Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
10:01 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Swinomish Tribe Prepares For A Changing Climate

EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran meeting with Swinomish Tribal Council Chairman Brian Cladoosby at the Swinomish Reservation to discuss a new $750,000 grant to help the tribe prepare for climate change.
Ashley Ahearn

La Conner, Wash. -- The Swinomish people have lived near the mouth of the Skagit River north of Seattle for thousands of years. Now, climate change threatens their lands with rising seas and flooding.

The Obama administration recently awarded the tribe a large grant to help cope with climate change.

The entire Swinomish reservation is pretty much at sea level, on a spit of land tucked into Skagit Bay.

Read more
NPR Story
10:35 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Going For Launch With The Salmon Cannon

Washington Deparment of Fish and Wildlife crews load 30-pound fall chinook salmon into the salmon cannon. The cannon sucks the fish up to a truck at 22 miles per hour. The fish will then be driven to a nearby hatchery.
Courtney Flatt

WASHOUGAL, Wash. -- Salmon may soon have a faster way to make it around dams. There’s a new technology that’s helping to transport hatchery fish in Washington. It’s called the salmon cannon -- yes, you read that right.

First, let's set the record straight: there’s not really an explosion. But the salmon cannon does propel fish from one spot to another.

That was demonstrated Tuesday, when the salmon cannon transported fish from southwest Washington’s Washougal River to a nearby hatchery. The goal is to make the move easier on the fish, in three steps.

Read more
NPR Story
4:19 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Seattle To Fine Residents For Not Composting

A vote by the Seattle City Council may put the city more on par with Portland, Oregon, in terms of food waste recycling.
Flickr Photo/Dianne Yee (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a new rule Monday governing what residents put in your garbage bin.

The idea is to increase the amount of food scraps going to compost.

Council member Sally Bagshaw said promoting this practice could reduce up to a third of Seattle's waste ending up in landfills.

Read more
NPR Story
1:00 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Portland Wins International Climate Leadership Award

Portland won an international urban sustainability award for a plan to improve walkability in neighborhoods citywide.
Jeff Gunn/Flickr

The city of Portland is one of nine cities worldwide to receive an international City Climate Leadership Award.

The awards honor cities for urban sustainability and leadership on climate change on behalf of the climate leadership group C40 and the Berlin-based engineering firm Siemens. Winners were selected from a pool of 87 applications.

Read more
NPR Story
10:41 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Ocean Winds Responsible For Climate Change In The Northwest, Study Says

The Oregon Coast at Pacific City. A new study says changing wind patterns from the Pacific Ocean are the primary reason for climate change in the Northwest
Flickr/Randy Kashka

SEATTLE – Changing wind patterns are the primary cause of warming temperatures in the Northwest, according to a study published Monday.

The authors lined up historical wind data with coastal sea surface temperature in the Northeastern section of the Pacific Ocean since the beginning of the 20th century. They found that up to 90% of the warming in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California is driven by changes in wind patterns.

Read more
NPR Story
4:03 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Biologists Try To Figure Out Large Fall Chinook Runs

A chinook salmon photographed in the Snake River in 2013. That year's run set records. Biologist aren't sure exactly why fall chinook runs have been so high in recent years.
Aaron Kunz

Thousands of fall chinook salmon are swimming up the Columbia River every day right now. This year’s migration is expected to be one of the largest in recent years. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why fall chinook have made such a big comeback.

Salmon and steelhead restoration has been a big push throughout the Northwest -- from Puget Sound to coastal streams to the Columbia-Snake River Basin -- where fall chinook were nearly extinct by the 1960s.

Read more
NPR Story
2:12 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

Train Spills 2,000 Gallons Of Diesel In Washington

Absorbent boom is place in the Columbia River as a precaution where a BNSF locomotive leaked diesel fuel to the rail bed.
Courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology

A rock punctured a BNSF train engine Friday outside Pasco, Washington, causing about 2,000 gallons of diesel to spill along the tracks. The engine held about 3,000 gallons of diesel.

None of the fuel has leaked into the Columbia River, a BNSF spokesman said.

The boulder tumbled early Friday morning from nearby cliffs and onto the track, where the train ran atop it. The 108-car train was carrying freight to Seattle.

Read more
NPR Story
2:02 pm
Fri September 19, 2014

BNSF Gives Safety Assurances After Seattle Leaders Raise Oil Train Concerns

Oil trains in a railyard. BNSF Railway recently outlined its measures to assure that such trains can safely travel through the city of Seattle.
Tony Schick

SEATTLE -- The Northwest's biggest oil-by-rail transporter is giving its assurances that it can safely move millions of gallons of volatile crude through the city of Seattle.

BNSF Railway's letter describing its safety measures follows a report by Seattle public safety agencies highlighting several weaknesses in the city’s ability to respond to an oil train accident.

Read more
NPR Story
6:36 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Dying Starfish Could Get Help From Congress

West coast sea stars are dying by the millions from a mysterious disease.
Katie Campbell

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Researchers have been scrambling for more than a year to make sense of a strange disease that’s causing West Coast starfish to die by the millions.

Now it looks like help could be coming from Congress.

U.S. Rep. Denny Heck from Olympia introduced a bill Thursday that would dedicate federal funds for researching the epidemic, which has now spread along North America’s Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico and in some places on the East Coast as well.

Read more
NPR Story
6:05 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Shellfish Tell Puget Sound's Polluted Tale

A mussel is opened for analysis at the WDFW lab. Volunteers and WDFW used mussels to test for contaminants at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound.

SEATTLE -- Scientists used shellfish to conduct the broadest study to date of pollution levels along the shore of Puget Sound.

And in some places, it's pretty contaminated.

This past winter the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife put mussels at more than 100 sites up and down Puget Sound.

