Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Winter storms off the Oregon and Washington coastlines are expected to bring a new wave of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Scientists say objects are already washing ashore – with potentially invasive organisms riding along.

In March, 2011 an earthquake and tsunami devastated a large swath of eastern Japan. The tsunami reached heights of over 100 feet in some places, washing large quantities of manmade materials out to sea. Japanese officials estimate that about 1.5 million tons of debris floated out into the Pacific.

TILLER, Ore. -- The laws meant to prevent pesticides drifting across Oregon forests don’t always work.

Lori Valuch knows it. Her husband Joe knows it. And so do their neighbors, whose properties tested positive for stray weed killer last April after Valuch complained to the state Department of Agriculture.

"I realize they need to do spraying to control things on their land for the growth of their trees. But at the same time, I don’t want to be poisoned by it," Valuch said.

A new study finds a statewide carbon tax would allow Oregon to reach its emissions reduction goals with little economic harm.

The Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University spent eight months examining the economic and environmental effects of a carbon tax in Oregon. Researchers considered taxes between $10 a ton and $150 a ton on greenhouse gas emissions from transportation fuels, natural gas for heating and fossil fuels used to generate electricity.

Scientists determined this weekend that the dead orca that washed up on Vancouver Island last Thursday was pregnant when she died.

The young female was a member of the endangered southern resident killer whale families of Puget Sound.

Experts who conducted the necropsy on the whale said her fetus was between 5 and 6 feet long - about a half the length of the mother. The fetus was already decomposing, suggesting to scientists that the mother was attempting to expel her stillborn calf when she died.

The Oregon State Land Board is meeting in Salem Tuesday to discuss options for increasing revenues from the Elliott State Forest. Keeping the forest in public or tribal hands tops the list.

But Oregon Department of State Lands spokeswoman Julie Curtis does warn that future land sales are not completely off the table.

As Congress prepares to adjourn this month, still unresolved is a pair of bills with wide-reaching implications for southern and western Oregon.

Over the past year, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., has pushed hard for compromise measures that would address long-standing conflicts over logging and water. But now those bills are in limbo.

Just over a year ago, Wyden unveiled his plan to solve the protracted tug-of-war over logging on Oregon’s so-called “O&C” lands -- named for the Oregon & California Railroad that once held ownership to these forestlands.

Southern Oregon residents will soon get the chance to speak out on federal regulators' preliminary decision that a natural gas pipeline and export facility in their part of the state will cause minimal environmental damage.

The first in a weeklong series of public meetings is set for Monday in Coos Bay.

Jordan Cove spokesman Michael Hinrichs said company officials are looking forward to hearing from the community.

But Jody McCaffree with North Bend-based Citizens Against LNG disagrees.

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday approved a new fund to help commercial gillnetters adapt to upcoming restrictions on how they fish in the lower Columbia River.

The state's new policy will eventually ban gillnet fishing on the lower Columbia's main stem. It allows commercial fishing with other types of nets.

The commission approved a transition fund of $500,000 to compensate gill-netters for their losses and help them purchase new fishing gear.

Puget Sound Orca Found Dead On Vancouver Island

Dec 5, 2014

SEATTLE -- The bloated body of an orca washed up dead Thursday on Vancouver island has been confirmed as one of the endangered southern resident killer whales of Puget Sound.

The whale has been identified as an 18 year-old female member of the J pod known as j-32 or Rhapsody.

She was thought to have been pregnant at the end of the summer, according to the Orca Network and the Center for Whale Research.

A necropsy will be performed on her this weekend but right one no one knows what caused her death, or if she was pregnant when she died.

Northwest tribes took part in a national gathering Wednesday for native leaders in Washington, D.C., where top federal officials told them they stand together in opposing climate change and supporting treaty rights.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was among those who addressed the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.

"There’s a saying: 'we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'" she said. "So that’s what climate change is all about. We have an earth that is in trouble."

Jewell’s comments were met with applause.


Congress has added lots of land deals – including some in the Northwest – to a must-pass defense spending package.

But a bill that would boost logging on Oregon's O&C forestland didn't make the cut. These are public lands in Western Oregon, named for the Oregon & California Railroad -- O&C for short -- that once owned them.

Public broadcasters are calling on the U.S. Forest Service to make a number of changes in its regulation of photography, filming and recording on public lands.

Several public media organizations jointly submitted comments Wednesday (PDF) to the Forest Service. That agency is considering a proposed directive that would require permits to film, photograph, and record in wilderness areas.

This summer, the Huckleberry wolf pack killed more than 30 sheep in northeastern Washington. Wildlife officials then authorized the killing of up to four wolves. A sharp shooter accidentally killed the pack’s alpha female.

The idea behind the kill order: taking out wolves with a habit of preying on livestock will protect cattle and sheep.

A national defense bill expected to pass Congress this session includes a major expansion of Oregon Caves National Monument in Southern Oregon.

The expansion involves a land transfer of 4,070 acres from the Rogue Siskiyou National Forest to the National Park Service.

It also makes the River Styx – which runs through the main cave system in the national monument – the first underground river to receive Wild and Scenic status.

The EPA's final decision will cost the responsible parties $342 million and will cover 177 acres of the lower Duwamish River. 960,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be dredged from the bottom of the river, and 24 acres will be capped with clean sediment to lock away contaminants below the surface of the riverbed.

Oregon Proposes Tax Credit Rollback For Biomass

Dec 1, 2014

The Oregon Department of Energy is proposing a change that would reduce tax incentives for biomass facilities.

Matt Krumenauer, a senior policy analyst with the agency, said the tax program was intended to offset the costs of producing, collecting and transporting biomass.

“We’ve analyzed the program and found that those costs for animal manure are much less than similar production or collection costs for other types of biomass,” he said.

Agencies Taking Comments On Oregon LNG Permits

Nov 28, 2014


The Oregon LNG liquefied natural gas project in Warrenton has reached a milestone in its seemingly endless permitting process. Three key permits are up for review and open for public comment until Jan. 17.

SEATTLE -- Macklemore rolls up in his signature old black Cadillac, sporting black Ray-Bans and big boots.

He’s late. “Google took us on a bit of a joy ride this morning,” explains the rapper (real name: Ben Haggerty).

But fortunately, Seattle’s beloved star hasn't left concert-goers in a lurch. He's not here to perform. He’s come to this heavily industrial and polluted part of South Seattle to go for a paddle on the river he’s made his cause celebre: the Duwamish.

WINTHROP, Wash. -- This summer, the Carlton Complex wildfire swept through central Washington’s Methow Valley. The fire consumed more acres than any other fire in the state’s history. Now, ecologists are trying to make forests more sustainable to help prevent these large-scale fires.

Fire ecologist Susan Prichard was driving from Seattle to her home in Winthrop just as the Carlton Complex fire picked up.

This is the second part of a three-part series, “What A Waste: Why We Have To Stop Throwing Food Away.”

A pile of food waste can make rich compost for the garden. But some Northwest companies are going beyond composting. We discovered three companies that are turning it into energy to power homes, race cars and city buses.