State, tribes agree to try negotiating over culverts

SEATTLE — Attorneys for nearly two dozen American Indian tribes and the state of Washington agreed Wednesday to try to work out a final settlement to a lawsuit over culverts and fish.

U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez ruled last week that the state has violated the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott the tribes signed with the federal government by failing to maintain culverts. The Tulalip Tribes, a lead party in the case, have long argued that damaged culverts block fish runs. The treaty reserved the tribes’ right to healthy fish runs.

The case was slated for trial in September, but Martinez’s ruling came first. The parties agreed Wednesday to work toward a settlement of how the state will comply with Martinez’s decision. If an agreement can’t be reached, a trial could be held early next year.

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