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Memories Inspire Enticements for Salmon

by K.C. Mehaffey, Associated Press
The Oregonian, August 13, 2000

Habitat upgrades on the Colville reservation
envision a return of the fish and feasts celebrating them

OMAK, Wash. -- Hazel Abrahamson remembers the great salmon feasts.

She saw her grandfather, Harry Kulpschinikin, lead the elder men on the ritual first spring catch. Salmon later sizzled as it hung from the ends of willow sticks over open flames.

Her daughter, Myrna Abrahamson, has heard the stories many times. Abrahamson now dreams of her daughters having a feast, too, catching salmon in Omak Creek, not too far from the Okanogan River gatherings in Malott in her mother's stories.

Abrahamson knows her family's connection to the salmon, even though the feasts stopped before she was born 42 years ago.

So her family has worked to restore the part of Omak Creek that passes through her 30-acre ranch on the Colville reservation. It is one of many projects under way so the salmon might one day come back.

Abrahamson and her husband, Mark Pepin, put huge tree roots and rocks in the creek and along its banks to keep the creek in its channel, create pools and provide cover for fish.

The work is sponsored by the Colville Tribes and with funding and technical help from the National Resource Conservation Service.

In other parts of the 90,000 acres of the Omak Creek watershed, the conservation service and the tribes have worked together to improve cattle ranges leased through the tribe.

They have installed 10 miles of fence to keep cattle out of Omak Creek and its springs, as well as water troughs for cattle and wildlife. Cattle are rotated through different ranges to prevent overgrazing. The goal is to reduce sediment in the creek and encourage the growth of native plants.

At Mission Falls above the Paschal Sherman Indian School, they blasted out 10,000 cubic yards of rock that blocked fish during construction of a railroad. Salmon and steelhead could not spawn up Omak Creek until the barrier was removed last year.

In the spring, biologists counted 25 steelhead returning to the headwaters of Omak Creek at Disautel. This fall, the biologists will release 100,000 spring chinook salmon eggs throughout the creek; next spring, 40,000 smolt.

The tribes and the conservation service said the work is far from done.

But Joe Peone, director of the Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department, said he thinks water quality and temperature problems have improved enough to support fish again. In three years, the water temperature, identified as the biggest problem for salmon and steelhead, has dropped by about 4 degrees.

K.C. Mehaffey, The Associated Press
Memories Inspire Enticements for Salmon
The Oregonian, August 13, 2000

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