EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

As Region Gets Drier, States Gear Up For Fire Season

Apr 6, 2015

Wildland firefighters from around the region will gather Tuesday in Vancouver to prepare for the upcoming fire season.

Drought and dry conditions around the Pacific Northwest are raising concerns that this fire season could be brutal.

Washington state has already declared drought in three regions.

The Oregon Drought Council approved three additional counties, and following approval from Gov. Kate Brown, it would expand the number of counties seeking assistance to five.

If you’re at the Seattle Mariners season opener Monday you might run into some folks with clipboards, gathering signatures for a newly-announced initiative for 2016 that would tax carbon emissions.

The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon cap-and-trade proposal.

If you’re at the Seattle Mariners season opener Monday you might run into some folks with clipboards, gathering signatures for a newly-announced initiative for 2016 that would tax carbon emissions.

The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon cap-and-trade proposal.

If you’re at the Seattle Mariners season opener Monday you might run into some folks with clipboards, gathering signatures for a newly-announced initiative for 2016 that would tax carbon emissions.

The circulation of petitions to put Initiative 732 on the 2016 ballot signals a new strategy that may come into play if Gov. Jay Inslee and fellow Democrats in the Legislature are unable to pass their own carbon-tax proposal.

Siuslaw Hairy-Necked Beetle

Apr 2, 2015

One of the rarest beetles in the world lives right here in Oregon. Its home is just a few patches of sand, each no more than a few hundred yards long. What do they need to survive? Apparently, they need bulldozers. Dune-clearing intended for the threatened snowy plover seems to be helping this rare tiger beetle hold on to survival.

Xerces Society

The tunneling machine known as Bertha has been stuck beneath the Seattle waterfront since December, 2013, stalling construction and racking up millions in cost overruns.

One local engineering firm has a fresh idea for the fumbling tunneling project: Instead of moving Subarus through the heart of the city, the tunnel should be used by salmon.

Orcas Spotted Off Oregon Coast

Mar 31, 2015

Even orcas head south for spring break. L- and K-pod ocras made their way to Cape Disappointment off the Oregon Coast, according to NOAA Fisheries West Coast — Science and Management on its Facebook page.

We'll hear from our EarthFix reporter, Cassandra Profita, to get some of the latest environmental news, including:

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Few people come into contact with farm chemicals the way agricultural workers do. That's why a new health report on a commonly used herbicide is raising special concerns about farmworkers and cancer.

Sage grouse used to roam all over Central and Eastern Oregon.

“It made its home in a variety of different areas, and flew across these landscapes sometimes so thick that it darkened the sky,” said U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Jewell, along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, visited Bend, Oregon, Friday to announce a plan to help bring greater sage grouse numbers back to the state's sagebrush landscape.

California sea lions are literally piling into Astoria's East Mooring Basin. They've taken over every square foot of the boat docks, and they're even lying on top of each other for lack of space.

The latest sea lion count in the marina tallied a record 2,340 – a "mind-boggling number," according to Bryan Wright of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Meanwhile California is seeing starving sea lion pups washing up on shore.

Japan's Earthquake: Lessons For Oregon

Mar 26, 2015

Over the last 25 years, Oregon Field Guide has documented the evolution in understanding the earthquake threat Oregon faces. Scientists now think there’s a 1 in 3 chance of a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake striking off our coast within the next 50 years. But what can we do about it? Can we better prepare?

Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco has been given the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, a major international environmental science award.

The award, announced Tuesday, honored Lubchenco for her long career building and promoting lines of connections between ocean health and community health.

Lubchenco's work has carried her from the laboratory and classroom to the highest levels of public policy administration.

If you weren't able to take advantage of the new powder this week, the clock is ticking.

The National Weather Service in Portland tweeted that Thursday is expected to be the warmest day so far of the season. Temperatures are forecast to range from about 60 on the coast to nearly 80 in parts of central Oregon.

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

Congressional Democrats from up and down the West Coast are asking the House Appropriations Committee to allocate more money for a new earthquake early warning system.

The warning system uses sensors to detect the initial, less destructive waves of an earthquake.

So it doesn't give much advance notice. Somewhere between a few seconds and a minute.

A grain handling facility in Eastern Washington has been leaking chemicals into the only source of drinking water for a local school district. The Environmental Protection Agency now wants to add it to the Superfund list of hazardous waste cleanup projects.

'Small' Oil Spills Can Add Up To Big Costs

Mar 23, 2015

State Fish and Wildlife Biologist Brian McDonald is careful not to raise his voice as he approaches a row of baby cribs in a warehouse in Pasco, Washington. Each one holds mallard ducks.

“They’re typically in pretty rough shape--they’re sick, they’re cold, they’re oiled, they’re hungry,” he says.

Why The Nuclear Energy World Is Thinking Small

Mar 21, 2015

In the world of nuclear power, one technology is generating debate: factory-produced reactors that are no bigger than a house.

These "small modular reactors" are designed to produce power on the scale of a single factory or business campus. That’s a big departure from a traditional nuclear plant — the kind that's powerful enough to run an entire metropolis and big enough to be seen from miles away.

Southeastern Oregon is preparing for the fourth drought year in a row. The region has received record-low or near-record-low snowfall this winter.

On Friday, the first day of spring, the federal government announced it was making emergency aid available to 13 Oregon counties because of drought. Gov. Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency for Lake and Malheur Counties. Similar declarations are expected soon for Harney, Crook and Klamath Counties.

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