BLYN (Sept. 10, 2003) – The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe commends farmers in the Dungeness River watershed for passing on water rights to provide more water for salmon making their way up the river to spawn.

The Washington Department of Ecology put together the program, which will pay 17 farmers not to take their legal quota of water. Farmers participating in the project will share $244,545. Each individual’s portion, ranging from $1,450 to $63,787, will depend on the amount of land they take out of production.

The Department of Ecology will lease the water rights from participating farmers for the next three years. The deal will leave water in the river basin between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15 that would have otherwise went to irrigate about 1,400 acres of crops. “The tribe is pleased that the Department of Ecology and local farmers have reached this agreement to help salmon,” said Ann Seiter, natural resources director for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “Having this water available will provide important habitat for salmon coming back to the Dungeness River to spawn. Fish need this water, especially during those three months.”

And this year the need is even greater. This summer has been especially dry, and water flows are expected to dwindle the longer the Dungeness watershed goes without rain. The leases, however, will allow an extra 10.02 cubic feet per second, around 4,500 gallons per minute, of water to flow throughout the river. The Dungeness River supports chinook, chum, pink and coho salmon, along with steelhead and bull trout. Dungeness chinook, summer chum and bull trout are all listed as “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Over the past several years, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe has worked to improve salmon spawning and rearing habitat in the Dungeness watershed. Since 1997, the tribe has secured about $2 million in grants to help make irrigation more efficient in the Dungeness valley. “There’s more water in the Dungeness River on a routine basis than there was 10 to 15 years ago,” Seiter said. “So improvements have been made. And with the addition of this water plan the amount of spawning and rearing habitat available to salmon will increase. That’s extremely important, particularly during drought years.”

The Dungeness water leases expire Sept. 15, 2005, according to the Department of Ecology. The leases are part of a statewide plan to restore inadequate stream flows in 16 basins, where fish runs are at risk.

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For further information, contact: Ann Seiter, natural resources director for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, 360-683-1109, aseiter@jamestowntribe.org. Darren Friedel, information officer for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 297-6546, dfriedel@nwifc.org.