Attorney General Bob Ferguson today issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear United States of America et al. v. State of Washington.
“Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear our appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in the culverts case.
“We have worked hard to reach a resolution in this case outside of court. To that end, I have personally met with tribal leaders three times in an effort to reach agreement. While we made progress, we have not reached a mutually acceptable resolution.
“Now that the Supreme Court has accepted review of the case, I hope that all 21 tribal governments will agree on a proposal that recognizes the State’s serious concerns with the Ninth Circuit ruling and allows us to continue our conversations.
“If we cannot reach a resolution, I have a duty on behalf of the taxpayers of Washington state to present our case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“In that event, my Solicitor General Noah Purcell will handle the oral argument for the state of Washington. We anticipate argument in April. We expect the Court will schedule that argument in the next few weeks.
“Salmon are vital to our way of life here in Washington. Regardless of the outcome of this case, the state must do more to restore salmon habitat. The Legislature should not need a court order to fix culverts that are blocking salmon runs.
“However, important issues are at stake in this appeal, as explained by the many dissenting Ninth Circuit judges. For example, the Ninth Circuit’s decision forces the state to expend significant resources on fixing culverts that will not benefit salmon. That makes no sense. The decision also requires Washington taxpayers to shoulder the entire financial burden for problems largely created by the federal government when it specified the design for the state’s old highway culverts. That’s not fair.
“If we do not reach a resolution that is agreeable to all parties, we hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will address these concerns.”