Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

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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