SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE V. CITY OF SEATTLE, ET AL, No. 22-35000 (9th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The City of Seattle/Seattle City Light1 (“Seattle”) owns and operates the Gorge Dam, which is part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project (“Project”). Seattle operates the Project pursuant to a thirty-year license that was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) in 1995. The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (“Tribe”) sued Seattle in Washington state court, alleging that Seattle’s operation of the Gorge Dam without fish passage facilities (“fishways”) violates certain federal and state laws. Seattle removed the case to federal court. The district court denied the Tribe’s motion to remand, finding that it had jurisdiction because the Tribe’s complaint raised substantial federal questions. The district court then granted Seattle’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and dismissed the complaint.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the SaukSuiattle Indian Tribe’s motion to remand to state court and the district court’s dismissal. affirmed the district court’s order denying the Tribe’s motion to remand the action to state court. The panel held that the City properly removed the action to federal court under 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(a) because the Tribe’s right to relief depended on resolution of a substantial question of federal law. Applying a four-part test, the panel concluded that the Tribe’s complaint necessarily raised federal issues because it expressly invoked federal laws, and it was uncontested that the federal issues were disputed. The panel also affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Tribe’s complaint was subject to section 313(b) of the Federal Power Act.