EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Oregon and Washington fisheries managers announced Monday that commercial crab season will open Jan. 4.

That’s about a month later than it was scheduled to start. High levels of domoic acid in the Pacific Ocean had delayed the season.

Scientists suspect a lingering patch of warm water led to high levels of the toxin.

Kelly Corbett of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the state has been testing sites along the coast on a weekly basis.

“All areas that were tested for a third time in a row have all trended downward,” Corbett said.

Outdoorsmen emerge from their tents and truck beds in the early morning light. After a big breakfast they ready dry suits, diving masks, air hoses and a contraption that looks like a small pontoon boat.

This group is carrying on the age-old tradition of small-scale gold mining. Their method of choice is known as suction dredging.

“People have been prospecting for gold since prehistoric times,” miner Ron Larson says. “Gold has always lured mankind and man has always chased it. We feel a connection to those early miners.”

On a rainy fall day, a group of bundled up hikers explored Leslie Gulch. Kirk Richardson, with Keen Footwear in Portland, pointed to a bulbous rock formation jutting from the canyon wall.

"I like this one that’s kind of a split molar root," Richardson said. "Looks like something you’d see in a dentist X-ray."

Congress has adjourned for the year without authorizing the Klamath water agreements. And now the locally-negotiated compromises will expire at the end of the year unless signees decide to extend.

The three agreements would have provided a degree of peace in the Klamath basin water wars. But they needed congressional approval to move forward.

Supporting groups will meet Monday, Dec. 28, to decide whether to wait around yet another year for Congress to act. But some parties are already indicating they want out.

Upcoming King Tide Offers A Preview Of Sea Level Rise

Dec 21, 2015

What will coastal communities look like as the sea level rises with climate change? This week's king tide could offer a preview.

Several groups will be photographing the effects of the extremely high tides expected Wednesday through Friday. They hope it will help communities visualize and prepare for a warming world.

This week Congress passed a bill that increased funding to suppress wildfires. That's after agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on wildfires in 2015. That's the costliest season on record.

Oregon Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley praised the funding increase. But they also said Congress needs to do more to ensure that firefighting doesn't consume other agency programs.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn't see a need to require labeling for genetically engineered salmon. But Congress does.

In the federal spending package approved Friday, lawmakers directed the FDA to make sure the controversial new fish is labeled for consumers.

The Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty has engineered a fish that grows to market size faster than Atlantic farmed salmon.

A budget deal that’s heading for final action Friday includes a provision that could create international demand for American oil — and help make the case for building rail-to-ship export terminals on the West Coast.

It’s not in your head. Seattle's Lake Washington is getting warmer and more comfortable to swim in every year. And it’s not the only lake experiencing a rapid rise in temperature.

For the first time, scientists have brought together a comprehensive data set from 235 lakes around the world, containing more than half of the world’s fresh water. The study, which was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that globally, lake temperatures are rising more rapidly than ocean or air temperatures – at an average uptick of .61 degrees Fahrenheit each decade.

Nearly 200 nations came together in Paris to agree to reduce carbon emissions. The global effort will depend on the policies and regulations set by cities and states.

But a recent report by Lewis & Clark College's Green Energy Institute says Oregon is falling short of its own goals to reduce its emissions.

GUEST:

Oregon Dept. of Agriculture

Officials with the Oregon Department of Forestry knew Applebee Aviation had lost its pesticide license before they let the company spray weed killer over 800 acres of state and private land.

This failure to stop a pesticide sprayer after suspending its license is the latest example of Oregon’s inability to prevent problematic forest pesticide applications.

A report by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council finds the region can meet nearly all of its energy needs for the next 20 years without building new power plants.

The exceptions may come from the need to replace the power from coal plants that are being retired.

Oregon Signs On To Sell Only Emission-Free Vehicles By 2050

Dec 14, 2015

Oregon — along with a group of five countries and seven states — used the Paris climate change conference to set lofty new emission goals.

The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance announced the goal of having all new cars sold within its jurisdiction be emission-free by 2050.

That jurisdiction includes Oregon and seven other states, as well as Quebec, Canada; Germany; the Netherlands; Norway and the United Kingdom.

Dave Nordberg, with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, called it an aspirational goal, but not outside the realm of possibility.

The city of Longview began drilling a series of test wells Monday along the Cowlitz River to search for a new drinking water source.

The city is considering whether to pursue a new well system that would allow it to once again get its water from the Cowlitz River.

“It’s really driven by our customers,” said Amy Blain, a project engineer with the city of Longview. “They’re unhappy with our current water source.”

In January 2013, Longview began to get its water from ground wells.

Northern spotted owl numbers are declining across the Northwest, and the primary reason is the spread of the barred owl, according to a new analysis published Wednesday.

Federal scientists have been keeping tabs on spotted owls for more than 20 years now.

“We have a lot of data that suggests that they’re in real trouble,” said study co-author Eric Forsman, a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist.

Environmental Update: Crayfish

Dec 8, 2015

We check in with EarthFix reporter Jes Burns about how crayfish introduced to Crater Lake to feed sport fish are now competing with native newts.

GUESTS:

The Paris climate talks have shifted the spotlight to a group of international leaders being dubbed as “sub-nationals” -- but one of those leaders from the Pacific Northwest prefers a different title.

Two men have been arrested in Portland on charges of smuggling wildlife into the U.S. after allegedly using an online business to ship orangutan skulls and other endangered wildlife parts through the mail.

Federal agents arrested Eoin Ling Churn Yeng, 35, and Galvin Yeo Siang Ann, 33, on Friday afternoon when they arrived to meet with a business associate. Both men were identified as Malaysian nationals.

BASF

Farmers challenging a Southern Oregon county’s voter-approved ban on genetically engineered crops have agreed to settle. If approved by the court, Oregon’s first countywide ban will have cleared a final legal hurdle.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for most of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. It runs through Wednesday.

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