EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Northwest forests are extremely dry, but so far the wildfires haven't been as bad as in 2014. Fire officials count 79 large fires at this point a year ago. This season, there have been 65 fires of at least 100 acres.

"Even more telling, last year at this date, we'd burned 758,000 acres in Oregon and Washington," said Tom Knappenberger, spokesperson for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. "And this year, we're at 237,000, even though the conditions are a lot more volatile out there."

Crews Aim To Make Gains On Gorge Fire

Aug 6, 2015

With winds dying down, crews are hoping to make significant gains Thursday on a 24,000-acre wildfire burning on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Active fires are burning in grass and sagebrush in several steep canyons, said Ron Fryer, a fire information officer with the Southeast Washington Incident Management Team.

About 275 firefighters braved strong winds as the Highway 8 fire near Roosevelt, Washington grew Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, officials estimated it was 50 percent contained. Four helicopters and three airplanes are aiding ground crews.

Federal energy regulators released a draft environmental review Wednesday for a liquefied natural gas terminal and pipeline proposed on the Columbia River at Warrenton. The Oregon LNG facility would have the capacity to liquefy nearly 10 million tons of natural gas per year for export.

Northwest Wolf Populations Climb

Aug 5, 2015

Wildlife experts from Oregon, Washington and California say wolf activity has been increasing in all three states.

Oregon first documented a successful wolf- breeding pair in 2008. Now the state has eight pairs and has begun talks to delist gray wolves as a part of its management plan.

Photos show there are at least two new wolf pups in the Rogue Pack. That's the pack of famous wandering wolf OR-7. It’s also the first pack in to live the western part of the state.

Evans Creek is barely a trickle. A dry summer in Southern Oregon means the important salmon and steelhead creek, a tributary of the Rogue River, disappears below the gravel bed in places. Seemingly stagnant isolated pools are all that remain in some areas.

Normally, this wouldn’t be considered a good thing. But right now, Brian Barr, dam removal project manager for the GEOS Institute, will take it.

Update 6:15 p.m.: Officials fighting a fire near the town of Roosevelt, Washington, ordered residents of about 25 homes to evacuate immediately Wednesday evening. The mandatory evacuation order comes after the Columbia River Gorge fire grew to more than 17,000 acres Wednesday.

No injuries have been reported. The Klickitat County Sheriff's Office upped the evacuation order from Level 1 to Level 3 after the wind-driven fire in sage and grass lands kicked up Wednesday afternoon.

Some good news for anglers in Central Oregon: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted fishing restrictions on the Lower Deschutes River.

Water temperatures, which were fatally hot for fish earlier this summer, have now dropped to near-normal.

The Climate Action Plan And Oregon

Aug 4, 2015

Each state will have a slightly different goal in the new carbon emissions reduction goals announced yesterday by President Obama. The Clean Power Plan mandates that nationwide, all power plants reduce emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In Oregon, the goal is to reduce emissions 20 percent by 2030.

This year was supposed to be one of the biggest returns in 40 years for the endangered Idaho sockeye salmon. But it’s not turning out that way. Only a fraction of these fish have survived their journey up the Columbia and Snake rivers. The biggest problem: warm waters. Now dam and fish managers and tribes are in a race against time to save the few remaining fish.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales will attend a clean power conference at the White House Monday with 10 other mayors from around the country.

The group will discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut emissions at power plants around the U.S.

“We need the President and EPA to set national limits on greenhouse gas emissions," said Hales in a statement earlier this week about the Clean Power Plan. "Then our local efforts to use electricity more efficiently, and get more of it from renewables, can build on those limits and not be undermined by their absence."

High temperatures and low humidity in southern Oregon caused the Stouts Fire to grow overnight. The wildfire is now burning more than 15,000 acres east of Canyonville.

Evacuations have been ordered for 188 homes. Additional evacuations could be forthcoming.

When Oregon Field Guide profiled nature author Tim Palmer in 2014, they called him the closest thing Oregon had to a river evangelist.

Palmer's 40 years of photography and study of rivers has resulted in 22 books and, among other accolades, a lifetime achievement award from the nonprofit American Rivers. He was the first recipient of the award.

The Willamette River twists south to north, spanning half the state and reaches two-thirds of its population. It's the country's 13th largest waterway by water volume and is home to a diverse ecosystem.

Through its history, the Willamette has faced a long list of environmental challenges. One of the greatest is thanks to the state's largest city. The Portland Harbor, a 10-mile industrial stretch from the Fremont Bridge to Sauvie Island, was declared a Superfund site in 2000.

Two years after the Civil War an internationally renowned landscape photographer turned his lens to Oregon. In 1867, Carleton Watkins traveled along the Columbia River Gorge by steamship to capture the first comprehensive images of this breathtaking 100-mile stretch.

These photos capture the Columbia River Gorge in a way that's both familiar today and lost with time. What's truly remarkable are the sheer size of these prints — 18 x 22-inch. Watkins was the first American landscape photographer to construct a camera that could create such large negatives.

How Oregon Rivers Carried Millions Of Trees Into Production

Jul 31, 2015

Around the same time famed photographer Carelton Watkins first captured the Columbia River Gorge with his traveling darkroom, on the south fork of the Coos River in southwest Oregon a large dam helped fuel Oregon's burgeoning timber industry.

The Tioga Dam was the largest splash dam in the Northwest. It was the first of what would grow to become 230 splash dams throughout western Oregon.

We’re kicking off our inaugural Greetings From The Northwest with a look at Oregon’s rivers.

“We have, I think, the most incredible suite of rivers in America,” said author Tim Palmer.

Top 4 Moments From Think Out Loud This Week

Jul 31, 2015

This week on OPB's daily talk show, Think Out Loud, a number of our guests told stories filled with passion, drive and even aggression. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Locals activists in kayaks on the Willamette River attempted to block the Royal Dutch Shell's icebreaker, Fennica, from leaving Portland. Then they looked up at the St. John's Bridge.

—Daphne Wysham on the show Wednesday

A protest Thursday in Portland drew hundreds of activists and spectators as an icebreaker working for Royal Dutch Shell, the Fennica, moved along the Willamette River and into the Columbia. protesters with Greenpeace USA attempted to stop the ship by blockade, as 13 people dangled from the St. Johns Bridge. Portland-based kayakers also attempted to block the icebreaker by swarming the river at times.

Today, we check in with OPB News and EarthFix reporters about a few stories they’ve been following, including:


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Stouts Creek Wildfire Expands Rapidly In Southern Oregon

Jul 31, 2015

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown invoked the state's Emergency Conflagration Act Thursday evening as the Stouts Creek Wildfire encroached on homes in Southwest Oregon.

The wildfire began Thursday afternoon and reached nearly 6,000 acres by the end of the day. The fire threatened about 50 homes 11 miles east of Canyonville in Douglas County. An additional 300 homes are at risk as hot and dry conditions are expected to fuel the blaze Friday.