Municipal Water Rights Challenge

municipal-water-rights-billy-quote-clubSalmon Defense supported a legal challenge of the 2003 Municipal Water Law (MWL) passed by the Washington State Legislature that threatens instream flows critical to salmon.

The MWL retroactively expands water rights held by public and private water purveyors at the expense of stream flows important for salmon and steelhead habitat. During its 2010 winter term, the Washington State Supreme Court heard a challenge to the MWL brought by the Makah Tribe, Quinault Indian Nation, Squaxin Island Tribe, Tulalip Tribes, Lummi Nation and Suquamish Tribe. Key sections of the MWL were ruled unconstitutional in June 2008 by King County Superior Court Judge Jim Rodgers. Tribes defended Judge Rodgers’ ruling before the state Supreme Court and sought invalidation of other sections within the MWL that are harmful to salmon.

“The MWL represents an unconstitutional attempt by the legislature to rewrite Washington water law to benefit politically powerful water interests,” said John Arum, lead tribal attorney on the case. “The tribes’ case seeks to hold the line on these illegal raids on the water resources needed to sustain treaty fisheries.”