Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

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

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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.

No One Said Curbside Composting Would Be Easy

Nov 18, 2014

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

Seattle and Portland are working to reduce the environmental impacts of food waste by offering curbside composting. But no one said it would be easy. The cities have faced challenges from foul odors, lack of participation and plastic contamination.

SEATTLE -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took the handoff Monday for his latest run at putting a price on carbon emissions.

It happened at a gathering at Seattle City Hall, where the chair of his task force on climate change, Ada Healey, delivered a set of options to the Democratic governor.

"Here you go, there’s a bow on it. It’s red," she joked.

Options put forward for Inslee's consideration include a carbon tax and a cap-and-trade system. The task force did not make recommendations on either approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels.

NORTH CASCADES NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- Jon Riedel’s white hair and light blue eyes match the icy tint of the landscape he’s studied for more than 30 years.

He moved to Washington soon after finishing his PhD at the University of Wisconsin because he says the glaciers of the Northwest are still writing the landscape, still carving out curves and valleys.

Scientists Solve Mystery Of West Coast Starfish Die-Off

Nov 17, 2014

SEATTLE -- After months of research, scientists have identified the pathogen at the heart of the starfish wasting disease that’s been killing starfish by the millions along the Pacific shores of North America, according to research published Monday.

They said it’s a virus that’s different from all other known viruses infecting marine organisms. They’ve dubbed it “sea star associated densovirus.”

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

Wasting 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. certainly has its drawbacks:

It's not feeding people in need, it's expensive and it does a lot of environmental damage.

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Southern Oregon University is vying to join a small but growing number of campuses around the country turning to biomass energy -- or put more simply, burning wood and forest debris -- to produce power on campus.

Tucked away on the backside of Southern Oregon University is a modest 1950s-era warehouse. Puffs of cloud-white steam emerge from the smokestack on top. They're a result of burning natural gas to produce heat for the campus.

A long-negotiated series of agreements to manage water in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California received Senate committee passage Thursday.

“This legislation is the result of a historic collaboration of efforts,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden during the committee meeting.

The substitute bill would increase harvest levels even further than in previous legislative versions - from about 350 to 400 million board feet per year.

Despite the increased logging levels, Wyden says "major environmental groups" stand by the changes. The groups include The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Pew’s Campaign for America’s Wilderness, Pacific Rivers Council and the Wild Salmon Center.

“The legislation does this by protecting controversial lands and requiring ecological forestry in non-controversial areas,” he said.

ASHLAND, Ore. - Southern Oregon University has a plan to make its campus the Northwest to install a biomass power plant.

Like many universities, Southern Oregon uses natural gas to heat its campus. But its current boiler system is getting old.

As a replacement, SOU wants to build a biomass cogeneration plant that would produce steam heat and electricity. The steam would be pumped out to campus buildings for heat. The electricity would be sold back to the grid.

Paying Wind Generators Not To Produce Power

Nov 12, 2014

The Bonneville Power Administration operates the federal hydropower dams in the Columbia Basin. In springtime, during snow melt, there can be so much water in the river that – combined with the output of the dozens of wind farms that have cropped up in Oregon and Washington – there’s more electricity in the system than anyone can use.

Dam operators could dump the extra water over the spillways. But as the BPA’s Doug Johnson explains, that causes problems for salmon and other fish.

Washington state essentially prohibits logging on unstable slopes -- since removing trees can worsen erosion and landslides. But it's not always obvious which slopes are unstable.

State officials Wednesday adopted a more cautious approach around slopes like the one that collapsed onto the town of Oso in March. That deep-seated landslide killed 43 people.

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