EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Study: 600,000 Bats Killed At Wind Farms In 2012

Nov 13, 2013

More than 600,000 bats may have been killed at wind farms in the continental U.S. last year. That’s a lot for these flying mammals, which are already suffering from a virulent disease and climate change.

At wind farms, bats are most often killed when they are struck by spinning turbine blades. They may sometimes die from a sudden change in air pressure, which harms their respiratory systems.

China's Building Boom Revives Northwest Log Export Debate

Nov 13, 2013

If you want to know how China’s construction market is reshaping the Northwest, a Rainier, Ore. log yard is a good place to start.

The Teevin Brothers yard along the Columbia River rumbles with activity while workers prepare half a million logs for the towering ships docked across the river in the Port of Longview. A yellow stacking truck opens its pinchers and sends its payload rolling out across the ground. The air smells like sap and sawdust. Scalers wearing neon safety vests inspect the logs, stapling each with a plastic barcode.

Salmon Get A Helping Hand From Above

Nov 13, 2013

By Erick Bengel

CANNON BEACH — A salmon-friendly project, involving large tree trunks strategically placed in Ecola Creek is expected to improve fish habitat in the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve.

On a recent weekday, a Chinook helicopter recently airlifted 109 trees, mostly spruce, in the forest reserve and placed them at 19 preplanned sites along the creek, furnishing the fish with much-needed woody debris.

“One of the main deficiencies in our watershed is the presence of large wood,” said Jesse Jones, coordinator for the North Coast Watershed Association.

Can Mushrooms Help Fight Stormwater Pollution?

Nov 13, 2013

SEATTLE -- Ah, the Garden Giant. He’s a jolly fellow who roams around your garden at night tossing mulch as he merrily skips along, helping your veggies grow lush and tall.

Not quite. The Garden Giant is actually a species of mushroom, scientifically known as Stropharia rugosoannulata, that may hold a key to filtering harmful pollutants from stormwater runoff.

China’s new demand for logs may be blunting economic troubles for timberland owners and logging crews, while making things worse for Northwest sawmills.

A strengthening Asian export market for raw logs has ports up and down the coast interested in getting back into the business. In 2011, almost a quarter of the logs harvested in the Northwest were shipped to Asia. In recent years, China has displaced Japan as the top buyer of logs from the Northwest.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Washington's four Catholic bishops have released a statement calling for “exhaustive and independent review” of the state's two coal export terminals under consideration:

How much sludge can be dumped into a double-shelled radioactive waste tank before flammable gas might build up in a big bubble?

That's the question managers and scientists at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are asking. And they are working against the clock to solve the possible new problem.

Idaho has the distinction of dropping the farthest in ranking in the 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Lead author on the report Annie Downs attributed Idaho’s decline to “not keeping up with peers in utility spending and savings.”

The Washington State Department of Ecology is working to update the state’s fish consumption levels. Plans are to release a draft plan soon for public comment.

They range from 125 grams to 225 grams per day; the current standards are based on 6.5 grams.

The proposed higher standards are based on the diets of some coastal Native Americans.

The standards under consideration would require reducing pollution discharges by 50 percent to 97 percent.

Gilchrist State Forest May Expand By 29,000 Acres

Nov 7, 2013

The Oregon Department of Forestry is seeking public input about a property acquisition that could incorporate 29,000 acres into the Gilchrist State Forest.

The 60-day public comment period began Nov. 5 and will close Jan. 3. A public hearing will be Dec. 5 in Klamath Falls, according to an ODF press release.

The proposed acquisition includes a 3,000-acre parcel privately owned by Central Oregon Land Holdings and a 25,453-acre parcel owned by the Conservation Fund, the press release said. Both properties are adjacent to the Gilchrist State Forest.

(Editor’s note: EarthFix Field Notes are reporters’ personal impressions and experiences from their coverage of the Pacific Northwest. In this entry, Idaho-based Producer Aaron Kunz takes a close look at water’s scenic value, its importance to the economy, and its function as the veins and arteries of southern Idaho’s arid sagebrush steppe.)

Editor's note: Check back for updates on this story later today.

Whatcom County, in northwestern Washington, had four seats up for grab on their seven member county council, members who will eventually vote on permits for the largest coal export terminal proposed for the West Coast.

ICYMI: Caves, Climate And Creatures

Nov 6, 2013

In case you missed it, a roundup of some of the interesting Northwest environmental news stories (from our team and others) in October.

A Week For Polar Bears, Too

Nov 5, 2013

First there was Shark Week. Now conservation group Polar Bears International is hoping to bring the same fame (and awareness) to the snow white bears with Polar Bear Week.

Are 'Megaloads' In E. Oregon's Future?

Nov 4, 2013

JOHN DAY – Industrial hauler Omega Morgan, at the heart of a controversial “megaload” project in Idaho, is eyeing U.S. Highway 395 through Eastern Oregon as a possible route for at least three oversized shipments, starting in late November.

Crews were in John Day, Mt. Vernon and other sites along the highway last week, measuring intersections and checking power line locations to see how the route might work.

A Fashionable Climate Model

Nov 4, 2013

Some clever and well-dressed scientists are using a pun to spur some fun educational outreach.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Washington Governor Jay Inslee set ambitious goals when they signed a regional climate change agreement last week with the leaders of California and British Columbia.

But the governors can't reach those goals without their state legislatures, and both governors face legislative roadblocks to upholding the agreement – particularly when it comes to putting a price or a cap on carbon emissions.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will soon help advise the White House on how to respond to the effects of climate change. President Barack Obama appointed Inslee Friday to a task force that includes governors, mayors and tribal officials.

The group will advise the federal government on climate issues like increasing wildfires and ocean acidification, and extreme heat waves. Obama first mentioned establishing the task force in a speech on climate change this June.

Feasting On "Trash Fish" For Sustainability

Nov 1, 2013

When commercial fishermen go out to catch salmon, halibut or black cod, they also bring in some other, lesser-known species.

Wolf eel, sand dab, and skate wing can be delicious, too. But they’re usually thrown out because nobody wants to buy them. Hence, these “trash fish” get wasted even though they could be served on a white tablecloth and paired with wine.