Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue April 8, 2014

The Wetland That Saved Highway 101 From Flooding

A restoration project last year allowed this wetland to flood while an infamous stretch of Highway 101 stayed dry this winter.
Courtesy of North Coast Land Conservancy

Every winter on Oregon's north coast, the Necanicum River spills out over its banks during heavy rains and swallows the road just south of Seaside. This happens at least once -– and up to seven times -- a year.

But not this year.

Last summer, highway officials teamed up with a local landowner to use a nearby wetland as a natural sponge for floodwater. By removing a mile-long wall of dirt, they freed the river to spread out into its natural flood plain. Since then, even when the Necanicum has over-topped its banks, it hasn't sent its waters to flood the highway.

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Earthfix
6:25 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

New Rules For Commercial Composting In Portland: Food Only

Within a year, commercial composting in Portland will be limited to food only.
OPB

A big change is on the way for businesses that compost commercial food waste in Portland.

Metro, the regional government that oversees the city's commercial food waste collection, is changing the rules for what kind of material it accepts at its Portland transfer station.

Within a year, the program will restrict commercial compost collection in Portland to food scraps only. That means businesses will not be able to compost food-related materials such as napkins, plates or compostable plastic utensils. The change does not affect residential curbside food scrap collections.

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Earthfix
5:53 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Investigative Documents Show Pilot Failed To Disclose Herbicides Used On Timberland

Michelle Martin with her horses. Martin is concerned her horses were sickened as a result of herbicide exposure.
Amelia Templeton

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 6:00 pm

UPDATE (Tuesday, April 8):

The Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday its investigation uncovered multiple violations of pesticide law by Pacific Air Research, including that the company allowed pesticides to fall on neighboring properties, according to a news release.

ODA also stated that Pacific Air Research applied an herbicide above the maximum amount allowed by the label and provided false records that misled the state's investigation. Both are violations that could result in civil penalties.

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Earthfix
4:49 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

'Silicon Forest' Could Gain New Meaning With High-Tech Uses For Trees

The cellulose from trees, like these being harvested for pulp and paper, can now be processed into high-tech energy storage devices.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture

Scientists at Oregon State University may have discovered a new high-tech use for the state’s abundant forests: the trees could play a big role in making energy storage devices.

It's the cellulose found in trees that scientists have zeroed in on. That cellulose could be a key component in something called supercapacitors.

Supercapacitors are high-power energy devices with applications ranging from electronics to cars, aviation to alternative energy.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Pollution Is Not The Top Priority At Oso Landslide Site, But It Is A Concern

Propane tanks floated to the surface of the massive landslide debris field that engulfed 42 homes near Oso, Washington.
Ashley Ahearn

OSO, Wash. -- An orange backhoe beeps in the background as cleanup workers and search dogs slog through the gray-blue clay of the Oso landslide zone. In the distance a muddy American flag waves over hummocks of exposed roots, broken trees and the remnants of the 42 homes that used to line this stretch of highway in the Cascade Mountains northeast of Seattle.

The death toll stands at 33 with 1 people still missing. Dozens of homes were destroyed.

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Earthfix
5:19 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Urged To Support Oil Train Funding, Northwest Senator Seeks Answers

Oregon Senators Ron Wyden, left, and Jeff Merkley met with local officials in Portland to discuss oil train safety earlier this year. Now they're calling for a new fund devoted to it.
Tony Schick

Fellow U.S. senators are calling on Washington's Patty Murray to support major investments in oil train safety, but first she wants some answers.

Murray, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, plans to question federal and local officials during a hearing Wednesday about safety issues involved in transporting crude by rail. Among those she’ll question:

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Earthfix
5:15 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Oregon Wave Energy Project Sinks

More than 100 energy buoys like this were planned to be deployed in Pacific Ocean near Reedsport, Ore. After canceling the larger of two phases of the project in March, the company behind the endeavor has now dropped the entire venture.
Ocean Power Technologies

Plans to deploy Oregon’s first commercial wave energy project have been formally dropped by the company.

After spending millions on the project off the coast of Reedsport, Ore., Ocean Power Technologies pulled the plug and will focus on another project in Australia.

