EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

'Land Sharing' Opens Private Land To Campers

Jul 10, 2016

You’ve heard of car-sharing. Now here’s “land sharing.” A Portland start-up is expanding the share economy concept to private landowners and campers.

A new company called LandApart follows the AirBnB model, but for campers. People who want to camp or rent a cabin in a beautiful area can pay a private landowner for access.

CEO Ven Gist says the company is in part a response to sometimes-crowded public lands that are often not reservable.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture says it found no evidence of chemical drift after responding to an exposure complaint from a former member of the state’s Board of Forestry.

The agency opened an investigation after Peter Hayes of Washington County forest company Hyla Woods complained he and workers were exposed to weed killer sprayed on a nearby tree farm operated by Stimson Lumber.

Vegetation samples on Hyla Woods property taken by state investigators showed no evidence that chemicals had drifted from Stimson’s tree farm, which is more than a half-mile away.

The National Transportation Safety Board has responded to letter from Oregon’s senators about why it did not investigate last month’s oil train derailment in the Columbia River Gorge, saying its limited staff likely would not have gleaned any new safety recommendations from examining the incident.

The federal agency provided a 50-page response to Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, saying it “recognizes the impact of this accident on your constituents and understands the concerns of those affected.”

An Oregon judge has ordered more than $50,000 in fines and a one-year license suspension for a pesticide spraying company that violated worker protection laws and later disregarded an order to stop spraying.

Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Rackstraw ordered the Department of Agriculture to issue fines of $43,500 to Applebee Aviation and $10,000 to its owner, Mike Applebee, for 16 violations of state law.

On April 27, Steve Holm and three other inspectors drove right over a set of broken railroad bolts that later would cause a massive oil train explosion.

Holm rode shotgun as Union Pacific Railroad’s specially equipped pickup rolled along at 10 mph over its tracks through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

He stared out the front windshield at the steel rails, the wood ties beneath and the plates and bolts that held them together.

A federal agency has approved the continued killing of California sea lions that are eating salmon and steelhead near the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

NOAA Fisheries announced Wednesday it is allowing Oregon, Washington and Idaho to continue what the agency is calling the "lethal removal" of those sea lions until the middle of 2021.

Several Portland factories are in the public eye this month as Oregon regulators take public comment on new rules for making art glass.

Their process involves some heavy metals. Untill now, those emissions have gone mostly unfiltered.

While the state Department of Environmental Quality is working out a permanent system of rules, there’s still a long list of people with unanswered questions about the art glass business and human health.

One of the names at the top of that list is Jess Beebe. She got some unwelcome news from the lab this spring.

Crater Lake shimmers deep blue in the afternoon sun. It's striking as always in the high Cascades of Southern Oregon. High above the lake surface, on the rim of the old volcano’s caldera, the wind whips an American flag to full display.

A voice comes over a speaker: "Raise your right hand and repeat after me."

Engineers at Oregon State have created a free, open-source computer program that can determine a stream or river’s potential as an energy source. They released the program last Thursday.

OSU’s new software compiles a network of global climate data and calibrates it with local data collected by users to assess a region’s hydropower potential.

Kendra Sharp, a professor of humanitarian engineering at OSU, said giving previously off-the-grid areas power was the main goal of the program.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Wassen Pond Fire in Wasco County.

The fire has burned about 300 acres and is threatening nearby homes and structures.

A level-2 pre-evacuation notice was issued Monday to some residents.

The emergency declaration will allow additional resources to support the effort to contain the fire.

The environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over oil spills from Grand Coulee Dam.

The group already sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over water pollution coming from eight other dams in the Columbia River Basin.

More than a dozen organizations are calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to stop renewing air pollution permits until a new set of rules are in place.

The state is in the process of setting new limits on air pollution to protect human health after testing revealed numerous toxic hot spots around Portland – including unhealthy levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead near the Bullseye Glass facility.

Water loving willows hug the edges of the shore. Lost Lake, at its peak, is around 79 acres. Right now, it is draining away.

About half way around from the lake entrance, a sharp eye might spot a footpath leading out onto the grassy, muddy lake bed. Follow that and soon the sound of rushing water is audible.

Then, there it is. The hole.

Dave Kretzing has a pretty good grasp on the mystery of Lost Lake. He's a retired hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service and he's spent years thinking about what happens here and why.

Oregon says it is in line to receive $85 million from Volkswagen as part of the German automaker's emissions fraud settlement. With more than 13,000 affected residents, the state has the highest per capita ownership of the affected VW cars in the nation.

Neighboring Washington state announced it will receive $129 million from VW as part of the car manufacture’s settlement over deceptive marketing of its diesel cars. More than 22,000 Washingtonians are affected by the settlement.

A federal appeals court panel sided with 21 Native American tribes Monday, ruling the state of Washington must continue to repair culverts that prevent salmon from freely moving along waterways.

Culverts are structures that allow water to move under roadways. But when they’re too small, too high or blocked with debris, they can prevent salmon from passing.

Tribes argued successfully more than a decade ago in the case's first hearing that the state’s culverts hurt salmon populations, violating their fishing rights.

Washington state begins its public review Monday of what would be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, slated to be built at the Port of Vancouver.

The hearings are one of the final steps in determining whether the project gets built.

The state will use five weeks of hearings to determine how to move forward with the Vancouver Energy Project, a joint venture backed by companies Tesoro and Savage.

Portland Bans Demolition Of Old Homes

Jun 25, 2016

Portland is the first city in the country to ban the demolition of its oldest homes.

The city will require that homes built in 1916 or before are deconstructed, so the materials inside can be salvaged.

The city council passed a resolution in favor of the demolition ban this winter. They’re set to review changes to the city code next Wednesday, with a vote likely following in early July.

About 20 percent of the waste in landfills comes from building construction and demolition, according to the mayor's office.

Federal regulators are giving additional time to comment on their plan for cleaning up Portland’s most polluted stretch of the Willamette River.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has received numerous requests for more time to review its plan to bury toxic sludge on the bottom of the river’s Portland Harbor.

The EPA is extending its deadline for public comment by 30 days to Sept. 6

Seven companies have filed a legal dispute with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the plans to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

The companies, including Chevron, Gunderson, NW Natural, Union Pacific Railroad, Evraz Inc., Arkema and TOC Holdings Co., are all members of the Lower Willamette Group. The group has agreed to accept responsibility for some of the pollution in the highly contaminated 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River and work with the EPA on the cleanup.

It’s Union Pacific’s fault. That’s the basic thrust of a preliminary report from federal railroad regulators on Thursday. It investigates why a nearly 100-car oil train partially derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge on June 3.

OPB's Kate Davidson spoke to Sarah Feinberg, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration to learn more. The following exchange has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You can hear their full conversation by clicking play on the audio player at the top of the article.

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