Everday Olympia: Squaxin Island Tribe calls for restored Deschutes River estuary

From Everyday Olympia:

We know that South Sound is dying. Squaxin tribal researchers recently conducted a study of how many coho salmon leaving streams in southern Puget Sound actually survive long enough to swim past the Tacoma Narrows. Coho populations have been dropping for more than a decade around here, and we’ve been studying them to understand why.

What we came up with was shocking. Only 3 percent of coho that originated in southern Puget Sound made it past the Tacoma Narrows. Typically around 2 percent of any given salmon run return as adults, so South Sound coho are practically seeing a lifetime’s worth of mortality in only a few miles.

Another reason the non-tribal community argues against restoring the Deschutes River estuary is there are other, more convenient places to restore. They can spend their restoration dollars in places they’ve already decided aren’t better suited for a yacht club or a port. But the Squaxin Island Tribe has no other place to go. The tribe is bound by tradition and by a treaty with the federal government to fish close to home in the same waters they have fished for centuries.

The non-tribal community can point to Budd Inlet and say, “this place is too important economically to ever restore the estuary.” But for the Squaxin Island Tribe, there is no more valuable place to restore than the Deschutes River estuary.