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News from the Pacific Northwest

USDA to award $6 million for rural development

SEATTLE - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has announced the availability of $6 million in USDA Rural Development grants for rural economic and community development efforts.

USDA's Rural Community Development Initiative helps non-profit development organizations, federally recognized American Indian tribes and low-income communities improve their ability to develop rural housing and community facilities and to improve economic growth.

Recipients are required to obtain matching funds, doubling the value of the USDA grants. Funding of selected applicants will be contingent upon meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.

"Through the development of local financial and technical assistance programs supported by these grant funds, rural communities can increase their capacity to bring community and economic development opportunities to local residents," said Thomas C. Dorr, USDA under secretary for Rural Development.

Technical assistance includes: setting up homeownership education programs; supporting micro-enterprises, cooperatives and sustainable development; and providing training to develop strategic plans, hire staff and oversee board operations and management.

Information about the grant program can be obtained at

Nisqually receive grant for marine technology plan

NISQUALLY, Wash. - The Nisqually Indian Tribe will use a $165,256 grant to develop a marine technology business plan and assistance program.

Nisqually was one of 115 loan and grant recipients in 42 states to share $13.1 million in rural business development funds.

The loans and grants are expected to help create or save more than 6,000 rural jobs, according to IU.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. It also supports 1,166 business ventures as part of the Bush administration's efforts to spur economic development in rural areas.

"These partnership investments with local communities help bring economic growth and employment opportunities to rural areas," Veneman said. "This assistance underscores the commitment of the Bush administration to a vibrant and healthy rural America."

The assistance includes Rural Business Enterprise Grants, Rural Business Opportunity Grants and Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants. The grants and loans are awarded through USDA Rural Development.

Funds can be used for a variety of purposes, including revolving business loan funds, studies, technical assistance, community facilities, improving medical care and communications, and other projects that encourage a favorable climate for jobs and growth.

For more information about these programs, visit

Nisqually gathers information for habitat enhancement

NISQUALLY, Wash. - The Nisqually Indian Tribe and the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group are gathering information so they can gauge the success of future habitat enhancement on the lower Mashel River.

"Gathering baseline data and monitoring the river before and after restoration is the best way to judge how much we restore lost salmon habitat," biologist Sayre Hodgson told Northwest Indian Fisheries magazine.

Tribal biologists have snorkeled the last two miles of the Mashel, before it flows into the Nisqually River. "We've found lots of juvenile cutthroat trout and steelhead - both of which like to hang out in riffles," Hodgson told the magazine.

"Juvenile coho and chinook, on the other hand, like to hang out in deeper pools, which are created by the scouring action of large wood. We're hoping to see more coho and chinook when we snorkel this stretch of river after the restoration project."

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Late next summer, Nisqually will put large logs in the river and plant conifers along the riverbank. "We want to re-create the conditions of the past that once supported healthy salmon runs," biologist Florian Leischner told the magazine. "One of the most significant problems on the Mashel is the lack of large conifers along the bank."

Chinook salmon are the largest salmon and are known also as King salmon, tyee salmon, Columbia River salmon, black salmon, chub salmon, hook bill salmon, winter salmon and blackmouth.

Puget Sound chinook are listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Lummi expanding Silver Reef Casino

LUMMI, Wash. - On April 9, the Lummi Nation celebrated the first anniversary of its Silver Reef Casino. By all accounts, the casino succeeded beyond expectations - enough to prompt an expansion.

When completed, the Silver Reef Casino will boast an additional 20,000 square-feet of gaming space, 200 more slot machines, four new table games, a non-smoking gaming area, a 400-seat special events pavilion, a new cocktail bar, an indoor terrace with hand-painted sky ceiling, and more than 300 new parking spaces.

Silver Reef Casino is owned by the Lummi Nation and managed by Merit Management Group of Hinsdale, Ill. Architecture and design of the expansion was done by Morris & Brown of Solana Beach, Calif. The general contractor is Aecon Buildings of Lynwood, Wash.

In its first year, Silver Reef generated 40 percent more revenue than expected, Public Affairs Officer Aaron Thomas said. He wouldn't disclose financial figures, but said the money is used to help fund health services, drug treatment and prevention, and roads.

The casino currently offers more than 28,000 square-feet of gaming, dining and entertainment. The casino offers more than 40 varieties of video slot machines and Las Vegas-style table games including blackjack, craps, Spanish 21, fortune Pai Gow, roulette and three card poker.

The casino attracts visitors from the Interstate 5 corridor - from Seattle to Vancouver.

$1 million awarded for Indian Resource Center

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Health Science University has been awarded a $1 million cooperative agreement to operate the "One Sky Center: American Indian/Alaska Native National Resource Center."

The award was made by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a public health agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

One Sky Center will identify and foster culturally appropriate substance abuse prevention and treatment programs for the American Indian and Alaska Native populations. It will be jointly administered by the administration's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

"Working with stakeholders from across the country, this center will provide a blueprint for comprehensive services that honor the traditional ways of living and healing among Native Americans," said Charles G. Curie, administrator.

The objectives of One Sky Center include:

o Promoting and nurturing culturally appropriate substance abuse prevention and treatment services for Native populations;

o Identifying culturally appropriate evidence-based substance abuse prevention and treatment practices and disseminating them so that they can be applied successfully across diverse tribal communities; and,

o Providing training, technical assistance and products to expand the capacity and quality of substance abuse prevention and treatment practitioners serving this population.

Richard Walker is a correspondent reporting from San Juan Island, Wash. Contact him at