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Tribes Target State Road Culverts in Salmon Lawsuit

by Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - January 16, 2001

OLYMPIA -- Some Puget Sound Indian tribes plan to file a federal lawsuit to try to force the state to fix road culverts they say block the passage of salmon.

A spokesman for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Tony Meyer, said the lawsuit will rely on treaty rights that were affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s.

"The overall goal of the tribes is to fix all of the fish culverts and other barriers and to do that within a reasonable period of time ... in the form of a legally binding court order," said Kevin Lyon, an Olympia-based attorney for the Squaxin Island Indian Tribe. The Squaxin tribe is party to the suit.

"We're referring to any fish-blocking culvert," Lyon said. "It's the improperly constructed and improperly maintained culverts."

Culverts are manmade channels, usually pipes, built under roads to direct the flow of water and, in theory, migrating fish like salmon.

A 1974 federal court ruling, called the Boldt decision, recognized the tribes' treaty right to harvest half of each year's Puget Sound salmon run. Meyer said the Boldt decision will be a key part of the lawsuit.

Seven Washington state salmon runs have been listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Associated Press
Tribes Target State Road Culverts in Salmon Lawsuit
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 16, 2001

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