Kevin Watkins, a company representative, said this would have actually been the first such project in the Western Hemisphere — but they had trouble securing adequate funds.

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Earthfix
5:00 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

New Information Released In Southern Oregon Chemical Spraying Case

John and Barbara Burns in the yard of their home in the Southern Oregon community of Cedar Valley. Newly released investigative documents show two chemicals used to kill trees on a logging site were also detected on their property.
Amelia Templeton/OPB

Residents in a coastal Southern Oregon community have been trying since October to find out whether they were exposed to herbicides that a timber company sprayed on a nearby clearcut.

After months of waiting, new information has finally come out: state inspectors say they detected trace amounts of two herbicides on the leaves of apple trees in the neighborhood.

On Oct. 16, a helicopter pilot sprayed herbicide on 176 acres of clearcut forest that belongs to Crook Timberlands.

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Earthfix
5:07 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Timber Company Says It Will Clearcut If It Buys Public Forestland

Sunrise through the fog and trees along Marlow Creek in the Elliott State Forest.
Oregon Department of Forestry

A prominent timber family’s bid to purchase state forest land in Oregon is hitting a nerve with environmentalists who say it could lead to logging on the habitat of species protected by state and federal laws.

The Seneca Jones Timber Co. has submitted a bid on a 788-acre parcel of Elliott State Forest in the Oregon Coast Range northeast of Coos Bay. The parcel was put up for sale by the Oregon Department of State Lands.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Thu April 3, 2014

Living In The Shadow Of Landslide Risk

"Maybe that hillside is a danger to me," says Ben Van Dusen, looking towards the steep foothills of Mt. Index less than a 1/4 mile from his home. "I didn’t think it was but maybe it is.”
Ashley Ahearn

MT. INDEX RIVER SITES, Wash. -- The landslide in Oso, Wash. served as a devastating reminder of one fact of life in the Northwest: landslides happen.

In some places, it’s a risk people have learned to live with -- places like the Mt. Index River Sites, a loose cluster of homes along the Skykomish River northeast of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains.

Since December, landslides have destroyed a dozen homes and wiped out the only access road to this community. No one was hurt.

“All that slid last night. I got stuck on the other side," he said.

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NPR Story
6:28 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Wash. Puts Release Of Hatchery Steelhead On Hold

A steelhead trout in an Oregon stream.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

State fish managers are halting their plans to release juvenile steelhead into Puget Sound rivers this spring. This decision comes in response to a lawsuit filed by wild fish advocates.

The Wild Fish Conservancy sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, contending that the agency’s planting of early winter hatchery steelhead violates the Endangered Species Act.

In response, agency officials have decided not to release more than 900,000 juvenile Chambers Creek steelhead in Puget Sound rivers.

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NPR Story
6:05 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Elected Officials Ask Oregon Governor To Deny Coal Export Permit

A coal mine in Wyoming's Powder River Basin. Elected officials from the Northwest and beyond want Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to stop the Morrow Pacific project, which transfer Powder River Basin coal to Asia by way of the Columbia River.
Katie Campbell

Dozens of elected officials from across the region are asking Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and a state agency director to deny a key permit for a coal export project on the Columbia River.

The request went out in the form of a letter from 86 officials including mayors, city councilors and state lawmakers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

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NPR Story
12:07 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Ag Industry Rallies to Defeat Oregon Anti-GMO Measure

GMO sugar beets are at the heart of the push for Measure 15-119.
United States Department of Agriculture

If voters approve, Jackson County would become the first in the state to ban growing genetically modified crops. A local farmers’ group has put a measure on the May ballot. The measure would apply to just one, mostly-rural county. But the campaign has attracted attention – and money – from around the state, and across the nation.

Neither the supporters of Measure 15-119 nor its opponents seem eager to make the campaign a debate about whether GMOs are harmful to people or the environment. For Elise Higley, it’s about saving small family farms.

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NPR Story
11:13 am
Wed April 2, 2014

Washington DNR Investigates Out-Of-Bounds Clear-Cut, Other Possible Factors In Oso Landslide

Geomorphologist Paul Kennard at Discovery Park in Seattle.
John Ryan / KUOW

Seattle just wrapped up its wettest March on record, with 9.4 inches of rain reported at Sea-Tac International Airport.

