OLYMPIA — The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 4-4 decision in the culverts case today, which means the lower court decision will remain in place. That ruling forces the state to pay 100 percent of the cost of replacing barrier culverts, even though the federal government provided the design for those culverts, and regardless of whether other barrier culverts block salmon from getting to the state culverts. Attorney General Bob Ferguson offers the following statement:
“Today’s ruling brings a resolution to a case that has gone on for nearly 20 years, defended by multiple attorneys general. It is unfortunate that Washington state taxpayers will be shouldering all the responsibility for the federal government’s faulty culvert design. The Legislature has a big responsibility in front of it to ensure the state meets its obligation under the court’s ruling. It’s also time for others to step up in order to make this a positive, meaningful ruling for salmon. Salmon cannot reach many state culverts because they are blocked by culverts owned by others. For example, King County alone owns several thousand more culverts than are contained in the entire state highway system. The federal government owns even more than that in Washington state. These culverts will continue to block salmon from reaching the state’s culverts, regardless of the condition of the state’s culverts, unless those owners begin the work the state started in 1990 to replace barriers to fish.
“I look forward to working with tribal governments to advocate for the funding necessary to comply with this court order, and to ensure other culvert owners do their part to remove barriers to salmon passage."
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org