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Washington Tribes Win Culvert Lawsuit

April 1, 2013

A federal judge is ordering the state of Washington to fix culverts that block salmon from reaching their habitat, setting a timeline and pressuring officials to find the money needed to do the job. In 2001 the treaty tribes in western Washington, including the Quinault Indian Nation, filed suit under U.S. v. Washington, challenging the existence of fish blocking culverts.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez is the result of a decades-old legal battle tied to treaties from the mid-1800s. Tribes say the state has contributed to the decline of fish harvests.

State Attorney General spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie says the state is determining its next step, which includes appealing the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Under the ruling, the state must first fix culverts on recreational lands by the fall of 2016. The state would have 17 years to provide fish passage through Transportation Department culverts.

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Photo Property of NWIFC

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