Geologists say near-record rain in the Cascade foothills was key in triggering the fatal landslide near the town of Oso, Wash., on March 22. But they say clear-cutting nearby could also have worsened the risk of the hillside collapsing.

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Earthfix
4:17 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

What Does The Plymouth Explosion Mean For LNG Proposals?

Duane VanBeek tells Plymouth residents that the evacuation zone had been reduced to one mile. An explosion at an LNG storage tank forced them from their homes Monday morning. Many returned home after spending the day at the Umatilla County Fairgrounds.
Courtney Flatt

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 4:18 pm

People opposed to exporting liquefied natural gas in Oregon say Monday’s explosion along the Columbia River points out safety problems at these types of facilities. But project supporters say the explosion should not affect decisions about their facilities.

The explosion at a liquefied natural gas -- or LNG -- storage tank in Plymouth, Wash., sent five people to the hospital. Hundreds more were forced to evacuate a two-mile zone around the facility.

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NPR Story
4:00 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Landslide Mapping An Unfinished Task for Geologists

An excavator working in the debris field near Oso, Wash., where a mudslide destroyed a neighborhood in March. The death toll reached 28 as of April 2.
WSP https://www.flickr.com/photos/snoco/13455469653/

Originally published on Tue April 1, 2014 4:02 pm

The last time the U.S. Geological Survey made a national map of landslide hazards, it did so on paper. It didn’t use laser imaging for landslide detection and it didn’t render the maps with high-powered geographic software near-universally used in today’s maps.

It didn’t use these things because they didn't exist. It was 1982.

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NPR Story
5:28 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Court Orders Agencies To Consider Fewer Hatchery Fish For The Elwha

In this 2011 photo, Lower Elwha Hatchery Manager Larry Ward feeds the steelhead and coho that are being raised in a hatchery for introduction to the Elwha.
Katie Campbell

A judge has ordered federal agencies to reconsider the number of planned hatchery fish releases into the Elwha River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula

As crews finish the largest dam removal in history on the Elwha, managers are working to restore fish runs above the dam sites. Their plan includes releasing more than 7 million hatchery salmon and steelhead into the river.

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Earthfix
4:14 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Oregon Company Defies State Order To Stop Work In Salmonberry River

A company that's rebuilding sections of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad says it doesn't need a state permit to work on the Salmonberry River.

The state of Oregon has ordered a company to stop rebuilding sections of the Port of Tillamook Bay railroad because it doesn't have a permit to put material into the nearby river.

But the company isn't stopping and says it doesn't need a state permit.

Many sections of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad washed into the Salmonberry River in a 2007 storm. The railroad has been out of commission since the washout.

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Earthfix
4:05 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

Oregon Regulators Issue $117,000 Fine For Oil Terminal's Permit Violation

A company that's rebuilding sections of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad says it doesn't need a state permit to work on the Salmonberry River.

Oregon environmental regulators imposed an unusually big fine this week against a crude oil terminal on the Columbia River that violated its air quality permit.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued the $117,000 fine to the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery in Clastkanie, Ore., after the facility handled 300 million gallons of crude oil in 2013. Its permit was for 50 million gallons.

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NPR Story
2:30 pm
Fri March 28, 2014

U.S.-China Talks On Shellfish Ban Lead To New Testing For Contaminants

A geoduck clam from Puget Sound. China's ban on importing such shellfish remains in place, but recent U.S.-China talks have led to plans for a new testing protocol to ensure food safety.
Katie Campbell

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 9:15 am

U.S. officials say they will develop a new testing protocol to detect certain contaminants in shellfish, following their meeting with the Chinese government to discuss an end to that country's ban on importing shellfish from most of the U.S. West Coast.

U.S. officials said during a briefing with reporters Friday that the Chinese are satisfied with U.S. testing methods for paralytic shellfish poisoning but they’re still concerned about arsenic. High concentrations of inorganic arsenic, a carcinogen, were found in the skin of geoduck harvested near Tacoma, Wash., last fall.

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