State budget scrimps on replacing salmon-blocking culverts

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington faces a federal court order to fix under-roadway pipes that block migrating fish by 2030, but a budget passed by lawmakers shortchanges the work. That puts the state at risk of missing the deadline and could delay salmon recovery even as the Pacific Northwest’s orcas are starving.

The Legislature’s two-year transportation budget, approved last weekend, devotes $100 million to fixing the pipes. That’s only about one-third of what Gov. Jay Inslee requested, but lawmakers said they couldn’t come up with any more.

Lorraine Loomis, chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, says underfunding culvert removal now will make it almost impossible to meet the court’s deadline.

U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez ordered Washington to fix or replace more than 1,000 culverts blocking access to 1,600 miles of salmon habitat. His ruling was upheld by a divided Supreme Court last year.