Washington loses legal fight, might pay up to $2 billion to save salmon
By Phuong Le for AP/Peninsula Daily News
SEATTLE — Washington state has lost a major legal battle which could force it to spend nearly $2 billion to restore salmon habitat by removing barriers that block fish migration.
A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year affirmed a lower court’s 2013 ruling ordering the state to fix or replace hundreds of culverts — large pipes that allow streams to pass beneath roads but block migrating salmon.
Idaho and Montana joined Washington state in asking the appeals court to reconsider the case. The court declined to do so Friday, but several judges dissented from that decision, saying it should be reconsidered because of its significance.
“This is a win for salmon, treaty rights and everyone who lives here,” Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said in a statement.
The group represents 21 tribes in western Washington that challenged the state over the culverts in 2001, part of decades-long litigation over tribal fishing rights.
“Fixing fish-blocking culverts under state roads will open up hundreds of miles of habitat and result in more salmon,” she said.
Messages left with a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office were not immediately returned Friday.