A Western Washington tribe Thursday won a legal victory that will ensure more water stays in the Skagit River to help salmon and steelhead.
The decision could affect 6,000 landowners who were allocated water under rules that have now been struck down. That figure includes more than 600 residents with homes that have already been built.
The Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Ecology overstepped its authority in allocating water from the Skagit River for new development.
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community sued Ecology, contending harm to salmon and steelhead if stream flows were too low.
The tribe’s chairman Brian Cladoosby (KLA duhs bee) says this is a huge victory for the Swinomish people and for salmon that need adequate stream flows to survive.
The Skagit is home to three species of fish that are protected under the Endangered Species Act .
The court’s 6-to-3 decision overturned a lower court ruling that sided with the state.
The case has been closely watched by rural and agricultural landowners in the Skagit River basin who drilled wells about a decade ago.
Skagit County’s Civil Attorney Will Honea says this decision has the potential to leave thousands of rural and agricultural landowners without a legal source of water.
The Department of Ecology issued a statement expressing disappointment the ruling and vowing to find water supply solutions for homes and businesses.
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