EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The Portland Water Bureau is taking immediate steps to reduce the amount of lead in the water at taps across the Portland metro area. The move comes after a routine check of at-risk homes found too much lead in the water this fall, and state regulators ordered the Water Bureau to take immediate action.

A threatened sea bird that relies on coastal old growth forests to nest will be getting further protections in Oregon. This week, the Board of Forestry agreed to join with other state agencies to create a plan to conserve marbled murrelet habitat on state and private lands.

Environmental groups petitioned the state earlier this year to protect the murrelet, which is on both the federal and state endangered species lists. The Oregon Board of Forestry initially said “no,” but reversed its decision after the groups went to the courts.

The Plane That Won A War And Polluted A River

Dec 1, 2016

This is a condensed version of a story originally published Sept. 29, 2015. Read the complete story here.

There's an old photograph in my father’s office that I’ve always wondered about. In it my grandfather and nine other young airmen stand in front of their B-17 plane, shoulders squared, smiling for the camera. They were probably in England at the time, getting ready to fly bombing raids over Germany in 1943.

Growing up, Paul Skirvin milked a lot of cows.

“Dad went and borrowed the money,” he says. “And before we was through milking cows, we was milking about 60 head.”

This was outside of Portland in the 1930s and '40s. Skirvin was too young to fight in World War II. Soon after it ended he received a quick lesson in economics when he and his brother were hired to log off their neighbor’s land.

“We milked those cows all month and about the same as we’d make in a week logging.” he says.

Life At A Post-War Nuclear Weapons Factory

Dec 1, 2016

Seth Ellingsworth figured he was set for life. He was 22 and had just landed a coveted factory job in the company town he’d grown up in.

“I thought it was the greatest thing ever,” he said. “The place where people in the area worked that did well, I got a job there. I was really proud that I was a part of it.”

Now, at 35, Ellingsworth spends most days beset by tremors, struggling for oxygen, frequently confined to the ground floor of his home in Richland, Washington. It’s just outside his former place of work: the Hanford Nuclear Site.

Paul Fishman spots a rusty chunk of metal jutting out of the riverbank on Portland’s South Waterfront.

“Ah-ha!" he said. “Here’s a piece of ship’s hull."

The piece came from a World War II ship – one of the few signs of the post-war industry that used to be here.

During World War II, the site was one of several Willamette River shipyards devoted to building military vessels. But when victory made all those warships obsolete, this stretch of the waterfront became the scrapyard where many of those ships were torn apart.

The Olympic Peninsula was Charles Nelson’s best medicine.

The Army veteran had served during 1990s conflicts in Somalia and Kuwait before returning home to Seattle. Nelson couldn’t cope with daily life as a civilian. Something as common as an unexpected car-door slam gave him a shiver of fear. Doctors diagnosed him with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

He joined a group of veterans who took weekly hikes deep into the rainforest.

“It was better therapy for me than anything else I’ve really been through,” Nelson said.

Biologist Adrian Wolf searches the ground for something camouflaged in the dry prairie grass. Then he spots it: a baby streaked horned lark.

Wolf’s hands tremble as he puts a tiny silver identification band on its leg.

“I have an endangered species little life in my hand,” he says, and then places the bird back in its nest.

Only about 2,000 streaked horned larks are left on the planet. Wolf is trying to prevent the native Northwest songbirds from going extinct. But that’s not an easy task considering the dangers nearby.

The Waste That Remains From Arming Nuclear Weapons

Dec 1, 2016

Hanford is the nation’s largest nuclear cleanup site, with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste sitting in old, leaky underground tanks just a few hours upriver from Portland. After more than 20 years and $19 billion dollars, not a drop of waste has been treated.

WATCH: Battle Ready - The Digital Documentary

The timber industry labor shortage during WWII was very real. Many able-bodied men left the woods to fight in the war and still others felt the pull of wartime manufacturing jobs in cities like Seattle, Tacoma and Portland.

Loggers were exempted from the draft because the United States needs lumber for the war effort. But that didn’t solve the labor shortage.

Like in other war-time industries across the country, women joined the workforce.

“Women do start working the timber industry in the 1940s, particularly in plywood mills,” said UO historian Steven Beda.

Copyright 2016 ERTHFX. To see more, visit ERTHFX.

The Navy has just been granted permits by the U.S. Forest Service to expand electromagnetic warfare training over Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.

Now the Navy is cleared to drive trucks out into the Olympic National Forest, armed with electromagnetic signaling technology. Then growler jets will take off from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and fly overhead, searching for the signal trucks from the air. It's essentially a military training game of hide-and-go-seek. The trucks simulate cell towers and other communications behind enemy lines that the Navy wants to scramble.

The Canadian government approved a crude-oil pipeline project that is much larger than the one generating protests in North Dakota and could bring a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic to the Salish Sea.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder-Morgan Transmountain pipeline expansion project. The pipeline currently brings crude from Alberta’s oil sands region to the coast of British Columbia.

Now the company is approved to more than double the pipeline’s capacity.

While many Oregonians spent the Thanksgiving holiday eating large meals with their families, some drove hundreds of miles to feed the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters in North Dakota.

A group of 12 leaders of color, led by Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon Executive Director Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, drove three car loads of supplies to activists who oppose the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

Tribal members there say the fossil fuel project threatens to contaminate the local water supply, and have demonstrated for months against it.

For more than half a century, dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have been taken for granted as a permanent part of the landscape. The four dams on the lower Snake River provide hydropower and navigation to the West Coast’s most inland port -- in Lewiston, Idaho. They’ve also proven detrimental to threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

Now, a longstanding debate — removing or altering the four lower Snake River dams — is back at the forefront of a discussion on how to protect fish while still doing what’s best for all interests along the Columbia and Snake rivers.

In this town of 1,200 people in the southwest corner of Oregon, neighborhoods end where stacks of sprinkler-soaked logs begin.

The town is surrounded by four sawmills in the heart of timber country.

Here in Douglas County, where about half of the land is owned by the federal government, Donald Trump won 64 percent of the county's vote in this year’s presidential election. Trump’s victory has this community and others in the Northwest Timber Belt cheering and hoping better times are ahead.

People who eat fish from Washington state waters will be protected by a combination of new federal and state pollution rules.

That’s the outcome of a decision the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Tuesday.

The announcement could end years of wrangling over how much to restrict municipal and industrial water pollution. Indian tribes have been especially critical of what they considered lax standards for how much fish can be safely consumed.

Sara Thompson from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission called the decision an important first step.

Conservationists and fishing groups worry their voices aren’t being heard during public hearings about the future of southeastern Washington's Snake River dams.

A federal judge ordered agencies to to consider all options on the table when it comes to protecting threatened and endangered salmon that -- including a hard look at removing or altering the four dams on the lower Snake River.

The Oregon Board of Forestry is proposing to increase the number of shade trees left standing beside streams after logging on private forests. The proposed rules are designed to improve habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the western part of the state.

The idea is to get these streams into compliance with the state’s own rules about protecting cold water for these species of fish.

Activists with the Portland Climate Action Coalition are putting the finishing touches on an old school bus they purchased and renovated to serve as a shelter and medical facility for oil pipeline protesters at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota.

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