9th Circuit Refuses to Hear 
Culvert Case Appeal

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier today (May 19, 2017) refused to hear the state of Washington’s most recent appeal of the culvert case. The U.S. government filed the case in 2001 on behalf of the tribes. The decision could bring to a halt more than 15 years of litigation on whether the state of Washington has a duty under federal treaty to protect salmon habitat.

You can read the entire ruling at: https://turtletalk.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/13-35474_documents.pdf.

“This is a win for salmon, treaty rights and everyone who lives here,” said Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “Fixing fish-blocking culverts under state roads will open up hundreds of miles of habitat and result in more salmon. That means more fishing, more jobs and healthier economies for all of us.”

The appeal stems from Judge Ricardo Martinez’s 2013 ruling that failed state culverts violate tribal treaty rights because they reduce the number of salmon available for tribal harvest. Judge Martinez ruled that tribal treaty-reserved rights to harvest salmon also include the right to have those salmon protected so they are available for harvest.

Judge Martinez gave the state 15 years to reopen 90 percent of the habitat blocked by its culverts in Western Washington. More than 800 state culverts block salmon access to more than 1,000 miles of good habitat and harm salmon at every stage of their life cycle. The state has been fixing them so slowly it would have needed more than 100 years to finish the job.