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United States v. Washington

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20071
Nos. 70-9213, (W.D. Wash., 03/29/2013) (Martinez, J.)

A district court issued a permanent injunction ordering the state of Washington to repair or replace culverts under state-owned roads that that block fish passage to and from inland waters. The court agreed with Native American tribes' claim that the state has a treaty-based duty to preserve fish runs and ruled that their request for a permanent injunction is reasonable and sufficiently narrowly tailored to remedy specific harms. The tribes demonstrated that they have suffered irreparable injury in that their treaty-based right of taking fish has been impermissibly infringed. Moreover, this injury is ongoing, as efforts by the state to correct the barrier culverts have been insufficient. Remedies at law are inadequate as monetary damages will not adequately compensate the tribes and their individual members for these harms. And the balance of hardships tips steeply toward the tribes. The promise made to the tribes that the treaties would protect their source of food and commerce was crucial in obtaining their assent to the treaties' provisions. Nor will the public interest be disserved by an injunction. To the contrary, it is in the public's interest, as well as the tribes', to accelerate the pace of barrier correction. The court, therefore, ruled that an injunction is necessary to ensure that the state will act expeditiously in correcting the barrier culverts that violate the treaty promises.