from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at (360) 378-6289 or irishmex2000@yahoo.com

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