After a few months, volunteers and WDFW employees gathered the shellfish and analyzed them for metals, fossil fuel pollution, flame-retardants and other chemicals. The WDFW just released the results.

Read more
5:09 pm
Thu September 18, 2014

Oil Train Protesters Block Tracks To Oregon Shipping Terminal

Demonstrators attempting to block the tracks where they expected an oil train to travel en route to a facility near Clatskanie, Oregon.
Courtesy of Portland Rising Tide

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 11:45 pm

Protesters set up a human-occupied tripod over tracks along a route that follows the Columbia River to a train-to-barge crude oil facility near Clatskanie, Oregon.

Portland Rising Tide activist Sunny Glover sat on top of the tripod for about nine hours and locked herself to it as police tried to arrest her. Police cut down the tripod one section at a time and arrested Glover around 11:30 Thursday night.

Read more
NPR Story
3:05 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Algae Bloom Tested In Portland's Willamette River

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is testing water samples taken from the Willamette River in Portland.
Kayo Lackey

State officials are testing water from a stretch of the Willamette River near downtown Portland. The tests come after a trail of scum appeared in the river between Ross Island and the Fremont Bridge.

The water is being checked to see what species of blue-green algae is involved. That’ll give health experts an idea of the level of toxins and whether the bloom might be harmful to people.

Rebecca Hillwig with the Oregon Health Authority says it’s unusual to have an algae bloom in such a large, relatively fast-flowing river.

Read more
NPR Story
1:51 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Study Links Flame Retardants In The Columbia To Household Laundry

An aerial view of the Columbia River. A group opposing the use of flame retardants in clothing and children's products has produced a study showing that such toxic chemicals are getting into the river from laundry water.
Amelia Templeton

A study published Wednesday reveals household laundry water is washing chemical flame retardant pollution into the Northwest's biggest waterway.

Scientists with the Washington Toxics Coalition tested household dust as well as laundry wash-water from 20 homes in the Washington cities of Longview and Vancouver. They also took samples of incoming and outgoing water from two wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the Columbia River. They detected flame retardants in all of those tests.

Read more
NPR Story
4:22 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Report Finds Weakness In Seattle's Ability To Respond To Oil Train Mishap

Increased oil train traffic prompted a City of Seattle report on the safety risks and ability of public safety agencies to respond to a derailment or explosion.
Flickr/Russ Allison Loar

A new report by public safety agencies highlights several weaknesses in Seattle's ability to respond to an oil train accident.

The report to the Seattle City Council was complied by the Seattle Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management.

At the top of the report's list of concerns: the 100 year old tunnel that runs through the middle of downtown Seattle. The report said that the lack of safety systems in the Great Northern tunnel will present significant challenges to first responders.

Read more
6:24 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Oregon Lawmakers Consider Stronger Oversight Of Aerial Herbicide Spraying

The yellow helicopter belonging to Steve Owen of Pacific Air Research was at the center of an investigation into alleged overspray during an aerial herbicide application onto forestland near Oregon's southern coast.
Oregon Department of Agriculture

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon lawmakers are considering new rules to better protect the public from aerial herbicide spraying.

The Senate Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources met Monday in response to a case on state's southern coast, where dozens of people in the community of Cedar Valley claimed nearby forest spraying this past fall made them sick. Several residents traveled to attend the meeting and sat in the front row as lawmakers deliberated.

Read more
NPR Story
3:21 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Flash Floods Create Unusual Problem For Farmers, Fish

A fish screen on Frazier Creek is clogged with mud and debris after flash floods swept through Washington's Methow Valley. The floods were made worse because of the Carlton Complex wildfire earlier this summer.
Courtesy of Danny Didricksen

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north central Washington. All that gunk created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers often install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen, the fish screening unit leader for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

Read more
NPR Story
4:39 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Conservation Groups Say More Lynx Habitat Needs Protection

One of North America’s imperiled wildcats, the lynx, is now federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. But conservation groups say not enough of the cat’s Northwest habitat is protected under the law.
Flickr Creative Commons: Keith Williams

After years of litigation, one of North America’s imperiled wildcats, the Canada lynx, is now federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. But conservation groups say not enough of the cat’s habitat is protected under the law, especially in the Northwest.

Lynx resemble bobcats with very furry paws and short tails. They thrive in dense boreal forests, where they can easily hunt snowshoe hare.

Read more
NPR Story
4:33 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Mine Pays For Environmental Projects As Part Of Fine

In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington and took residents by surprise. High tech weather sensors will now warn residents of potential flooding.
Courtesy of the Department of Ecology

High tech weather sensors are now installed throughout the area scorched by the Carlton Complex wildfire. The hope is that they will warn residents of potential flash floods. The funding for the technology is coming from an unusual source.

In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington. The area had earlier been burned by the Carlton Complex fire. The flooding took residents by surprise.

Now, new rain gauges that communicate via satellite will warn of future flash flooding in the area.

Read more
NPR Story
8:04 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

West Coast Leads Surge in Electric Cars

A pair of Nissan Leaf electric cars charging up at a public charging station.

In all three West Coast states, transportation accounts for the largest share of climate-changing greenhouse gases. And all three states are trying to boost the number of zero-emission vehicles on their roads.

This week, California passed a milestone toward that goal; 100,000 electric cars sold in the state since the end of 2010.

Read more
NPR Story
12:30 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Scientists Say Large Wildfires Are Likely Here To Stay

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference in Seattle said modeling suggests large wildfires are increasingly likely to occur going forward.
Flickr/Washington DNR

SEATTLE – Megafires could be the new normal if climate models are on target.

John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Idaho, presented findings from a review of 20 different climate models at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, held at the University of Washington this week.

The models looked at weekly temperature and wildfire data over time.

Read more