Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
12:08 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

A Turbine That Toppled In A Windstorm

Recent winds in southcentral Washington caused a wind turbine to collapse.

The weekend before last I was out running errands around the Tri-Cities, and it was impossible to ignore the wind. Trees swayed side-to-side in a strange yoga-like dance. Shopping carts raced across parking lots. Dust clouded the air like an early morning fog.

About 40 miles away, a wind turbine bent in half.

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NPR Story
12:00 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

How Public Officials Manage To Review 200,000 Comments On Coal Exports

A scene from a Millennium coal export public comment meeting.

Across the Northwest, thousands of people are crowding into meeting rooms to submit their comments on coal export and oil-by-rail projects.

Many of them wear T-shirts in protest or in support; they wait hours for a chance to speak for two or three minutes. The crowd isn't allowed to clap or cheer so they silently wave their hands or put their thumbs up if they agree with the people speaking.

Officials listen as people sound off one by one. What happens after that?

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NPR Story
12:22 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Study: 600,000 Bats Killed At Wind Farms In 2012

The hoary bat is one of the migrating bat species that flies through the Pacific Northwest. A study has found that more than 600,000 bats may have been killed at U.S. wind farms in 2012.

More than 600,000 bats may have been killed at wind farms in the continental U.S. last year. That’s a lot for these flying mammals, which are already suffering from a virulent disease and climate change.

At wind farms, bats are most often killed when they are struck by spinning turbine blades. They may sometimes die from a sudden change in air pressure, which harms their respiratory systems.

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NPR Story
12:00 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

China's Building Boom Revives Northwest Log Export Debate

A scaler grades logs that Teevin Brothers are preparing to ship to China. It can take 37,000 logs to fill a vessel.

If you want to know how China’s construction market is reshaping the Northwest, a Rainier, Ore. log yard is a good place to start.

The Teevin Brothers yard along the Columbia River rumbles with activity while workers prepare half a million logs for the towering ships docked across the river in the Port of Longview. A yellow stacking truck opens its pinchers and sends its payload rolling out across the ground. The air smells like sap and sawdust. Scalers wearing neon safety vests inspect the logs, stapling each with a plastic barcode.

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NPR Story
10:10 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Salmon Get A Helping Hand From Above

A Chinook helicopter descends toward a clearing near Cannon Beach's Ecola Forest Reserve for refueling Oct. 29. The helicopter relocated trees as part of a salmon habitat restoration project.

By Erick Bengel

CANNON BEACH — A salmon-friendly project, involving large tree trunks strategically placed in Ecola Creek is expected to improve fish habitat in the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve.

On a recent weekday, a Chinook helicopter recently airlifted 109 trees, mostly spruce, in the forest reserve and placed them at 19 preplanned sites along the creek, furnishing the fish with much-needed woody debris.

“One of the main deficiencies in our watershed is the presence of large wood,” said Jesse Jones, coordinator for the North Coast Watershed Association.

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NPR Story
7:00 am
Wed November 13, 2013

Can Mushrooms Help Fight Stormwater Pollution?

Stropharia rugosoannulata, commonly known as the Garden Giant, may hold a key to filtering stormwater runoff.

SEATTLE -- Ah, the Garden Giant. He’s a jolly fellow who roams around your garden at night tossing mulch as he merrily skips along, helping your veggies grow lush and tall.

Not quite. The Garden Giant is actually a species of mushroom, scientifically known as Stropharia rugosoannulata, that may hold a key to filtering harmful pollutants from stormwater runoff.

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NPR Story
2:00 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

EarthFix Conversations: What Chinese Demand For Logs Means For NW Mills

A scaler grades logs that Teevin Brothers are preparing for the export market in Rainier, Oregon.

China’s new demand for logs may be blunting economic troubles for timberland owners and logging crews, while making things worse for Northwest sawmills.

A strengthening Asian export market for raw logs has ports up and down the coast interested in getting back into the business. In 2011, almost a quarter of the logs harvested in the Northwest were shipped to Asia. In recent years, China has displaced Japan as the top buyer of logs from the Northwest.

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NPR Story
12:24 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Washington's Catholic Bishops Call For Broad Review Of Coal Exports

Washington's Catholic bishops are calling for broad review of the two proposed coal export terminals in the state.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Washington's four Catholic bishops have released a statement calling for “exhaustive and independent review” of the state's two coal export terminals under consideration:

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NPR Story
7:45 am
Tue November 12, 2013

New Potential Problem In Hanford Waste Tanks: Flammable Gas

The deadline to cleanup Hanford Nuclear Reservation's C-Farm is possibly in jeopardy. Scientists and engineers aren’t sure now how much the newer massive double-hulled underground tanks can hold before the sludge burps up a major flammable gas bubble.

How much sludge can be dumped into a double-shelled radioactive waste tank before flammable gas might build up in a big bubble?

That's the question managers and scientists at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are asking. And they are working against the clock to solve the possible new problem.

