Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
5:39 pm
Thu March 5, 2015

Researchers Return From Open Waters With Baby Orca Video And More

Southern resident killer whales in February, 2015.

The orcas commonly spotted in the waters of Puget Sound during the summer lead a much more mysterious life in the winter time.

But a team of researchers has just returned from a three-week cruise following orcas along the coast of the Northwest and British Columbia. And they brought back some clues to help demystify the orcas' winter activities.

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NPR Story
6:25 pm
Wed March 4, 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 Thu March 5, 2015 9:36 am

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.

NPR Story
5:05 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Portland Firefighters Seek Training On Oil Train Fires And Transportation Accidents

Firefighters with Portland Fire and Rescue demonstrate how they would apply fire retardant foam to contain and extinguish an oil train fire.

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 12:23 pm

The Portland City Council today approved a plan to send 13 firefighters to Texas for a special training course on flammable liquid fires.

Portland Fire and Rescue said they are seeking the training in response to the increased rail shipments of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields by rail and barge through the Portland area. Federal agencies have said the crude from the Bakken fields in North Dakota is more flammable than oil from other regions.

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5:01 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Truffle Hunters Shut Out Of Some Favorite Spots This Season

Eric Lyon says he wouldn't be able to hunt for mushrooms without the help of his trusty companion Leroy. Each time Leroy finds a truffle, he gets rewarded with a treat. 

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 4:05 pm

It’s truffle season in Oregon’s forests. On a recent weekend, forager Eric Lyon leads a big black Labrador into a stand of Douglas fir trees near the town of Banks.

"Where's the truffle?" he says to the lab named Leroy.

Leroy keeps his nose close to the ground. He's on the scent of a truffle.

"There’s maybe six, 10 inches of the soil that has truffle aroma," explains Lyon, "but they can isolate the exact spot and I just use my little spoon and pop it out."

Leroy stops and digs gently with one paw. "Great aroma! Oh, that's a good one Leroy," Lyon says.

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4:58 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Oregon House Sends Clean Fuels Bill To Governor

New rules passed Wednesday in Oregon would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuel by 10 percent over a 10-year period.

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 7:01 pm

After five hours of debate Wednesday, the Oregon House of Representatives approved a controversial bill that would extend a state effort to reduce carbon emissions from transportation fuels.

The bill passed 31-29 after several failed Republican motions to replace the bill, send it back to committee and postpone it indefinitely.

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6:31 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Oregon Gold Miners Face Limits If Lawmakers Don’t Act

Southern Oregon continues to produce gold, more than 150 years after the initial gold rush in the state.

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 3:31 pm

Tom Kitchar has a theory of mining. It goes something like this:

Way, way back, when humans first came down from the trees, someone picked up a certain rock and realized it was useful.

It was heavy or sharp or easy to grip and use. It was a weapon. It was some sort of tool.

Soon everyone wanted one of these rocks. And those who went out to find and collect them were the first miners.

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3:12 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Satellites Give Scientists A Better View Of Forest Insect Outbreaks

Damage from mountain pine beetles on lodgepole and whitebark pine trees in Deschutes National Forest.

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 6:02 pm

You might call it the forester's version of Google Earth: new satellite mapping that's giving scientists a clearer view of insect outbreaks in Northwest forests.

A study published this week describes how scientists with Oregon State University have combined new satellite imagery with older data from airplane and ground surveys to show in unprecedented detail where insects are damaging trees in the region.

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NPR Story
3:06 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Mt. Hood Glacier Cave Featured By Oregon Field Guide Collapses

The Snow Dragon Cave is partially closed after a collapse.

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 9:51 am

One of Mt. Hood's glacier caves, Snow Dragon, has partially collapsed, according to Glacier Caves Explorers. Sometime between November 2014 and the end of January, the roof caved in near the entrance.

Brent McGregor of Glacier Cave Explorers said two skylights opened in the cave in November, and last month about hundred feet collapsed, possibly due to warm air entering through the skylights. This has also been a historically low snow year for Mt. Hood.

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NPR Story
12:21 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Crews Work To Clean Up Yakima River Oil Spill

Emergency crews are responding to a 1,500 gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River.

Emergency crews are responding to a 1,500-gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River.

The used motor oil has threatened wildlife since it escaped Sunday from an above-ground storage tank at the site of a former feedlot. The heavy oil flowed across a paved area and into an irrigation ditch, known as Sulphur Creek, which drains into the Yakima River. An oil sheen flowed as south as Prosser, about 25 miles away.

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NPR Story
3:14 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Public Input Sought On Plan For Grizzly Bear Reintroduction In Washington

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The National Park Service is evaluating whether to reintroduce grizzly bears to Washington's North Cascades.

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 9:28 am

The North Cascades of Washington used to be home to thousands of grizzly bears. Their numbers have dwindled to only a handful over the past century, mainly after over-hunting for fur in the late 1800s.

Now, the federal government is asking for the public's input on its plans to boost grizzly bear numbers in Washington’s North Cascades.

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NPR Story
2:15 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

An Oregon City Braces For Legal Pot To Drive Up Electricity Costs

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, a single marijuana plant grown outdoors in Southern Oregon can yield between 6 and 20 pounds of marijuana — or about 2,200 to 9,000 one-gram joints.

