EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A lawsuit filed Thursday by salmon advocates aims to reverse a trend of high summer water temperatures on the Snake and Columbia Rivers.

The groups are asking the U.S. District Court in Seattle to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a warm water pollution standard for the rivers. The standard, called the “Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL), sets limits on how high the water temperature can rise and still meet water quality requirements.

The EPA released a draft plan in 2003, but it was never finalized.

Environmental groups are pressuring Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Board of Forestry to find new leadership on forestry issues and increase protections for coastal drinking water flowing through private forestland.

That push accompanies legislative efforts to tighten rules for aerial pesticide spraying on forests and to enact sweeping reforms to the state’s Forest Practices Act, including restrictions on logging near streams and on slopes prone to landslide.

Steve Hinton has a pretty unusual mindset when it comes to his job.

“I try to think like a fish,” he says.

That’s a crucial part of Hinton’s job as the director of habitat restoration for the Swinomish Tribal Community and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe. He spends a lot of his time trying to figure out how salmon will respond to obstacles in their way as they return from the Puget Sound, up the Skagit River, into little creeks and streams to spawn. One of the problems they encounter are road culverts.

At the Oregon State Land Board meeting on Tuesday morning, we'll learn more about the fate of the Elliott State Forest.

Last year, the state offered the 82,000-acre public forest near Coos Bay in southwest Oregon up for sale. One bid came in – led by a private timber firm. But the State Land Board decided to hold out and see if another, more publicly-minded offer would emerge.

Late last week Gov. Kate Brown released an alternate plan.

Sea Turtle Stranded Along Oregon Coast Dies

Feb 13, 2017

A sea turtle that washed up on Oregon’s beaches over the weekend has died.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium reported Monday the loggerhead turtle was stunned by cold waters, and succumbed to its injuries.

Loggerhead turtles are relatively rare to see on Oregon shores, with the last one to arriving here Christmas Eve 2007. It also died after just a single day of treatment.

About 16 pregnant ewes lounge beneath a lone tree on a ranch in north-central Washington's Methow Valley. They stand up, shaking snow from their heavy wool as Kate Haven and I walk closer.

Her two sheepdogs notice us from about a football field away. They recognize Haven, but not me — prompting them to start barking out of a sense of duty to protect their flock.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a new plan Friday that would keep the Elliott State Forest in public ownership by borrowing money on the bond market.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick ordered more water releases from dams on the Klamath River to flush out parasites causing deadly disease outbreaks in salmon.

In recent drought years, scientists have found extremely high rates of a disease caused by an intestinal parasite known as Ceratanova shasta in salmon populations protected under the Endangered Species Act.

This is the second part in our series on wildlife and lead ammunition. Read part one here.

It was a typical phone call for Martha Jordan. Someone had found a sickly-looking swan; Jordan had better come collect the body.

This is the first part in our series on wildlife and lead ammunition. Read part two here.

California condors can nest in cliff-side caves or large burnt-out trees. That’s exactly what the coastal bluffs and forests around Redwood National Park offer.

The massive birds once lived around the park just south of the Oregon-California border. They held a place of high esteem for the Yurok Tribe.

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In a new report, the Oregon Global Warming Commission says the state isn't expected to come within striking distance of its 2020 or 2050 goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The commission says the latest numbers show "a perilous reversal" in the downward trend of emissions from cars and trucks over the past few years. In short, people are driving more – and in bigger vehicles.

The National Academy of Sciences has chosen Oregon State University marine studies professor Jane Lubchenco for its highest award.

The Public Welfare Medal honors those who promote science for the benefit of humanity.

The academy said it chose Lubchenco for her "successful efforts in bringing together the larger research community, its sponsors and the public policy community to focus on urgent issues related to global environmental change."

Lubchenco was the administrator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2009 to 2013.

Irrigators from Southern Oregon and Northern California are in federal court this week. They’re arguing the U.S. government owes them millions of dollars in compensation for water shut-offs 16 years ago.

A major drought in 2001 made water in the Klamath Basin scarce. Federal regulators cut off irrigation to hundreds of farms to ensure there was enough water in the rivers for endangered salmon and other fish.

The farmers say the irrigation water is property that was taken without compensation. This is prohibited by Constitution’s 5th Amendment.

Video: This Is What Trump's EPA Looks Like So Far

Jan 30, 2017

Since taking office, on Jan. 20 President Donald Trump's administration has done a lot to shake things up at the Environmental Protection Agency. His nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, could be up for a confirmation vote as soon as Wednesday.

Get caught up on the big picture in 100 seconds with this explainer video by OPB's John Rosman and KCTS/EarthFix's Ken Christensen.

A temporary freeze on grants and a halt on communications at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have left Northwest tribes, state agencies and nonprofits uncertain about the future of their environmental programs, which rely on hundreds of millions of federal dollars.

That freeze was in place for several days before the Trump administration lifted it Friday. But regulators at state agencies in Oregon and Washington have received little guidance on changes from EPA headquarters or the White House and are now questioning the future availability of federal money and data.

On October 13, 2016 a 95-foot-long tug ran aground off the coast of Bella Bella, British Columbia, spilling an estimated 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The fuel swept into the waters where the Heiltsuk First Nation harvests shellfish, giving members of the tribe front-row seats to the circus that unfolded as spill-response teams tried to clean up the mess.

Democrats in the Washington Legislature are looking to bolster the state’s oil spill prevention efforts.

An expansion of a Kinder Morgan oil pipeline through British Columbia is expected to increase oil tanker traffic in Washington’s Salish Sea sevenfold. Meanwhile, Washington’s Department of Ecology estimates a shortfall of $4 million in its oil spill prevention program.

White House advisor and former Washington state Sen. Don Benton is part of the team implementing the president’s agenda at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Benton was sworn in as senior advisor Saturday, he said. The job is a temporary position, but could be extended. During the campaign, Benton served as Trump’s campaign chairman in Washington.

Biologist Shaun Clements stands in the winter mist in a coastal Oregon forest. He’s holding a small vial of clear liquid.

“We should be safe mixing it now, right?” he asks his colleague Kevin Weitemier above the sound of a rushing stream a few feet away.

Weitemier brings a second vial, full of stream water. In deliberate, seeming choreographed movements, usually associated with ritual, they pour the liquid back and forth between the small containers to mix -- two, then three times — never spilling a drop.

Clements looks down at the clock. It’s 12:29 pm.

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