Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Earthfix
5:15 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Hungry Sea Lions Pile Into The Columbia River

The latest sea lion count in Astoria's East Mooring Basin was a record 2,340, shattering last year's record 1,420.

Originally published on Fri March 27, 2015 9:26 am

California sea lions are literally piling into Astoria's East Mooring Basin. They've taken over every square foot of the boat docks, and they're even lying on top of each other for lack of space.

The latest sea lion count in the marina tallied a record 2,340 – a "mind-boggling number," according to Bryan Wright of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Meanwhile California is seeing starving sea lion pups washing up on shore.

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NPR Story
3:30 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Japan's Earthquake: Lessons For Oregon

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 4:33 pm

Over the last 25 years, Oregon Field Guide has documented the evolution in understanding the earthquake threat Oregon faces. Scientists now think there’s a 1 in 3 chance of a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake striking off our coast within the next 50 years. But what can we do about it? Can we better prepare?

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NPR Story
3:29 pm
Thu March 26, 2015

Environmental Prize Winner Sees More Americans Accepting Climate Science

Humpback whale calf off the Atlantic coast.

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 1:52 pm

Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco has been given the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, a major international environmental science award.

The award, announced Tuesday, honored Lubchenco for her long career building and promoting lines of connections between ocean health and community health.

Lubchenco's work has carried her from the laboratory and classroom to the highest levels of public policy administration.

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NPR Story
2:47 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Warmest Day Of Spring Could Melt Away Freshly Fallen Snow

Warm weather has left the Cascades with little to no snow at lower elevations; the only places to ski are at higher elevations.

If you weren't able to take advantage of the new powder this week, the clock is ticking.

The National Weather Service in Portland tweeted that Thursday is expected to be the warmest day so far of the season. Temperatures are forecast to range from about 60 on the coast to nearly 80 in parts of central Oregon.

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NPR Story
2:32 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

5 Things You Should Know About The WHO Saying Roundup Could Cause Cancer

Farmers all over the world use tractors to apply herbicides like glyphosate to their fields.

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

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Earthfix
4:45 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Congressional Democrats Want More Money For Earthquake Early Warning System

Congressional Democrats from up and down the West Coast are asking the House Appropriations Committee to allocate more money for a new earthquake early warning system.

The warning system uses sensors to detect the initial, less destructive waves of an earthquake.

So it doesn't give much advance notice. Somewhere between a few seconds and a minute.

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NPR Story
3:14 pm
Tue March 24, 2015

Polluting Grain Facility In E. Wash. Proposed For Superfund Cleanup

A grain silo

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 6:11 pm

A grain handling facility in Eastern Washington has been leaking chemicals into the only source of drinking water for a local school district. The Environmental Protection Agency now wants to add it to the Superfund list of hazardous waste cleanup projects.

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NPR Story
2:37 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

'Small' Oil Spills Can Add Up To Big Costs

Oiled mallard ducks recuperate in cribs inside heated tents after a Sunnyside oil spill.

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 7:40 am

State Fish and Wildlife Biologist Brian McDonald is careful not to raise his voice as he approaches a row of baby cribs in a warehouse in Pasco, Washington. Each one holds mallard ducks.

“They’re typically in pretty rough shape--they’re sick, they’re cold, they’re oiled, they’re hungry,” he says.

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NPR Story
5:59 pm
Sat March 21, 2015

Why The Nuclear Energy World Is Thinking Small

The control room simulator at NuScale Power.

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 6:05 pm

In the world of nuclear power, one technology is generating debate: factory-produced reactors that are no bigger than a house.

These "small modular reactors" are designed to produce power on the scale of a single factory or business campus. That’s a big departure from a traditional nuclear plant — the kind that's powerful enough to run an entire metropolis and big enough to be seen from miles away.

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Earthfix
8:05 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

What Early Drought Means For The Klamath Basin

Irrigation water is being cut off for hay farmers and other growers in the drought-parched Klamath Basin of Oregon and California.

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 9:46 am

Southeastern Oregon is preparing for the fourth drought year in a row. The region has received record-low or near-record-low snowfall this winter.

On Friday, the first day of spring, the federal government announced it was making emergency aid available to 13 Oregon counties because of drought. Gov. Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency for Lake and Malheur Counties. Similar declarations are expected soon for Harney, Crook and Klamath Counties.

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NPR Story
6:04 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

BNSF Railway Could Face Big Fines After Hazardous Spills In Washington

Tank cars carrying petroleum crude oil are stationed at BNSF Railway's Willbridge Yard in Northwest Portland. The train come into Portland through the Columbia River Gorge, headed for a terminal in Clatskanie, Oregon.

