Washington state urges U.S. Supreme Court to review 'culverts case'

By Mark Iandolo | Aug 22, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) — Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Aug. 17 that he has filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in U. S. et al v. State of Washington – also known as the “culverts case.”

The case revolves around treaties from the 1850s in which the federal government promised Washington Native American tribes “[t]he right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations . . . in common with all citizens.” 

In 2001, the federal government and 21 tribes sued Washington, alleging that culverts under state roads violate the treaties by restricting salmon passage and salmon availability. The district court sided with the federal government in 2013, and the Ninth Circuit upheld the ruling in 2016.

“Filing this appeal does not in any way limit the state’s ability to replace culverts, and the state should increase the pace of culvert replacement,” Ferguson said. 

“But I do not get to decide how much the state spends on fixing culverts or set priorities for state agencies that regulate or build culverts. I will support any proposal from the legislature, the governor or other public officials who control land use and spending decisions that would accelerate the pace of culvert replacements. The state should not need a court order to restore salmon habitat.”

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