Washington Court Ruling Means More Water for Fish, Less For Landowners

Oct 4, 2013

A Western Washington tribe today won a legal battle that will ensure more water stays in the Skagit River to help salmon and steelhead. The Washington Supreme Court ruled that a state agency overstepped its authority in allocating water for new development.

The Swinomish tribe sued the Department of Ecology, contending harm to salmon and steelhead if stream flows were too low. The tribe’s chairman Brian Cladoosby says this is a huge victory for the Swinomish people and for salmon that need adequate stream flows to survive. The Skagit is home to three species of fish that are protected under the Endangered Species Act. The court’s six to three decision overturned a lower court ruling that sided with the state. Skagit County’s Civil Attorney Will Honea says this decision has the potential to leave thousands of rural and agricultural landowners without a legal source of water. An estimated 6,000 landowners could be affected, including more than 600 residents with homes that have already been built. The Department of Ecology issued a statement expressing disappointment the ruling and vowing to find water supply solutions for homes and businesses.

Copyright 2013 Oregon Public Broadcasting