Legal recreational marijuana will become a reality in Oregon on July 1.

That's expected to create new market opportunities for large-scale indoor marijuana producers who rely on powerful grow lights.

“They’re energy hogs. They use an ungodly amount of electricity,” says Ashland City Administrator Dave Kanner.

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NPR Story
9:14 am
Fri February 27, 2015

What Is The Value Of Nature?

An alpine meadow high above tree line in the Mount Hood Wilderness.

Originally published on Fri February 27, 2015 2:02 pm

Environmentalists agree that conservation is key, but there is a long-standing dispute over how much to focus on nature's intrinsic value rather than emphasizing its value to humans.

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NPR Story
4:35 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

New Orca Baby Spotted Off Washington Coast

An orca calf spotted in December. Three of the baby endangered whales have been born in recent months.

When a family of killer whales swam near a small research vessel off the Washington coast this week, the scientists on board were excited by the large number of endangered orcas that they saw. Their excitement grew when they spotted an orange-tint in the water.

A baby calf.

“We saw it again this morning swimming with its mother,” Brad Hanson, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday. “It’s probably just a few days old.”

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NPR Story
4:28 pm
Thu February 26, 2015

Hyla Woods

A family-run timber company in Oregon's coast range defines profit differently. At Hyla Woods, cutting trees must profit the health of the forest more than the owners' bank account. Peter and Pam Hayes are 5th generation loggers whose philosophy embraces the public trust, not just personal wealth.


Hyla Woods Website

Oregon Forest Health Reports

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NPR Story
10:50 am
Thu February 26, 2015

Tired Of Oil Trains? State Senator Wants To Consider Wash. Pipeline

Part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. A state senator has proposed studying whether to build a Washington state pipeline.

President Obama has vetoed the KeystoneXL Pipeline, but as more oil moves through the Northwest by rail, one Republican state senator says a pipeline through Washington state could be a solution.

Rep. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane has introduced legislation that would provide $250,000 to study a possible oil pipeline through Washington state.

The pipeline would move oil from the middle of the country to refineries and terminals on the Washington coast.

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NPR Story
5:38 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

A New System To Keep Troops Cool And Use Less Diesel

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory researcher Pete McGrail shows off an air chilling system prototype.

Keeping cool may soon take a lot less energy. Northwest researchers have developed a new air cooling system that could be used in cars, buildings and on the Navy’s front lines.

The new air chilling system designed by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could soon be helping to keep troops and cargo cool while they’re at sea.

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NPR Story
3:43 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Japanese Fish Found Alive In Oregon Waters

Striped Knifejaw

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 4:59 pm

Oregon scientists are trying to figure out how a fish, native to Japan, was pulled out of a crab pot on the Oregon coast - alive.

"I've been thinking about it ever since I heard about it," says John Chapman, an invasive species expert at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

He says there's only a handful of ways the striped knifejaw could make it here: in the ballast water of a ship; someone could have dumped their aquarium into the ocean; or the fish survived under debris washed out to sea after the Japanese tsunami.

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8:08 am
Wed February 25, 2015

Opponents of Leaded Aviation Fuel Could Be In For Long Wait

Mary Rosenblum, president of the Oregon Pilots Association, with her plane in her garage near Canby, Oregon. Rosenblum doesn't like the idea of leaded fuel, still used by many small aircraft, but she says alternatives are hard to find.

Originally published on Wed February 18, 2015 8:28 am

It’s no secret lead exposure is dangerous. Even low levels can affect a child’s brain.

It’s also no secret that airports are one of the last remaining sources of airborne lead in the U.S.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attests to both these facts.

And yet, the EPA has yet to declare an “endangerment finding” for leaded aviation fuel. That means it hasn’t said whether those emissions pose enough of a threat to public health or welfare to trigger the long and complex process of regulating them.

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5:10 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Northwest Faces Greater Risks From Acidifying Waters

A Puget Sound oyster. A new report issued Nov. 4, 2013 identifies oysters as one of many species affected by climate change. Oysters' ability to grow strong shells is compromised by increasingly acidifying waters that result from carbon emissions.

The Pacific Northwest faces a higher risk of economic harm from ocean acidification than other parts of the country, according to a new study released Monday.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found a "potent combination" of risk factors along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. The region has cold ocean water that absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warmer water, and it has upwelling ocean currents that bring corrosive water to the surface.

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NPR Story
4:40 pm
Fri February 20, 2015

A Coastal Community In Washington Contemplates Oil Terminals

Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation, stands on the docks as tribal crabbers unload their catch. The tribe has vowed to fight the oil train-to-ship terminals  proposed for Grays Harbor.

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:40 am

HOQUIAM, Wash. -- Grays Harbor, with its deep-water berths and fast access to Pacific Ocean shipping routes, has all the ingredients to be a world-class port.

In some respects, it already is. The Port of Grays Harbor once bustled with shipments of lumber from nearby forests. Next came cars, grains and biofuel. Now, local leaders are warming up to the idea of adding crude oil to the mix.

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