EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it will no longer issue advisories against swimming in 11 Oregon reservoirs it manages or otherwise using the water during blue-green algae blooms.

The corps also says it won't test the reservoirs to see if levels of cyanobacteria exceed state health standards.

Corps officials tell the Medford Mail Tribune the public relies too much on advisories to decide whether lakes are safe.

Tesoro Announces Rail Car Upgrades

May 18, 2015

Oil company Tesoro announced Monday it’s upgrading the fleet of tank cars it uses to carry crude oil by rail.

The company moves crude oil by train through the Pacific Northwest to its refinery in Anacortes, Washington.

Officials with the company said it will add 210 “enhanced” tank cars. According to Tesoro executives, the new tank cars exceed federal standards announced earlier this month.

Native American leaders gathered Thursday in Seattle to draw attention to the ongoing battle between tribes from British Columbia and around the Northwest, and the companies that want to export coal and oil to Asia.

Leaders from the Lummi, Spokane, Quinault, Yakama, Tulalip, Northern Cheyenne, Swinomish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nation of British Columbia gathered at the Ballard Locks in Seattle to call on the Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which could be built near the Canadian border.

A new project in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge intends to turn today’s invasive fish into tomorrow’s organic fertilizer.

The Refuge has entered into an agreement with Silver Sage Fisheries and Nutrient Company, a venture of Oregon-based Pacific Foods, to catch and process invasive carp.

Since introduction nearly a century ago, the common carp has overrun the Refuge in Southeast Oregon, severely degrading the once-prolific migratory bird habitat.

Dawn Woitt-Campbell sits on the front porch of her house in Longview, Washington.

“We’re looking at a green pan that we have boiled water in twelve different times,” she said.

The pot is caked with a hard, white chalky material.

“We do one gallon of water, boil it down to nothing. Then we’d put another one in and boil it down to nothing," she said. "I did it kind of as a project.”

Water managers had hoped late snows or heavy spring rains would help fill reservoirs and streams after a largely snow-free winter in the Northwest.

But that’s not how things turned out. New data shows precipitation levels in the Northwest were 40 percent below normal last month, with snowpack pretty much disappeared.

Of the 98 sites in Washington monitored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, 66 are now snow-free.

Some of Oregon’s most colorful hills could see increased protections under legislation introduced Thursday.

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is proposing to create 58,000 new acres of Wilderness covering the Painted Hills and Sutton Mountain. The area is located northeast of Prineville in Eastern Oregon.

The bill also proposes a 2000-acre land transfer from the Bureau of Land Management to Wheeler County for economic development projects, like a new RV park.

A 1,300 acre area on Portland's west side would become a destination for mountain bikers, under plans presented this week by Metro officials.

Metro has bought thousands of acres of natural space in the last three decades. Much of it still needs to be planned and developed.

In recent years, off-road cycling has emerged as a priority for some of that land. Metro land manager, Dan Moeller, says that's part of the plan for four properties in the North Tualatin Mountains.

A campaign to create a public beach in downtown Portland won a major endorsement this week.

Mayor Charlie Hales has set aside $300,000 for "River Access" in his 2015 budget proposal. The city's general fund has an estimated $49 million surplus this budget cycle.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales has withdrawn his support for a proposed propane export terminal on the Columbia River.

That's bad news for the $500 million project proposed by Pembina Pipeline Corp. of Canada. The project needs a zone change from the city of Portland. The issue is scheduled to come before the city council June 10.

Federal officials said a tunnel used to regulate the water level in Spirit Lake at the base of Mount St. Helens needs to be repaired to reduce the danger of flooding.

Cowlitz County officials are concerned that if the tunnel failed, Spirit Lake could fill up and possibly flood downstream towns Kelso and Longview.

Skiing Leg Of Iconic Bend Race Cancelled

May 6, 2015

Organizers for Bend's Pole, Pedal, Paddle race have cancelled the cross country skiing leg of the annual athletic event due to lack of snow.

The Pole, Pedal, Paddle is a multisport competition that combines skiing, cycling, running and boating into one big race. With very little snow left on the course, the event organizers have cancelled the nordic leg of the competition. Instead, athletes will complete a short trail run.

To some people, sea lions are smart, lovable creatures that shouldn't be harmed in any way. To others they're loud, destructive pests that need to be controlled.

As sea lion populations grow, both sides have gripes about how these hulking pinnipeds are being managed on the Columbia River.

Another Sea Lion Dies At Bonneville Dam

May 5, 2015

A Steller sea lion died after it got tangled Monday night between traps at the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

Officials reported the death late Tuesday. It's the third trap-related sea lion death reported in the last week.

Rick Hargrave, a spokesman with the Oregon Department of Wildlife, said it was impossible to predict.

Water supply forecasts are looking bleak for many Northwest rivers this year. Managers say that means the region will generate less hydropower.

At a meeting in Portland this week, power managers with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council will hear an update on the region's snow pack and stream flow forecasts.

Seattle City Council members heard testimony on a resolution Tuesday urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its controversial decision to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drill rigs.

The resolution warns that allowing Shell to use Terminal 5 in West Seattle will cause “disruption, division and direct conflict with the Port’s stated values and policies.”

Oregon Scientists Lead Underwater Research

May 5, 2015

Last month Ed Dever helped to put four special, giant buoys off the coast of Oregon.

“I like to think of them as floating laboratories,” said Dever, who is an Oceanography professor at Oregon State University.

Each bouy is tethered to the ocean floor, weighs over 10,000 pounds, and is loaded with scientific instruments which will soon be measuring oxygen levels, acidity, and other biological and chemical data.

Washington environmental regulators have reversed their decision to allow pesticide spraying on oyster beds after a public outcry about the use of toxic chemicals.

The state Department of Ecology had previously issued a permit to apply a pesticide to areas of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay where oyster producers want to kill a type of shrimp that burrows into shellfish beds. The shellfish producers say they need to kill the shrimp because it make the ground so soft that their oysters suffocate.

Two Sea Lions Die In Trap At Bonneville Dam

May 1, 2015

Two California sea lions died in a trap this week at the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam after a door closed prematurely, confining them for hours.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Rick Hargrave said a veterinarian has determined the two sea lions were likely crushed to death by a 1,500-pound Steller sea lion that was almost three times their size.

With the door closed, the smaller sea lions were unable to hop out of the way. The incident took place sometime between Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning.

Northwest emergency responders have complained about receiving little information about oil train movement through their community. They’re about to get even less.