Office of Governor Gary Locke
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 16, 2001
Contact: Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136
Joint statement from Gov. Locke and Attorney General Gregoire - Response to filing of Boldt Phase II lawsuitOLYMPIA - We are disappointed that the tribes feel litigation is necessary to bring about the improvements that we all strive for. Litigation will serve to siphon valuable time, money and energy away from the vital task of saving salmon - a goal that we all share. All our efforts should be directed at ensuring that we leave a good quality environment for generations to come, not arguing in court over our state's resources.
The specific issue in this case is whether the treaties require the state to repair or replace culverts in a manner or on a schedule different from what the state agencies already planned.
State agencies are responsible for more than 22,000 miles of roads in Washington. Most of the culverts that underlie these roads, including all new construction, pass fish freely. Washington is acting reasonably to fix the culverts that don't.
Over the last nine years the state has spent millions of dollars to repair fish passage barriers. Responsible state agencies have established ambitious schedules to identify and repair the remaining culverts that block passage. These agencies have requested nearly 40 million dollars in the next biennium to fund repair and replacement efforts. They plan to make similar funding requests to future legislatures as well.
There are nearly 2400 culverts that the state has identified to repair or replace for salmon passage. They range from simple metal pipes under forest roads to complex concrete structures under state highways. With necessary funding, state agencies plan to achieve full remediation by 2021. The state believes this schedule is consistent with the Endangered Species Act and properly balances the needs of salmon recovery with the fiscal, transportation and environmental impacts of remediation efforts.
We are aware this case has potential significance beyond the culvert issue. A favorable ruling for the tribes could impose a duty that may affect other public roadways, public facilities and lands and even the regulation of land use and water.
We don't believe that the treaties were intended to displace the state's authority to plan, schedule and carry out culvert repairs and replacements, or any other such natural resource management or regulatory action.
The state has tried to avoid this litigation by meeting with tribal leaders and requesting mediation in a sincere effort to resolve the culvert issue. And the state continues to be ready and willing to work with the tribes to define a culvert remediation plan that will accommodate their concerns. The state, however, also is prepared to defend its natural resource and decision-making authority.
Trying this issue in the courts will be expensive and time consuming, and may not produce a result that any party is happy with. We have a mutual goal of salmon preservation and recovery that is achievable without litigation.