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NPR Story
6:45 am
Fri November 8, 2013

Idaho Falls Behind In Energy Efficiency, As Ore., Wash. Maintain Top Tier

In the 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, Idaho fell nine places from 2012 to tie at 31st. Oregon and Washington maintained their ranks at fourth and eighth.

Idaho has the distinction of dropping the farthest in ranking in the 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Lead author on the report Annie Downs attributed Idaho’s decline to “not keeping up with peers in utility spending and savings.”

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NPR Story
12:50 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Washington Considering New Fish Consumption Standards

An illustration of the amount of fish that can be safely consumed each day under Washington's current fish consumption standards.

The Washington State Department of Ecology is working to update the state’s fish consumption levels. Plans are to release a draft plan soon for public comment.

They range from 125 grams to 225 grams per day; the current standards are based on 6.5 grams.

The proposed higher standards are based on the diets of some coastal Native Americans.

The standards under consideration would require reducing pollution discharges by 50 percent to 97 percent.

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NPR Story
7:42 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Gilchrist State Forest May Expand By 29,000 Acres

Gilchrist State Forest is located 45 miles south of Bend, Ore. The state is looking to incorporate 29,000 acres into the forest to increase environmental, economic and recreation opportunities in the area.

The Oregon Department of Forestry is seeking public input about a property acquisition that could incorporate 29,000 acres into the Gilchrist State Forest.

The 60-day public comment period began Nov. 5 and will close Jan. 3. A public hearing will be Dec. 5 in Klamath Falls, according to an ODF press release.

The proposed acquisition includes a 3,000-acre parcel privately owned by Central Oregon Land Holdings and a 25,453-acre parcel owned by the Conservation Fund, the press release said. Both properties are adjacent to the Gilchrist State Forest.

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NPR Story
1:46 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Field Notes: Compiling A Video 'Water Handbook' For Idaho

Most of the summer water available comes from snow high in the mountains. It melts off and provides a steady stream of water in the warmer months.

(Editor’s note: EarthFix Field Notes are reporters’ personal impressions and experiences from their coverage of the Pacific Northwest. In this entry, Idaho-based Producer Aaron Kunz takes a close look at water’s scenic value, its importance to the economy, and its function as the veins and arteries of southern Idaho’s arid sagebrush steppe.)

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NPR Story
9:49 am
Wed November 6, 2013

County Council Election Results Show No Love For Coal

Environmental groups and democrats outspent conservatives for open seats on Whatcom County Council and their efforts seem to have paid off. Council members will eventually vote on permits for a proposed coal export terminal.

Editor's note: Check back for updates on this story later today.

Whatcom County, in northwestern Washington, had four seats up for grab on their seven member county council, members who will eventually vote on permits for the largest coal export terminal proposed for the West Coast.

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NPR Story
3:00 am
Wed November 6, 2013

ICYMI: Caves, Climate And Creatures

Our big project with Oregon Field Guide explored Mount Hood's glacier caves.

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 3:00 pm

In case you missed it, a roundup of some of the interesting Northwest environmental news stories (from our team and others) in October.

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NPR Story
3:31 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

A Week For Polar Bears, Too

Conservation group Polar Bears International is hoping to bring awareness to the snow white bears with Polar Bear Week.

First there was Shark Week. Now conservation group Polar Bears International is hoping to bring the same fame (and awareness) to the snow white bears with Polar Bear Week.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Five Unexpected Ways Climate Change Will Impact the Northwest

Native fishermen on the Pacific coast are seeing fewer cold water animals and reporting more sightings of warmer water species. Humboldt squid are being reported in waters off OR, WA, and BC. Ten years ago, sightings north of San Diego were rare.
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NPR Story
1:42 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Are 'Megaloads' In E. Oregon's Future?

A 'megaload' along a highway in Idaho. A transport company is eyeing an Eastern Oregon highway to move these oversized loads of equipment needed in the oil fields of Alberta, Canada.

JOHN DAY – Industrial hauler Omega Morgan, at the heart of a controversial “megaload” project in Idaho, is eyeing U.S. Highway 395 through Eastern Oregon as a possible route for at least three oversized shipments, starting in late November.

Crews were in John Day, Mt. Vernon and other sites along the highway last week, measuring intersections and checking power line locations to see how the route might work.

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NPR Story
5:00 am
Mon November 4, 2013

A Fashionable Climate Model

Some clever and well-dressed scientists are using a pun to spur some fun educational outreach. The Climate Models Calendar features climate scientist.

Some clever and well-dressed scientists are using a pun to spur some fun educational outreach.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Northwest Governors Face Legislative Roadblocks On Climate Agreement

From left to right: British Columbia Environment Minister Mary Polak, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and California Gov. Jerry Brown signing a regional climate agreement last week.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and Washington Governor Jay Inslee set ambitious goals when they signed a regional climate change agreement last week with the leaders of California and British Columbia.

But the governors can't reach those goals without their state legislatures, and both governors face legislative roadblocks to upholding the agreement – particularly when it comes to putting a price or a cap on carbon emissions.

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