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 12:55 pm

Washington regulators say the region's biggest oil-train operator should be penalized after failing to comply with reporting requirements following 14 spills of hazardous materials, including crude oil.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission said Thursday an investigation had found that between Nov. 1 of last year and Feb. 24, BNSF Railway committed 700 violations of the state's reporting requirement for railway spills of hazardous materials. Four of those spills involved trains carrying crude oil through Washington state.

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NPR Story
4:59 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Lake Abert Dries Up

A thick crust of salt remains after most of Lake Abert dried up in 2014.

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 8:52 pm

Oregon's third largest lake, Lake Abert dried up in 2014 for the first time since the 1930s. 3 million migrating shorebirds depend on it for food. Drought has hit that region of the state but some people wonder whether human use of Abert's only water source made things worse. Under Oregon law, Lake Abert has no legal right to any water at all. In March, 2015, the Oregon Water Resources Department recommended approving the extension of the permit of the Rivers End Ranch dam, which frequently blocks the flow to Lake Abert.

MORE INFORMATION

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Earthfix
4:23 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Oregon Commission Again Says No To Funding Coal Export Dock

The Port of St. Helens applied for grants through the ConnectOregon program to expand this dock, which is used to ship crude oil and would also be used to export coal for the Morrow Pacific project.

Originally published on Thu March 19, 2015 5:14 pm

The Oregon Transportation Commission on Thursday voted 3-1 to deny a $2 million grant of state funds for dock improvements at Port Westward in Clatskanie, Oregon, a project tied to proposed coal exports.

It was the second time the commission voted down the controversial application, which the former chair of the commission claims she was fired for refusing to approve the first time.

Environmental groups had urged the commission to reject the application and lauded the vote.

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Earthfix
5:15 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Warm Ocean Temperatures Could Mean Trouble For Marine Life

Chinook salmon

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 1:43 pm

It’s a double-whammy kind of year for the Pacific.

An unusually warm winter in Alaska failed to chill ocean waters. Then this winter’s El Nino is keeping tropical ocean temperatures high. Combine these and scientists are recording ocean temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average off the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

“This is a situation with how the climate is going, or the weather is going, that we just haven’t really seen before and don’t know where it’s headed,” says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Chris Harvey.

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NPR Story
1:34 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Mt. Bachelor Fares Better Than Most Resorts For Snow

Snow at Mt. Bachelor Jan. 8.

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 11:30 am

Much of the Northwest has very low snowpack right now. But Mt. Bachelor near Bend is faring better than most western ski resorts.

After a bit of snow over the weekend, Mt. Bachelor now has the third deepest snowpack of any U.S. resort. That's according to On The Snow, a website that tracks resort conditions across the country.

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NPR Story
10:45 am
Mon March 16, 2015

What Fat Grizzlies Can Teach Us About Obese Humans

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NPR Story
10:25 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Mountain Bikers Protest At City Park

Originally published on Tue March 17, 2015 10:17 am

Portland’s mountain bikers are unhappy over the city’s recent decision to ban them from riding at the River View Natural Area in Southwest Portland. The Park is home to some of the city’s only natural trails for mountain biking. Portland City Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish stated in a letter that they’re trying to “protect the city’s investment in the area,” by allowing only “passive, nature-based recreational uses.”

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NPR Story
10:18 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Beavers Provide Free Labor To Build Salmon Habitat

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 3:26 pm

They may be our state animal, but many people think beavers are a nuisance. They can cause flooding to parks, backyards, and farmland, and it was long believed that salmon couldn't pass through beaver dams. But now some scientists have found that beaver dams actually create a good habitat for young salmon.

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NPR Story
5:25 pm
Sat March 14, 2015

What a Record-Low Snowpack Means For Summer In The Northwest

Scott Pattee, a water supply specialist with the National Resources Conservation Service, checks snow levels at Stevens Pass ski resort in Washington's Cascade Mountains.

Originally published on Fri March 6, 2015 3:54 pm

Scott Pattee stands well over 6 feet, but he’s dwarfed by the tall white tube set up near the Stevens Pass Ski Area to measure snow depth.

Little black numbers marking inches of snow ascend the side of the tube. The top number reads 250 inches, an amount of snow that’s hard to imagine right now.

Most of the mountains around Pattee are green and brown, not white - even though it’s officially still winter until March 19 arrives.

And the snow depth, according to the tower?

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Earthfix
4:15 pm
Fri March 13, 2015

Long Road Lies Ahead For Northwest Forest Plan Update

A timber industry group has filed a lawsuit challenging the latest habitat protections for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species.

Timber interests and environmental groups are gearing up for a multi-year fight over how federal forests are managed in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

The Northwest Forest Plan is now 20 years old and due for an update, according to the US Forest Service.

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