(CN) — The Supreme Court Friday agreed to review a court order that could force Washington state to pay billions of dollars to restore salmon habitat by removing barriers that block fish migration.
The state’s appeal comes to the high court from the Ninth Circuit. That court affirmed a lower court order for the state to fix or replace hundreds of culverts. Those are large pipes that allow streams to pass beneath roads but can block migrating salmon.
The ruling stems from a 2001 lawsuit filed by Native American tribes and the Justice Department. The tribes say they’ve been deprived of fishing rights that had been guaranteed by treaties.
Washington complained the ruling could have broad implications for land and water use management in the Northwest.
As per their long-standing custom, the justices did not explain their rationale for taking the case.