Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Federal officials said a tunnel used to regulate the water level in Spirit Lake at the base of Mount St. Helens needs to be repaired to reduce the danger of flooding.

Cowlitz County officials are concerned that if the tunnel failed, Spirit Lake could fill up and possibly flood downstream towns Kelso and Longview.

Skiing Leg Of Iconic Bend Race Cancelled

May 6, 2015

Organizers for Bend's Pole, Pedal, Paddle race have cancelled the cross country skiing leg of the annual athletic event due to lack of snow.

The Pole, Pedal, Paddle is a multisport competition that combines skiing, cycling, running and boating into one big race. With very little snow left on the course, the event organizers have cancelled the nordic leg of the competition. Instead, athletes will complete a short trail run.

To some people, sea lions are smart, lovable creatures that shouldn't be harmed in any way. To others they're loud, destructive pests that need to be controlled.

As sea lion populations grow, both sides have gripes about how these hulking pinnipeds are being managed on the Columbia River.

Another Sea Lion Dies At Bonneville Dam

May 5, 2015

A Steller sea lion died after it got tangled Monday night between traps at the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

Officials reported the death late Tuesday. It's the third trap-related sea lion death reported in the last week.

Rick Hargrave, a spokesman with the Oregon Department of Wildlife, said it was impossible to predict.

Water supply forecasts are looking bleak for many Northwest rivers this year. Managers say that means the region will generate less hydropower.

At a meeting in Portland this week, power managers with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council will hear an update on the region's snow pack and stream flow forecasts.

Seattle City Council members heard testimony on a resolution Tuesday urging the Port of Seattle to reconsider its controversial decision to host Shell Oil’s Arctic drill rigs.

The resolution warns that allowing Shell to use Terminal 5 in West Seattle will cause “disruption, division and direct conflict with the Port’s stated values and policies.”

Oregon Scientists Lead Underwater Research

May 5, 2015

Last month Ed Dever helped to put four special, giant buoys off the coast of Oregon.

“I like to think of them as floating laboratories,” said Dever, who is an Oceanography professor at Oregon State University.

Each bouy is tethered to the ocean floor, weighs over 10,000 pounds, and is loaded with scientific instruments which will soon be measuring oxygen levels, acidity, and other biological and chemical data.

Washington environmental regulators have reversed their decision to allow pesticide spraying on oyster beds after a public outcry about the use of toxic chemicals.

The state Department of Ecology had previously issued a permit to apply a pesticide to areas of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay where oyster producers want to kill a type of shrimp that burrows into shellfish beds. The shellfish producers say they need to kill the shrimp because it make the ground so soft that their oysters suffocate.

Two Sea Lions Die In Trap At Bonneville Dam

May 1, 2015

Two California sea lions died in a trap this week at the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam after a door closed prematurely, confining them for hours.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Rick Hargrave said a veterinarian has determined the two sea lions were likely crushed to death by a 1,500-pound Steller sea lion that was almost three times their size.

With the door closed, the smaller sea lions were unable to hop out of the way. The incident took place sometime between Tuesday evening and early Wednesday morning.

Northwest emergency responders have complained about receiving little information about oil train movement through their community. They’re about to get even less.

The Oregon-based Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The charity's campaign to stop Japanese whaling is documented in the TV series, "Whale Wars."

Back in 2012 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction to stop the Sea Shepherd from going within 500 feet of a whaling ship.

Sea Shepherd Attorney Claire Davis says U.S. staff got off the Sea Shepherd, but were replaced with protesters from other countries who then took the ship within the 500 feet limit.

Oil trains are getting stronger tank cars, better brakes, slower speed limits and possibly new routes. Many in the Northwest say that’s still not enough.

Oregon’s U.S. senators want to put a $175 fee on each older model railroad tank car used to ship flammable oil.

Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined four other Democrats in introducing a bill Thursday that would create a surcharge on each DOT-111, a tank car model known to be flawed and puncture-prone.

Air pollution caused by wood stoves in Washington is in line with federal clean air requirements for the first time in seven years.

Rivers Recover Rapidly Once Dams Are Gone, Study Finds

Apr 30, 2015

A new study sums up what scientists now know about the environmental effects of removing dams from rivers.

It concludes that rivers and fish respond quickly after a dam is removed, and the results are mostly positive.

"Heraclitus has said you can't step in the same river twice,"said study co-author Gordon Grant. "Well, you don't get exactly the same river back after you take a dam off it that you had before, but you can come pretty close. In some cases, it can even be difficult to identify in just a few years where the dam was."

Oregon LNG Considers Federal Permit After County Permit Withdrawn

Apr 29, 2015

Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals Wednesday upheld the rejection of a permit for a liquefied natural gas facility proposed for Warrenton.

Clatsop County commissioners turned down a pipeline permit for the facility in 2013.

Now LUBA says they were within their rights to do so.

Opponents of the $6 billion project call the ruling significant. They say a local land use permit is necessary before the state can approve it.

But Peter Hansen with Oregon LNG says the facility is ultimately governed by federal rather than local regulations.

Test Driving The Electric Highway

Apr 29, 2015

The West Coast Electric Highway is a network of fast-charging stations for electric vehicles that runs all the way from Vancouver, Canada, to the California border. Oregon completed its section of the electric highway this month, with the installation of a charging station at a Fred Meyer store in Brookings, near the California border.

When reporter Tom Banse heard that, he rented a Nissan LEAF and drove the length of Oregon to try out the electric highway.

OPB’s All Things Considered host Kate Davidson called him on the road.

Commissioners at the Port of Vancouver voiced their support Tuesday for a rail safety bill introduced in the U.S. Senate late last month.

All three commissioners voted in favor of a resolution supporting the Crude-By-Rail Safety Act of 2015.

The bill was drafted by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat, and aims to improve rail safety by requiring national standards for moving crude oil by rail.

Working With Whales

Apr 28, 2015

Bruce Mate has been studying whales for close to four decades and recently tracked the longest mammal migration on record. In the 1970s, he pioneered the technology that made this sort of tracking possible.

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to figure out whether smartphones might be used to give earthquake warnings.

People standing above the epicenter of a large earthquake will feel the ground shaking before those on the periphery of the quake. The same can be said of their smartphones.

Ben Brooks with the USGS says if a computer was checking for simultaneous movement of a large number of smartphones, it could give people on the periphery of a quake a 10 or 20 second warning.

That's enough time to stop a surgeon from making a cut, he said.

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