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SCOTUS Tie Gives Tribes Victory In Salmon Migration Barriers Lawsuit


Salmon on their way up from northwest Washington's Skagit River have to leap two feet onto the jagged edge of this pipe to make it to habitat upstream.

Salmon on their way up from northwest Washington’s Skagit River have to leap two feet onto the jagged edge of this pipe to make it to habitat upstream.

Eilís O’Neill, KUOW/EarthFix

The Supreme Court is leaving in place a court order that forces Washington state to restore salmon habitat by removing barriers that block fish migration.

The justices divided 4-4 Monday in the long-running dispute that pits the state against Indian tribes and the federal government.

The tie serves to affirm a lower court ruling in favor of the tribes. Justice Anthony Kennedy stepped aside from the case because he participated in an earlier stage of it when he served on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

At issue is whether Washington state must fix or replace hundreds of culverts. Those are large pipes that allow streams to pass beneath roads but can block migrating salmon if they become clogged or if they’re too steep to navigate.

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