Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
10:55 am
Mon October 7, 2013

Octopuses' Gardens: WA Designates 7 No-Hunt Spots

Divers preparing to go beneath the surface of Puget Sound at Seattle's Alki Beach. It's one of seven places where Washington state has banned octopus hunting.

When a 19-year-old man lured a giant Pacific octopus from its lair off Alki Beach in West Seattle last year – legally, it turned out – a small group of activists were aghast that the charismatic cephalopod wasn’t protected.

They lobbied the state for more protections for the octopus, and triumphed when the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted rules to prohibit recreational octopus harvesting at seven popular dive spots in the Puget Sound region. The law went into effect on Sunday.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon October 7, 2013

A Land Deal To Conserve Central Wash. Water And Wildlife

The North Fork of the Teanaway River is where the 50,000 acre land acquisition starts. The Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources will manage the land together.

If you look up the North Fork of Central Washington’s Teanaway River, you can see snowcapped Mount Stuart in the distance.

This area outside Cle Elum is a popular destination for hikers and fishers, and it’s home to wildlife including a wolf pack, spotted owls, and moose.

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NPR Story
3:07 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Activists Regroup After Ore. Lawmakers' Trump Local Push To Restrict GM Crops

Organic wheat growing in a Southern Oregon field. Organic growers in that part of the state who wanted local ordinances to restrict genetically modified agriculture were dealt a setback this week by the Oregon Legislature.

Until this week, activists in some Oregon counties were pushing to ban genetically modified crops, sometimes referred to as GMOs. Now they are now looking at a statewide initiative.

Oregon lawmakers on Wednesday put the brakes on anti-GMO initiatives in four counties when they passed Senate Bill 863 this week. The bill prohibits local ordinances banning genetically modified crops.

Supporters of the bill say it ensures that farmers across the state can operate under one set of state regulations rather than patchwork of local rules.

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NPR Story
1:58 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

Washington Supreme Court Rules For Tribe In Skagit Case

The Swinomish Tribe is located at the mouth of the Skagit River, the only river in the lower 48 home to all six species of Pacific salmon.

A Western Washington tribe today won a legal victory that will ensure more water stays in the Skagit River to help salmon and steelhead.

The Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Ecology overstepped its authority in allocating water from the Skagit River for new development.

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NPR Story
1:50 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

THIN ICE: Exploring Mount Hood's Glacier Caves

The Swinomish Tribe is located at the mouth of the Skagit River, the only river in the lower 48 home to all six species of Pacific salmon.

He’s wearing a white helmet with his name and “Cave Rescue” printed on it. Cartaya is worried because the sun is starting to rise and hit the ice.

His climbing partner Brent McGregor follows at a more reasonable pace. The bearded 60-year-old takes in the morning and smiles.

“One of the best sounds in alpine mountaineering is the sound of crampons and ice axes on good firm snow,” he says.

Check out OPB's full digital version of THIN ICE: opb.org/glaciercaves

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NPR Story
10:04 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Glacier Caving Caution

When Brent McGregor and Eddy Cartaya explore the Sandy Glacier they follow safety protocols, including signing into cave register and staying in radio communication with local search and rescue teams.

Glacier cave exploration requires preparation for serious hazards:

The caves are located off-trail in steep areas that are difficult for search and rescue teams to access.

Blocks of ice that weigh more than a ton can fall from the ceiling, particularly near cave entrances.

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NPR Story
2:12 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Environmental Groups Sue To Overturn Vancouver Oil Terminal Lease

An aerial view of the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

Three environmental groups are suing the Port of Vancouver to overturn the approval of a lease for the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal.

Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center say the Port of Vancouver Commission held an illegal executive session before approving the lease in July. They're asking the court to rescind the lease.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Season of Smoke: Changing Climate Leads To Bigger, Smokier Wildfires

Clouds of smoke as big as thunderheads billowed over communities in Central Idaho this summer.

SEATTLE -- Each fire season is a roll of the dice.

Some years lightning strikes more often. Other years soggy summers keep big burns at bay.

This year more than 4,000 wildfires burned almost a million acres across the Northwest. That might sound like a lot, but it falls below the 10-year average. In the last decade, only one year has had fewer fires than this year.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Hotter Summers Mean More Health Risks In Urban Heat Islands

HelenRuth Stephens has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She says hot weather drains her energy and makes it hard to breathe.

PORTLAND – On hot summer days, 74-year-old HelenRuth Stephens doesn't dare leave her apartment. Not to get the mail or take out the trash.

"You don't do it because you'll be breathless by the time you get back," she says.

She suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Both affect her lungs. Hot weather drains her energy, she says, and makes it hard for her to breathe.

Stephens is the type of person public health officials worry about as they're preparing for climate change.

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NPR Story
10:45 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Citizens Turn Out To Learn More About Vancouver Oil Terminal Project

An aerial view of the Port of Vancouver. It's one of several locations in the Northwest where train-to-vessel oil terminala have been proposed.

About a hundred people attended a community meeting on the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver Monday night.

Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies have proposed to transport up to 380,000 barrels of crude oil a day through the Port of Vancouver. The Port approved a lease for the project in July.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Toxic Algal Blooms And Warming Waters: The Climate Connection

The Williford family is all smiles today. But they weren't so happy when Jessica (far right) was the first person in the U.S. with a documented case of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. Climate change could make such illnesses more common.

