EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Ten years ago, a group of farmers, ranchers, anglers, environmental activists, tribal members, power companies and politicians in Southern Oregon and Northern California started meeting. They were trying to come up with a grand bargain for the Klamath Basin — a deal to prevent the kinds of water wars that rocked the region in 2001 and 2002.

United States commercial fisheries are doing fine overall, but fishermen on the West Coast are hurting. A 2015 annual report out Wednesday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a stark fall-off in the big seafood money-makers in the Pacific Northwest.

Nationally, 2015 was an above average year in terms of catch rate, commercial value and national seafood consumption.

Chris Maletis is driving his SUV along Highway 551 between Aurora and Wilsonville at the southern end of Clackamas County. It takes a few minutes to drive around the 385 acres Maletis owns here with his brother Tom.

“We’re coming right up on the airport, which employs hundreds of people,” said Maletis, who contends this area is urban in nature.

The property includes the Langdon Farms Golf Club. But Maletis sees his land as helping address the region's — and especially Clackamas County's — shortfall of industrial property.

Oregon Election 2016: Ballot Quick Look

Oct 25, 2016

As Election Day nears, there's still time to submit your ballot in Oregon. The deadline for all ballots is 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, and remember, it's too late to mail them in. You can drop them off at your local elections office or at a secure ballot drop box. Oregon.gov has a handy search tool to help you locate your drop box to make sure your ballot is received by the right elections office in time to be counted.

Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table

Oct 21, 2016

Starting Monday people will get a chance to weigh-in on a controversial question: Should four dams come down on the lower Snake River? They’re facing renewed scrutiny because of a court-ordered analysis on how the dams are harming salmon.

Last May, a federal judge — for the fifth time — rejected the government’s plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River system. He said agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the dams — including breaching those on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington.

Last winter was the first time the Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon closed temporarily because of toxic algae in the ocean. And even just a week ago, another toxic bloom was happening off the coast.

Scientists are just beginning to understand what triggers these conditions. A study this month from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a rare peak below the waves.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has stepped up its opposition to a proposed coal terminal in Longview, Washington, saying state and federal officials have underestimated the environmental risks of the project and ignored the tribe’s requests for consultation.

Cowlitz Chairman Bill Iyall, on a call with reporters Friday, said plans to export 44 million metric tons of coal through a terminal in Longview threaten the tribe’s culture and homeland.

“Since time immemorial we’ve relied on the once bountiful resources for survival,” Iyall said.

VIDEO: Being A Columbia River Bar Pilot

Oct 20, 2016

Complaining about the weather? Imagine being a Columbia River bar pilot when the weather goes south! This is two minutes we promise you won't be able to look away from and something you won't ever want to try.

Video courtesy of Captain Robert Johnson

See more of these pilots at work in the next episode of “Oregon Field Guide,” Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8:30 p.m. on OPB TV.

Opponents of a methanol plant proposed in Kalama, Washington, are challenging the environmental review of the project.

The Chinese-backed facility would convert natural gas to methanol, which would then be shipped overseas to be made into plastic. If it's built as proposed on the lower Columbia River, it will be the world's largest gas-to-methanol plant.

Hanford Workers' Skin Exposed To Radioactive Waste

Oct 19, 2016

At least 10 Hanford workers were exposed to radioactive waste Tuesday at the nuclear cleanup site’s tank farm in southeast Washington.

Workers were removing a connection line that’s used to transfer radioactive waste between tanks when the contamination was detected. A test found radioactive waste on the workers’ skin and clothing. The contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, says the contamination was low.

Tom Carpenter, who heads the worker advocacy group, Hanford Challenge, disputed that characterization.

On Thursday at 10:20 a.m., millions of people around the world will practice dropping, covering and holding on as part of the Great ShakeOut, a worldwide movement aimed at making people pay attention to earthquake preparedness.

More than 470,000 people are registered to participate in this year's Beaver State version, the Great Oregon ShakeOut. But what exactly does participating in the ShakeOut entail, and why is it such a big deal in Oregon? To understand that we have to take a look at some science first.

Imagine a stretch of water so dangerous even huge ships can’t cross it safely. A place sailors call the “graveyard,” where hundreds of boats have sunk and thousands of people have drowned.

Now imagine this place is crucial to the global economy, and like it or not, shipping vessels must enter it every day to keep things moving and avoid economic collapse.

Such a place exists in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River Bar, located at the intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world.

Gov. Kate Brown is promising “sweeping change” from the new state air pollution rule-making process now underway.

Advocates for a healthier Puget Sound have long contended that it needs to be treated as a nationally significant water body, just like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Such recognition, they say, will attract more money and attention for improving the Sound’s environmental health.

Larry Schwitters is putting a lot of hope into a five-gallon bucket of bird poop.

It’s one of the ways he plans to lure thousands of Vaux's swifts into his homemade version of the chimneys these birds use as a nightly roost.

"The idea is we throw it in the chimney and it has an odor supposedly the swifts can smell," he said. "If they fly over it and take a sniff, they’ll think, ‘Hey, swifts have used this before. This is a good one. You can smell it.’”

Back in the 1970s, Gens Johnson got really interested in handmade and regional art. She started buying pieces from shops in Portland and across the Northwest.

“I bought two pieces that were scrimshaw, and they were done on whale ivory and walrus tusk,” she said.

Scrimshaw is a kind of carving – typically of boats and sea life. It was popularized by whalers in the 1800s.

“I was concerned when I bought it that it wasn’t elephant ivory, and I really didn’t think there was any problem with it being a sea mammal product,” Johnson said.

The government and a conservation group both are offering reward money for help find whoever killed a federally protected gray wolf in South-Central Oregon.

The wolf, a radio-collared 3-year-old female known as OR-28, was found dead on Oct. 6 in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

It’s a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act to kill a gray wolf, which is listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon State Police are investigating.

The Columbus Day Storm Of 1962

Oct 14, 2016

As the state prepares for the coming storm, take a look back at Oregon's catastrophic windstorm that struck 54 years ago this week.

Here's a few other resources about the impending storm that should hit the Pacific Northwest this weekend.

Copyright 2016 ERTHFX. To see more, visit ERTHFX.

Tornado Touches Down In Manzanita

Oct 14, 2016

A tornado hit Manzanita, Oregon, at about 8:20 a.m. Friday.

“We could see on radar that it looked like probably a waterspout over the ocean, and that continued as it came on shore," Andy Bryant of the National Weather Service said.

"We did issue a tornado warning for that. And then just within 5 to 10 minutes we saw a report, I believe via Twitter, that there was possible tornado damage in Manzanita.”

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long says there has been some structural damage and one person reported windows being blown out.

A new audit finds that Klamath irrigators should not have received millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The money was used to pay farmers not to use scarce water supplies from streams and rivers in the Klamath Basin straddling Oregon and California.

Pages