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March 29, 2013 at 6:43 PM

Federal judge orders Washington to fix culverts so salmon can pass

The Associated Press

A federal judge on Friday ordered 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.

U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez’s ruling was the result of a decades-old legal battle tied to treaties dating back to the mid-1800s. Tribes have said the state has blocked salmon passage and contributed to the decline of fish harvests.

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

Martinez said in his decision that the tribes have been harmed economically, socially, educationally and culturally because of reduced salmon harvests caused by state barriers that prevent fish passage.

“This injury is ongoing, as efforts by the State to correct the barrier culverts have been insufficient,” Martinez wrote in his ruling. “Despite past state action, a great many barrier culverts still exist, large stretches of potential salmon habitat remain empty of fish, and harvests are still diminished.”

State Attorney General spokeswoman Janelle Guthrie said the state was determining its next step, which may include appealing the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Comments | More in Environment, General news | Topics: Indian fishing rights, salmon

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