Fixing Barrier Culverts Aim of Treaty Tribes’ Suit

Treaty Indian tribes in western Washington filed suit in federal district court against the State of Washington to compel the state to fix and maintain culverts under state roads in western Washington that illegally prevent wild salmon from reaching spawning and rearing habitat. The suit was filed as a sub-proceeding of United States v. Washington (the Boldt Decision), the landmark 1974 case that reaffirmed the tribes’ treaty-reserved fishing rights.

Questions And Answers Regarding The Tribal Culvert Case

What Is The Cause Of Action The Tribes Are Claiming Under The Culvert Case?

The Washington State Department of Transportation and other state agencies have built road culverts that either were improperly designed and installed or have failed to maintain adequate fish passage. Fish blocking culverts contribute to the loss of spawning and rearing habitats for the salmon resource. They have diminished and destroyed hundreds of miles of salmon habitat and fish production. This loss of fish production has contributed to the lack of necessary non-Indian and tribal treaty-reserved fishing.

The suit challenges only barrier culverts under state roads that affect salmon runs passing through the tribes’ usual and accustomed areas fishing areas, as defined in United States vs. Washington. It does not challenge other issues, such as water rights, agricultural practices or urban land-use.