A federal district judge has ruled against Union Pacific Railroad and in favor of three Columbia River treaty tribes, in a decision handed down late Wednesday afternoon. This stems from the decision by Wasco County Commissioners to deny Union Pacific’s request to build four miles of new track at Mosier allowing trains to pass each other in opposite directions without slowing or stopping.
Wasco County Commisioners ruled that such a construction would have a negative impact on tribal fisheries, which are protected by their treaty rights with the US Government.
Union Pacific appealed that decision to the Columbia River Gorge Commission, which scheduled the appeal at its June 13 meeting at the Readiness Center in The Dalles.
But in January, the railroad asked the federal district court in Portland to declare that they were exempt from Wasco County’s land use regulations. Tribal lawyers for te Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation filed a motion to dismiss Union Pacific’s suit, noting that the law requires that every relevant party must be named in a suit in order for the suit to proceed, that the railroad had not named the tribes, and that the tribes could not be named because they are sovereign nations and can’t be sued unless the specifically allow it. That was the Catch-22 that caught Judge Ann Aiken’s attention and she dismissed the railroad’s lawsuit Wednesday.
You can read her decision below