EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

VIDEO: Being A Columbia River Bar Pilot

18 hours ago

Complaining about the weather? Imagine being a Columbia River bar pilot when the weather goes south! This is two minutes we promise you won't be able to look away from and something you won't ever want to try.

Video courtesy of Captain Robert Johnson

See more of these pilots at work in the next episode of “Oregon Field Guide,” Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8:30 p.m. on OPB TV.

Opponents of a methanol plant proposed in Kalama, Washington, are challenging the environmental review of the project.

The Chinese-backed facility would convert natural gas to methanol, which would then be shipped overseas to be made into plastic. If it's built as proposed on the lower Columbia River, it will be the world's largest gas-to-methanol plant.

Hanford Workers' Skin Exposed To Radioactive Waste

Oct 19, 2016

At least 10 Hanford workers were exposed to radioactive waste Tuesday at the nuclear cleanup site’s tank farm in southeast Washington.

Workers were removing a connection line that’s used to transfer radioactive waste between tanks when the contamination was detected. A test found radioactive waste on the workers’ skin and clothing. The contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, says the contamination was low.

Tom Carpenter, who heads the worker advocacy group, Hanford Challenge, disputed that characterization.

On Thursday at 10:20 a.m., millions of people around the world will practice dropping, covering and holding on as part of the Great ShakeOut, a worldwide movement aimed at making people pay attention to earthquake preparedness.

More than 470,000 people are registered to participate in this year's Beaver State version, the Great Oregon ShakeOut. But what exactly does participating in the ShakeOut entail, and why is it such a big deal in Oregon? To understand that we have to take a look at some science first.

Imagine a stretch of water so dangerous even huge ships can’t cross it safely. A place sailors call the “graveyard,” where hundreds of boats have sunk and thousands of people have drowned.

Now imagine this place is crucial to the global economy, and like it or not, shipping vessels must enter it every day to keep things moving and avoid economic collapse.

Such a place exists in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River Bar, located at the intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world.

Gov. Kate Brown is promising “sweeping change” from the new state air pollution rule-making process now underway.

Advocates for a healthier Puget Sound have long contended that it needs to be treated as a nationally significant water body, just like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Such recognition, they say, will attract more money and attention for improving the Sound’s environmental health.

Larry Schwitters is putting a lot of hope into a five-gallon bucket of bird poop.

It’s one of the ways he plans to lure thousands of Vaux's swifts into his homemade version of the chimneys these birds use as a nightly roost.

"The idea is we throw it in the chimney and it has an odor supposedly the swifts can smell," he said. "If they fly over it and take a sniff, they’ll think, ‘Hey, swifts have used this before. This is a good one. You can smell it.’”

Back in the 1970s, Gens Johnson got really interested in handmade and regional art. She started buying pieces from shops in Portland and across the Northwest.

“I bought two pieces that were scrimshaw, and they were done on whale ivory and walrus tusk,” she said.

Scrimshaw is a kind of carving – typically of boats and sea life. It was popularized by whalers in the 1800s.

“I was concerned when I bought it that it wasn’t elephant ivory, and I really didn’t think there was any problem with it being a sea mammal product,” Johnson said.

The government and a conservation group both are offering reward money for help find whoever killed a federally protected gray wolf in South-Central Oregon.

The wolf, a radio-collared 3-year-old female known as OR-28, was found dead on Oct. 6 in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

It’s a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act to kill a gray wolf, which is listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon State Police are investigating.

The Columbus Day Storm Of 1962

Oct 14, 2016

As the state prepares for the coming storm, take a look back at Oregon's catastrophic windstorm that struck 54 years ago this week.

Here's a few other resources about the impending storm that should hit the Pacific Northwest this weekend.

Copyright 2016 ERTHFX. To see more, visit ERTHFX.

Tornado Touches Down In Manzanita

Oct 14, 2016

A tornado hit Manzanita, Oregon, at about 8:20 a.m. Friday.

“We could see on radar that it looked like probably a waterspout over the ocean, and that continued as it came on shore," Andy Bryant of the National Weather Service said.

"We did issue a tornado warning for that. And then just within 5 to 10 minutes we saw a report, I believe via Twitter, that there was possible tornado damage in Manzanita.”

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long says there has been some structural damage and one person reported windows being blown out.

A new audit finds that Klamath irrigators should not have received millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The money was used to pay farmers not to use scarce water supplies from streams and rivers in the Klamath Basin straddling Oregon and California.

Coal shipments are moving by rail through the Northwest and on to Asia, whether Washington and Oregon approve export terminals or not.

The latest evidence came Thursday, when a company backing a proposed coal export terminal at the Port of Morrow on the Oregon side of the Columbia River announced it was leaving the project. Instead, it is exporting coal to South Korea through a terminal in Canada.

At full capacity, the Morrow Pacific project would have handled an estimated 8 million metric tons of coal per year.

After nearly 50 years on the endangered species list, Columbian White-Tailed deer are moving up in the world.

Their numbers along the Columbia River have more than doubled since the species was listed in 1967. On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is upgrading their status from "endangered" to "threatened."

Officials are celebrating the occasion in Ridgefield, Washington, where the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge has played a key role in the deer's recovery.

There's about one month remaining to submit proposals to buy Oregon's Elliott State Forest.

The Oregon Department of State Lands says so far, no one has expressed interest in the 82,000 acre property in southwest Oregon.

The state values the land at $220 million and says whoever buys it would have to maintain public access on at least 50 percent of the site. The new owner would also have to preserve part of it for old-growth timber and protect fish habitat.

But some conservation groups say those guidelines will be hard to enforce if private investors buy the land.

Protesters -- all from the Pacific Northwest -- were arrested Tuesday at all five sites across the northern U.S. where pipelines deliver oil from Canada’s oil sands to American refineries.

The pipelines cross the U.S.-Canadian border in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Washington state.

Scientists Try Trapping To Halt Puget Sound's European Crab Invasion

Oct 11, 2016
CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons

Emily Grason and Sean McDonald trudge through the mud of San Juan Island’s Westcott Bay on the hunt for something they hope not to find: A 3-inch menace: the European green crab.

In late August, a single adult male was found for the first time in Washington’s inland sea. University of Washington researchers responded, arriving at the location of that first sighting with hundreds of traps in tow.

MercyCorps Helping Haiti Recover From Hurricane Matthew

Oct 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew has carved a trail of devastation across southern Haiti, killing more than 800 people. Oregon-based MercyCorps is there.

Speaking from her office in Port-au-Prince, MercyCorps Haitian director Jessica Pearl says farmers were badly hit by the storm.

“The banana trees have just been broken in half essentially," she said. Pearl says soil has washed away and the crops aren't able to be recovered.

The company behind the oil-by-rail terminal proposed for the Port of Vancouver announced new safety measures Friday. It hopes they will quell fears about the project.

Oil company Tesoro says it wants to prove to the community and regulators that it takes safety concerns seriously.