Culverts can be tricky things, especially if you're a fish. Culverts, those tunnels and pipes that carry creeks and streams under roadways, are an easy way to allow traffic to cross small waterways. But some of them also choke off fish entirely, becoming obstacles for salmon swimming from their upstream breeding grounds to sea. The problem is particularly pronounced when culverts are aging or in disrepair. And plenty of Washington State's culverts are aging and in disrepair.
Twenty-one of the state's Native American tribes, joined by the federal government, sued over the state of Washington's culverts, arguing that they impeded salmon runs and violated the tribes' treaty rights to catch fish. Those tribes were successful in the Ninth Circuit on Monday, with the court upholding a district court order that requires Washington to fix more than 800 derelict culverts.