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Washington loses fight, might pay up to $2B to save salmon

Ted S. Warren, Associated Press

FILE – In this June 22, 2015 photo, Melissa Erkel, a fish passage biologist with the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, looks at a culvert, a large pipe that allows streams to pass beneath roads but block migrating salmon, along the north fork of Newaukum Creek near Enumclaw, Wash. On Friday, May 19, 2017, a federal appeals court declined to reconsider a ruling that Washington state says will require it to pay nearly $2 billion on salmon habitat.

SEATTLE — Washington state lost a major legal battle Friday, which could force it spend nearly $2 billion to restore salmon habitat by removing barriers that block fish migration.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year affirmed a lower court’s 2013 ruling ordering the state to fix or replace hundreds of culverts — large pipes that allow streams to pass beneath roads but block migrating salmon.

Idaho and Montana joined Washington state in asking the appeals court to reconsider the case. The court declined to do so Friday, but several judges dissented from that decision, saying it should be reconsidered because of its significance.

“This is a win for salmon, treaty rights and everyone who lives here,” Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said in a statement. The group represents 21 tribes in western Washington that challenged the state…

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