EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Hundreds of people showed up to speak Tuesday at a hearing on the controversial Vancouver Energy oil terminal.

Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies have proposed building what would be the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country at the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

Supporters of the project welcome the jobs and economic development that would come along with the terminal. Opponents say shipping that much oil is too dangerous and they'd rather see the port develop cleaner energy.

LaVoy Finicum is a member of the armed group occupying a federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He is a rancher from Arizona and supporter of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who are now in federal custody. Finicum spoke with OPB's Think Out Loud host Dave Miller Tuesday.

On the eve of opening day at Mount Hood Meadows, the ski resort sounded like a construction site.

A front-end loader scooped snow from the parking lot, its over-sized tire chains chinking as it crossed the pavement and emptied its load into a rubber-tracked dump truck. After a few more scoops, both machines rumbled toward a nearby chairlift to drop their haul.

In the ski industry, they call this "snow harvesting": Moving snow from the parking lots to the lower lifts and slopes so people can start skiing sooner.

An afternoon of peaceful protest in Harney County, Oregon took a turn Saturday, when a small group of men armed with pistols and long rifles occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“The main reason we're here is because we need a place to stand,” said Ammon Bundy, the apparent leader of the group.

“We stand in defense,” he said. “And when the time is right we will begin to defend the people of Harney County in using the land and the resources.”

Oregon’s controversial decision to take gray wolves off the state’s endangered species list is headed to court.

Three environmental groups filed a legal challenge of the decision Wednesday under the state’s Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild claims the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife violated its own laws by failing to use the best available science and prematurely removing protections for Oregon’s 81 gray wolves.

Northwest Snow Piles Up Ahead Of Schedule

Dec 29, 2015

Oregon and Washington have above-average snowpack levels basically everywhere, according to numbers released this week.

The color-coded maps from the National Weather Service in Portland range from light to dark blue for nearly all of Oregon and much of Washington. That means snowpack is at least 130 percent of average.

Poor Start To Whale Watching Season

Dec 28, 2015

Winter storms and rain have reduced visibility at the coast this season — meaning the whale watching hasn’t been so good.

But Oregon State Park Ranger, Luke Parsons, expects that to change this week as clear skies and calmer weather are in the forecast.

He says up to 20,000 whales will swim by during the migration.

“They weigh anywhere between 20 and 40 tons each and so when you see a whole group of these go by, it’s pretty awe inspiring just to see that type of sea life, this close to us in Oregon," said Parsons.

It’s been a difficult couple weeks for the small Southern Oregon community of Glendale.

“The weather hands us unexpected things from time to time, and you just manage it and deal with it in as quick and best a fashion you can,” says Mayor Adam Jones.

After days of heavy rains in mid-December, the amount of wastewater coming through the city’s treatment plant exceeded capacity. Raw sewage overflowed into Cow Creek, a tributary of the Umpqua River.

Oregon Suction Mining Moratorium To Take Effect Jan. 1

Dec 22, 2015

On Jan. 1, 2016, Oregon will join California in at least temporarily banning the use of a controversial gold-mining technique in which miners essentially vacuum up river beds to recover the mineral. Environmental groups say a ban is long overdue. But independent miners say the state is illegally interfering with their federally-granted rights.

Oregon and Washington fisheries managers announced Monday that commercial crab season will open Jan. 4.

That’s about a month later than it was scheduled to start. High levels of domoic acid in the Pacific Ocean had delayed the season.

Scientists suspect a lingering patch of warm water led to high levels of the toxin.

Kelly Corbett of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state has been testing sites along the coast on a weekly basis.

“All areas that were tested for a third time in a row have all trended downward,” Corbett said.

Outdoorsmen emerge from their tents and truck beds in the early morning light. After a big breakfast they ready dry suits, diving masks, air hoses and a contraption that looks like a small pontoon boat.

This group is carrying on the age-old tradition of small-scale gold mining. Their method of choice is known as suction dredging.

“People have been prospecting for gold since prehistoric times,” miner Ron Larson says. “Gold has always lured mankind and man has always chased it. We feel a connection to those early miners.”

On a rainy fall day, a group of bundled up hikers explored Leslie Gulch. Kirk Richardson, with Keen Footwear in Portland, pointed to a bulbous rock formation jutting from the canyon wall.

"I like this one that’s kind of a split molar root," Richardson said. "Looks like something you’d see in a dentist X-ray."

Congress has adjourned for the year without authorizing the Klamath water agreements. And now the locally-negotiated compromises will expire at the end of the year unless signees decide to extend.

The three agreements would have provided a degree of peace in the Klamath basin water wars. But they needed congressional approval to move forward.

Supporting groups will meet Monday, Dec. 28, to decide whether to wait around yet another year for Congress to act. But some parties are already indicating they want out.

Upcoming King Tide Offers A Preview Of Sea Level Rise

Dec 21, 2015

What will coastal communities look like as the sea level rises with climate change? This week's king tide could offer a preview.

Several groups will be photographing the effects of the extremely high tides expected Wednesday through Friday. They hope it will help communities visualize and prepare for a warming world.

This week Congress passed a bill that increased funding to suppress wildfires. That's after agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on wildfires in 2015. That's the costliest season on record.

Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley praised the funding increase. But they also said Congress needs to do more to ensure that firefighting doesn't consume other agency programs.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't see a need to require labeling for genetically engineered salmon. But Congress does.

In the federal spending package approved Friday, lawmakers directed the FDA to make sure the controversial new fish is labeled for consumers.

The Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty has engineered a fish that grows to market size faster than Atlantic farmed salmon.

A budget deal that’s heading for final action Friday includes a provision that could create international demand for American oil — and help make the case for building rail-to-ship export terminals on the West Coast.

It’s not in your head. Seattle's Lake Washington is getting warmer and more comfortable to swim in every year. And it’s not the only lake experiencing a rapid rise in temperature.

For the first time, scientists have brought together a comprehensive data set from 235 lakes around the world, containing more than half of the world’s fresh water. The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that globally, lake temperatures are rising more rapidly than ocean or air temperatures – at an average uptick of .61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

Nearly 200 nations came together in Paris to agree to reduce carbon emissions. The global effort will depend on the policies and regulations set by cities and states.

But a recent report by Lewis & Clark College's Green Energy Institute says Oregon is falling short of its own goals to reduce its emissions.

GUEST:

Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

Officials with the Oregon Department of Forestry knew Applebee Aviation had lost its pesticide license before they let the company spray weed killer over 800 acres of state and private land.

This failure to stop a pesticide sprayer after suspending its license is the latest example of Oregon’s inability to prevent problematic forest pesticide applications.

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