EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

An Oregon-based environmental group is declaring victory in a court case against state and federal fishery managers.

The Native Fish Society says the operation of a hatchery on the Sandy River after the removal of Marmot Dam caused harm to four species of protected wild salmon and steelhead.

The group accused the National Marine Fisheries Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife of violating the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Feds Stand By Current Dam, Salmon Plan For Columbia

Jan 17, 2014

The federal government is standing by its previous plans for managing the Columbia River to prevent the extinction of its salmon and steelhead. That means little would change for dam operations on the West's biggest river -- but only if it wins court approval.

SEATTLE -- Washington Sen. Patty Murray on Friday introduced a bill to permanently protect more than 126,000 acres of Washington's Olympic Peninsula -- an area the size of Seattle and Tacoma combined.

Group Calls For Expanding Killer Whale Habitat Protection

Jan 16, 2014

An environmental group is calling for a major expansion in habitat protection for Puget Sound's killer whales.

Research shows the endangered orcas that live in Puget Sound in the summer are venturing up and down the West Coast in the winter to forage for food. Scientists tracking these southern resident orcas have followed the whales as far north as Alaska and as far south as Monterey, Calif.

Washington's top environmental regulator found herself in the hot seat Thursday during a state Senate hearing called by Republican lawmakers who disapprove her agency's scrutiny of a coal export terminal proposed for the northern shore of Puget Sound.

At issue: greenhouse gas emissions.

The worst-case environmental scenario at an oil terminal on the lower Columbia River means 3.8 million gallons of crude spilling into sensitive wildlife habitat and shutting down a public drinking water intake, according to a draft response plan facility managers filed with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

SEATTLE -- Japan's nuclear disaster released hundreds of millions of gallons of radioactive water in 2011, sparking rampant speculation that a contaminated plume would reach the waters of North America's West Coast.

Three years later, such speculation is alive and well on the Internet. Consider this video shot at a beach in Northern California and posted last month to YouTube:

The videographer's Geiger counter shows elevated levels of radioactivity.

WA Environmental Groups' Legislative Focus: Oil Trains

Jan 15, 2014

Oil train safety tops the list of priorities for environmental groups, which outlined their goals Wednesday for Washington's new legislative session.

Right now, rail companies share little information with state agencies that would respond if a train derailed in the Pacific Northwest. Environmental groups would like the Washington Legislature to change that. It's 60-day session got underway this week.

Can Bikes And Orchards Coexist?

Jan 15, 2014

The valley between Wenatchee and Leavenworth, Wash., is known for its fruit orchards. Apple, pear, and cherry trees line the county roads. In the springtime, blossomed branches reach out from tidy orchard rows.

You can glimpse the orchards from U.S. Highway 2, the most direct route between the two cities. But the most scenic way winds along 48 miles of county roads, up and down hills and across the Wenatchee River.

Power Planners Ponder The Northwest Without A Nuclear Plant

Jan 14, 2014

Northwest power planners may do their own review to determine the impacts of shutting down the only nuclear power plant in the region.

At a meeting Tuesday, members of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council discussed the wildly conflicting results of two studies on the Columbia Generating Station nuclear plant.

A creature that lived 375 million years ago and is thought to have been the first fish to have made the transition to land sported large pelvic bones in addition to its leg-like front fins, new research shows, suggesting that it was a more efficient walker than previously thought.

Tiktaalik roseae, discovered in 2004 on Ellesmere Island in Nunavit, Canada, is a key transitional fossil that links lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods, the first four-limbed vertebrates at the end of the Devonian period.

Oregon Proposes Removing Hatchery Fish From Wild Fish Areas

Jan 14, 2014

Hatchery-reared fish would get the heave ho from certain rivers along the Oregon Coast under the latest strategy to help Oregon's wild salmon and steelhead.

The new management plan proposed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife would designate several coastal rivers as "wild fish emphasis areas," while increasing the number of hatchery fish planted in other coastal rivers to expand fishing opportunities in those waters.

Northwest officials receive little information on oil by rail shipments

Jan 9, 2014

Northwesterners are paying attention to the fiery derailments hitting other parts of North America where the oil-by-rail boom is underway.

More and more crude oil is moving across the Northwest by train. But railroad and oil companies are not required to disclose much on shipments or response strategies. That's leaving state officials without information needed to prepare for an oil train mishap.

How many shipments are moving through a given region at any given time? what kind of tanker cars they are in? What are the companies' strategies should a train derail or explode?

In a new paper published in Science, Ripple has worked with a multinational team of a dozen carnivore biologists to make the case that the world’s largest predators are declining just as researchers begin to understand their key ecological effects. The researchers found that 61 percent of the largest land carnivores are threatened with extinction.

EarthFix: What is the main argument that you make in the article that’s coming out in Science?

Oregon Governor Gives Vision For Federal Forest Management

Jan 9, 2014

SALEM, Ore. -- State forestry leaders in Oregon know they alone can't change the way federal forests are managed. But they joined Gov. John Kitzhaber Wednesday in outlining the changes they'd like to see as Congress considers several bills that would change forest management.

The Oregon Board of Forestry voted unanimously on a list of recommendations that include streamlining environmental reviews to allow for more logging in some federal forest areas.

A multinational banking giant is backing away from a proposal to build the West Coast’s biggest coal export project near Bellingham, Washington.

New York-based Goldman Sachs has sold its stock back to the companies proposing to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal. If built it would transfer 48 million tons of Wyoming coal each year from trains to ocean-going vessels bound for Asia.

SEATTLE -- Washington state officials said Tuesday they found lower contamination levels when they tested geoduck clams than those alleged by China when it said geoduck imported from Puget Sound had high levels of arsenic.

China cited its findings in December when it imposed the largest ban on shellfish imports from Northwest waters -- as well as from California and Alaska -- in the region's history.

How A 3-D Printer Helped Preserve A Sabertooth Salmon

Jan 6, 2014

For years, museum conservators and paleontologists have yearned for a way to duplicate fragile fossils without damaging them. Now scientists with the University of Oregon say they have found a way to do just that, with the help of a relatively inexpensive 3-D printer.

They’ve starting by duplicating the skull of a particularly important fossil in their collection: a giant sabertooth salmon fossil discovered near Madras, Ore.

An Oregon lawmaker is looking to restrict household use of four common pesticides that pose risks to bees.

Rep. Jeff Reardon, D-Portland, says given the toxicity of certain pesticides and their track record for killing bees, untrained home gardeners shouldn't be allowed to use them.

Federal Agency Issues Safety Alert For Oil Trains

Jan 2, 2014

SEATTLE -- The alert, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday, said that the crude oil that is coming out of the Bakken formation of North Dakota poses a “significant risk” because it is more flammable than traditional heavy crude.