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- A photograph displayed in Jacki and John Williford's home commemorates a camping trip that would go down in family history.

The most memorable event from that outing in 2011 involved the mussels John and his two children collected from a dock near Sequim Bay State Park on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The family took them back to their campsite and steamed them in white wine with garlic and oregano.

“It was really good. Like the best mussels in the whole wide world,” remembers their son Jaycee, now 7. “And they were huge.”

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Fri September 27, 2013

How Farmworkers Experience A Warming Climate

For 20 years, Victor Gonzalez has traveled the Pacific Coast picking cherries, pears, and apples. He said he came close to passing out once from the heat. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to health problems from heat.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- For 20 years, Victor Gonzales has traveled the West picking crops. In the Northwest that means pears, cherries and apples.

Right now, he’s working at a Hood River pear orchard. In the summer, temperatures here can reach 100 degrees. Gonzalez remembers one day when he’d been working really hard, sweating more than normal.

Gonzales felt like he was going to pass out. He was shaky and very sleepy, he says through a translator. Instead of sleeping, he went to the farmworker housing unit and drank a lot of water and rested until he recovered.

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NPR Story
12:00 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

EarthFix Conversation: Lummi Tribal Carver Takes Giant Totem Pole On "Healing" Journey

Lummi tribal leader and master carver Jewell Praying Wolf James stands in front of the 22-foot totem pole he carved in opposition to coal exports in the Northwest.

Jewell Praying Wolf James is a tribal leader and master carver of the Lummi Nation. Ten years ago he carved totem poles and presented them as gifts and symbols of solidarity and healing for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. He drove the totem poles across the country to Washington, D.C. and New York.

Now he’s on another journey with a slightly different mission. The Lummi tribal reservation abuts the proposed site of the largest coal export terminal on the West coast. He’s carved a 22-foot totem pole that represents tribal opposition to coal and oil exports in the Northwest.

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NPR Story
8:11 am
Thu September 26, 2013

U.S. House Backs Extension Of Timber County Subsidies

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. House has passed a bill that includes a one-year extension of federal subsidies for timber counties.

Oregon counties would get about $100 million under the extension of the now expired Secure Rural Schools program. The money was attached to a must-pass bill that would avert an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve.

The House decision on Wednesday sends the measure back to the Senate, which has already backed the bill but must conform with technical changes made in the House.

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NPR Story
7:57 am
Thu September 26, 2013

BNSF Defends Safety Of Oil Trains To West Coast Regulators

BNSF Railway told environmental regulators that mile-long crude oil trains from North Dakota could cross the Northwest around five times a day in coming years and that rail is the safest way to go.

The biggest railroad in the Northwest forcefully defended the safety of oil trains Wednesday.

It happened at a meeting in Seattle of environmental regulators from the West Coast. The context is the rapid rise in crude oil trains coming to the Northwest from North Dakota and this summer's deadly explosion in Quebec.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe hazmat expert Patrick Brady calls that train accident "an anomaly."

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NPR Story
1:47 pm
Wed September 25, 2013

Study: Dams Help The NW Cope With Climate Change

The Bonneville Dam was the first to go up on the Columbia River. A new study says dams help the Northwest cope with the effects of climate change. They allow water managers to hold water back for when it would otherwise be too scarce.

A new study suggests Columbia River Basin dams are helping the Northwest cope with climate change.

Scientists say one result of rising average temperatures is that water from snowmelt is flowing earlier into rivers. That could mean lower flows during summer and fall when the water is needed for fish and crop irrigation.

But the new study says Columbia River Basin dams are helping offset these shifts.

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NPR Story
8:07 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Feds Propose Plan For Hanford’s Tank Waste Challenges

There’s a new plan for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz released the new “framework” Tuesday after a year of study.

There’s a new plan for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The federal government is looking for ways to process certain types of radioactive waste more quickly, while managers there figure out how to solve major technical challenges at its massive Waste Treatment Plant.

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz released the new “framework” Tuesday after a year of study.

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NPR Story
8:09 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Tests On Idaho River Reveal Challenge Of Cleaning Up Waterways

This month, the EPA is running tests on layers of muck from the bottom of the Coeur d'Alene River. It’s downstream from a federal superfund site.

A river basin cleanup in north Idaho is showing just how difficult it is to remove long-term pollution from Northwest waterways.

This month, the EPA is running tests on layers of muck from the bottom of the Coeur d'Alene River. It’s downstream from a federal superfund site.

As part of the test, a technician lowers a seven-foot tube into the riverbed, like a straw into a piece of bread.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue September 24, 2013

Green Jobs Are Plentiful In Washington -- If You Define Them Loosely

Mike Mitzel took part in green jobs training in Washington, which was funded by the 2009 Recovery Act. He now works as a maintenance mechanic for the University of Washington’s Consolidated Laundry Facility.

SEATTLE, Wash. -- Hearing the term “green jobs” brings to mind images of people installing solar panels or constructing wind turbines.

Not maintaining laundry machinery, which is what Mike Mitzel does for a living.

Mitzel is an alum of the green jobs training initiative. He now works as a maintenance mechanic for the University of Washington’s Consolidated Laundry Facility.

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NPR Story
10:24 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Warning: Some Columbia River Fish Not Safe To Eat

The Columbia River.

New advisories from health officials in Washington and Oregon warn that some fish in the Columbia River aren’t safe to eat.

The warnings do not apply to ocean-going fish like salmon and steelhead.

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