Tribes target state in salmon suit
Case built on Boldt decision
January 16, 2001
BRAD SHANNON, THE OLYMPIAN
OLYMPIA -- More than a dozen Puget Sound Indian tribes are filing a federal
lawsuit to force the state of Washington to fix salmon habitat, including
installation of road culverts to aid endangered fish runs.
The tribes, who have called a press conference today to explain their
action, said the lawsuit will build on treaty rights that were affirmed by
the U.S. Supreme Court in the historic fishing-rights battles of the 1970s.
"It's a culvert case," said Tony Meyer, spokesman for the Northwest Indian
Fisheries Commission in Lacey.
The case involves several hundred fish-blocking culverts in Washington, he
said. Meyer declined to say more before today's press briefing.
A 1974 federal court ruling -- called the Boldt decision -- eventually
recognized that the tribes had a treaty right to harvest half of each
year's Puget Sound salmon run.
A later ruling said tribes had the right to 50 percent of Puget Sound's
naturally occurring shellfish harvest.
"In general, 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 a party to the suit.
"Culverts in South Sound are affected," Lyon said. "We're referring to any
fish-blocking culvert. It's the improperly constructed and improperly
The Independent Science Panel created by the Legislature in 1998 reported
last summer that the state's salmon-recovery effort was at risk of
"devolving into trivial pursuits and random acts of kindness.''
State lawmakers are expected to wrestle this year over how much money to
put into salmon-recovery programs in response to the listing of many salmon
runs as endangered or threatened.
Gov. Gary Locke's budget proposal includes $212.7 million in state and
federal spending on fish and water programs for the two-year budget cycle
starting July 1.
Representatives of Puget Sound treaty tribes will have a noon news
conference today at the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 6730 Martin
On the web:
Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (www.nwifc.wa.gov/).
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