Gov. Inslee, AG Ferguson give statements on Supreme Court culver - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Gov. Inslee, AG Ferguson give statements on Supreme Court culvert ruling

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WASHINGTON - Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, among others, gave statements on the U.S. Supreme Court's culverts ruling involving salmon habitats.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Washington v. United States, which upheld the ruling that culverts that impede fish in Washington State must be replaced:

““Today’s decision affirms that it is our collective responsibility to ensure the survival of Pacific salmon. This decision is fair under the letter of the law, but it is also just. Protecting salmon is an issue not just of importance to Washington’s tribes, but to all of us.\

“The time is now to think boldly about how we move forward on many fronts, including culverts.

“My agency, the Department of Natural Resources, stands ready to work with tribes, state agencies, counties, private landowners and federal partners to restore and protect our treasured salmon. 

“It is time to stop fighting over who should do what. Instead, let us roll up our sleeves, stand shoulder to shoulder, and get to work saving our Pacific salmon for future generations. It’s time to do the right thing.”

In August of 2017, Commissioner Franz wrote to Attorney General Ferguson urging him not to appeal this case to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Gov. Inslee's statement: "This decision offers the parties finality in this long-running case. For some time now I’ve hoped that instead of litigation we could focus together on our ongoing work to restore salmon habitat. Ensuring adequate fish passage is crucial to our efforts to honor tribes’ rights to fish, sustain our orcas, and protect one of Washington’s most iconic species. 

"We launched an effort in 2013 to fix about 425 barriers by 2030, and I look forward to working with tribes and the Legislature to ensure the necessary support to continue this fight."

AG Ferguson's statement: 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."