EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

When summer began this year, signs weren’t good for water in the Willamette River Basin.

Record low snow packs had already melted, spring precipitation was well below average, and — for some cities — it had been the hottest June on record.

By the time summer was over, the Detroit Lake Reservoir had dried up to an unprecedented level. And according to the Department of Agriculture, Oregon is still experiencing severe drought.

“When it comes to coal, here at Crow you’re not going to have controversy,” said Darrin Old Coyote, chairman of the Crow tribe. Two years ago, he signed an agreement giving Cloud Peak Energy — one of the nation’s biggest coal companies — an option to lease 1.4 billion tons of coal on the reservation. He argued the jobs and revenue the agreement will provide are essential to his community.

A new study suggests that Puget Sound shellfish producers could expand some of their operations without significantly affecting the environment.

Researchers undertook the study to determine what would happen if more areas along Puget Sound were devoted to the farming of giant geoduck clams.

Rising demand from China is driving the push to expand Puget Sound aquaculture. Some residents are opposed to increased shellfish farming.

Dam Removals

Oct 22, 2015

Producer/Writer: Jes Burns, EarthFix Videographer/Editor: Kerin Sharma Graphics: Madeleine Pisaneschi

Additional Photography: KCTS Television, Prelinger Archives, River Design Group, WaterWatch of Oregon

In the past decade, several high-profile dam removals have happened in the Northwest.

Visit the EarthFix website to learn more about this story:

Wilderness advocates delivered more than 30,000 petitions to Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-Ore) Portland office Tuesday in support of designating Crater Lake and the surrounding area as protected wilderness.

The proposed boundaries for the Crater Lake Wilderness would make the National Park into a 75-mile, 500,000-acre corridor of protected area.

That's two-and-a-half times the size of the current park.

Wilderness designations are used to limit human activity, and can even include bans on motorized vehicles.

Refugees and recent immigrants in Oregon face unique challenges when preparing for a possible Cascadia megaquake. Communities from Burma, Nepal, Somalia, Iraq, and other countries each bring different languages, experiences, and cultural associations that are not always addressed by standard emergency preparedness sessions.

Washington officials are delaying the environmental review of a proposed coal export terminal on the Columbia River.

The Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were scheduled to complete their joint environmental reviews next month for the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, Wash.

USGS Looks To Twitter For Speedy Quake Alerts

Oct 11, 2015

The U.S. Geological Survey is exploring the use of Twitter to collect and analyze accounts of earthquakes around the world.

It's undeniable that we live in the age of the smartphone. When something interesting happens, people pull out their phones to tell everyone about it — even when it’s an earthquake.

By monitoring Twitter for words like “earthquake,” and by filtering out longer tweets — under the assumption people experiencing a quake aren’t very chatty — the USGS has been able to develop a new way to send rapid quake alerts.

Could A Mushroom Save The Honeybee?

Oct 9, 2015

Honeybees need a healthy diet of pollen, nectar and water. But at a bee laboratory in eastern Washington state, Steve Sheppard fills their feeding tubes with murky brown liquid from the forest.

His bees are getting a healthy dose of mushroom juice.

"If this does what we hope, it will be truly revolutionary," says Sheppard, who heads the Department of Entomology at Washington State University. "Beekeepers are running out of options."

Could A Mushroom Save The Honeybee?

Oct 9, 2015

Honeybees need a healthy diet of pollen, nectar and water. But at a bee laboratory in eastern Washington state, Steve Sheppard fills their feeding tubes with murky brown liquid from the forest.

His bees are getting a healthy dose of mushroom juice.

In 2014 Oregon Field Guide set off to explore the possible findings of a new cave system rumored to exist inside the glacier on the crater's south side of Mt St. Helens.

The segment aired with a fascinating story of its discovery but the shoot did not end as hoped. This behind-the-scenes view will reveal the difficult challenges and circumstances that lead to a dramatic departure from the crater.

Producer: Vince Patton, Videographers: Todd Sonflieth, Corky Miller, Michael Bendixen, Editor: Michael Bendixen

Additional Photos & Video: Oregon Dept. of Transportation Oregon State Police, Parks Canada: Banff National Park

When deer need to get where they’re going, they often must conquer an obstacle course of fences and roads.

Miles upon miles of human made barriers snake across even the most wide-open landscape.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday the state is pursuing clean water rules that match federal recommendations for protecting human health.

Inslee said he would direct the Washington Department of Ecology to draft a new clean water rules that reduce pollution enough for people to safely eat more fish from Washington waters. The proposed rule is based on a fish consumption rate of 175 grams per person per day and an allowable cancer risk of one in one million.

Northwest communities are breathing easier than many places in the United States after federal regulators clamped down on ozone pollution, the main component of smog.

The Environmental Protection Area last week lowered the acceptable limit to 70 parts per billion. The new clean air standard is not as far-reaching as health and environmental advocates were calling for. But it’s more strict than many industry representatives wanted to see.

As of 2014, no region in Washington or Oregon were averaging greater than 65 parts per billion.

What is ozone?

Portland Company Building Highrise From Wood

Oct 7, 2015

A 12-story highrise building is set for construction at the corner of Northwest 10th Avenue and Northwest Glisan Street. But this building stands out from the scores of new highrise construction in one significant way: it will be made of wood.

Diesel Spills Into Columbia After Ship Hits Astoria Pier

Oct 2, 2015

The Coast Guard says a diesel spill in the Columbia River is being cleaned up after a cargo ship leaked more than one-thousand gallons of fuel Friday.

The 1,100-gallon spill happened early in the morning after the vessel struck a pier. The collision created a 4-foot gash in the ship, which was arriving at the port to collect a load of logs.

U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Levi Read said the spill was contained and was being cleaned up.

Critics Say Whales Put At Risk By Navy Testing Plan

Oct 2, 2015

The Navy released the final environmental review Friday for its proposed sonar and explosives training practices in waters off the coast of the Northwest.

The Navy currently conducts training exercises in an area of the northeastern Pacific Ocean, roughly the size of Montana. It needs to renew its federal permit under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in order to continue and expand those exercises.

The Environmental Protection Agency came out with new rules Thursday that will make it harder to pollute the air with ozone, the main ingredient in smog.

The new allowable threshold in the air is 70 parts per billion, down from 75.

While many cities across the U.S. will be forced to make changes to improve air quality, Northwest communities are generally in good shape for now.

Two Oregon state agencies have fined helicopter company Applebee Aviation close to $10,000 and suspended the company’s license to spray pesticides after a worker complained of chemical exposure in Douglas County.

Both the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health and the Oregon Department of Agriculture opened investigations in the case brought by Darryl Ivy, a truck driver and pesticide handler who was exposed to herbicides on the job and who released hundreds of photos and videos in alleging unsafe conditions during aerial herbicide sprays.

New Plan For Recovering Bull Trout Takes Effect

Sep 30, 2015

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a new plan for bringing back the declining bull trout in Oregon, Washington and three other Western states. But conservationists say it won't actually restore the fish's population to a healthy level.

Bull trout are predators native to streams across the Northwest. In some places, bull trout were purposely over-fished to keep them from eating precious salmon.