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News from the Pacific Northwest

Grants available to improve elder care

SEATTLE - American Indian tribes in Washington state had until Dec. 29 to apply for grants to bolster their elder care programs.

A total of $200,000 from the Older Americans Act is available to fund up to six projects in Washington during 2004. The grants will be issued through the state's Department of Social and Health Services. The one-time grants will be used to develop new approaches to serving older persons, adults with developmental disabilities or unpaid family caregivers.

Each Request for Proposal had to focus on one of six subject areas: healthy aging, support services for depression, mobile geriatric dental services, ethnic family caregiver support, kinship care legal services, or serving older caregivers of adults with developmental disabilities.

More information is available at and

Leaders find common values to work for health system change

SEATTLE - Mel Tonasket of the Colville Confederated Tribes was one of 350 participants in the Washington Health Leadership Summit, which determined common values that will serve as the foundation for an improved rural health system.

Tonasket, a member of the Colville Business Council, spoke about the status and needs of American Indian health care. Other speakers included state Health Secretary Mary Selecky, who spoke about the rural public health system.

Tonasket and other leaders represented every region of the state.

The October summit yielded the Washington Health Leadership Resolution, which calls for a new health system based on shared values adopted at the summit:

1.Assure fairness.

2.Redesign the health system.

3.Re-allocate existing resources.

4.Improve health system performance and efficiency.

5.Emphasize personal responsibility for healthy living and prevention.

6.Educate and engage the people of Washington.

7.Seek community-based solutions.

8. Emphasize collaboration and cooperation.

9.Assure governmental accountability.

10. Provide additional resources.

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The resolution was signed by Gov. Gary Locke, Selecky, the state insurance commissioner and several state legislators.

Squaxin tribe praises estuary study approval

SEATTLE - State officials have approved a plan to study the restoration of the Deschutes estuary in Olympia.

The Squaxin Island Tribe helped develop the plan. The issue centers on Capitol Lake, created in 1951 when an earthen dam was built on the lower Deschutes River. Fresh water backed up by the dam flooded what had been a rich tidal estuary. This has affected the health of migrating and spawning salmon. In addition, the shallow lake fills with sediment; non-native weeds choke the lake of oxygen.

Squaxin Island tribal biologists have long studied the impacts of the dam and lobbied for its removal.

Jim Peters, Natural Resources director for the Squaxin Island Tribe, told Northwest Indian Fisheries magazine: "This has been a long time coming. We have been trying to restore productivity to this system ever since the State of Washington dammed the Deschutes River."

Jeff Dickison, policy analyst for the tribe, added, "This study will paint us a picture of what estuary restoration on the Deschutes may look like. It will answer questions about how salmon would benefit from a restored estuary."

The feasibility study will look at how sediments are carried down into the former estuary, the expected changes to plant and animal populations, and how much restoration could cost, among other tasks.

Salmon carcass toss boosts other species

EATONVILLE, Wash. - More than 1,800 salmon carcasses from the Nisqually Tribe's hatchery were returned to local streams to provide an important food source for juvenile salmon and other species throughout the watershed.

To educate the community about the importance of the salmon's life cycle, the Nisqually Stream Stewards recruited volunteers for what the group billed as its first salmon carcass toss.

In the fall, Chinook and Coho salmon returned to the hatchery where workers spawned the fish then froze some of the carcasses until they can be transported to local streams.

A report by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife found that more than 137 species of fish and wildlife depend on salmon for their survival. Studies have shown that decaying salmon carcasses are a critical part of the food web in Pacific Northwest ecosystems.

Squaxin hatchery releases coho

SEATTLE - The Squaxin Island Tribe's Peale Passage hatchery releases 1.8 million juvenile Coho salmon a year. Tribal officials said the releases are boosting tribal fishing.

"We were pleased to discover that virtually all the fish being caught were hatchery fish," Joe Peters, tribal fisheries biologist, said of this year's catch.

Since the 1970s, the tribe has seen decreasing numbers of wild Coho returning to streams in South Puget Sound.

"Squaxin fishermen are simply not fishing where wild Coho are, so they rarely see them," Peters told Northwest Indian Fisheries magazine. The hatchery brings fishing closer to home.

Because net-pen salmon have no river or stream to return to, they mill around the area close to Peale Passage, he said. Wild Coho, on the other hand, don't linger in the outside passages, and head to nearby inlets where the Squaxin tribe has closed fishing for Coho.

However, Peters said net pens are not the solution to salmon population recovery; he said tribal and state governments must continue to work together to improve salmon habitat conditions in the Puget Sound region.

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