Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

California sea lions are literally piling into Astoria's East Mooring Basin. They've taken over every square foot of the boat docks, and they're even lying on top of each other for lack of space.

The latest sea lion count in the marina tallied a record 2,340 – a "mind-boggling number," according to Bryan Wright of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Meanwhile California is seeing starving sea lion pups washing up on shore.

Japan's Earthquake: Lessons For Oregon

Mar 26, 2015

Over the last 25 years, Oregon Field Guide has documented the evolution in understanding the earthquake threat Oregon faces. Scientists now think there’s a 1 in 3 chance of a magnitude 8 or 9 earthquake striking off our coast within the next 50 years. But what can we do about it? Can we better prepare?

Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco has been given the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, a major international environmental science award.

The award, announced Tuesday, honored Lubchenco for her long career building and promoting lines of connections between ocean health and community health.

Lubchenco's work has carried her from the laboratory and classroom to the highest levels of public policy administration.

If you weren't able to take advantage of the new powder this week, the clock is ticking.

The National Weather Service in Portland tweeted that Thursday is expected to be the warmest day so far of the season. Temperatures are forecast to range from about 60 on the coast to nearly 80 in parts of central Oregon.

As you’ve probably heard, a well-respected group of World Health Organization scientists said glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup herbicide and its generic cousins, is probably capable of causing cancer in humans.

Here are five things you should know:

1. What the report said: Roundup could cause cancer in humans.

Congressional Democrats from up and down the West Coast are asking the House Appropriations Committee to allocate more money for a new earthquake early warning system.

The warning system uses sensors to detect the initial, less destructive waves of an earthquake.

So it doesn't give much advance notice. Somewhere between a few seconds and a minute.

A grain handling facility in Eastern Washington has been leaking chemicals into the only source of drinking water for a local school district. The Environmental Protection Agency now wants to add it to the Superfund list of hazardous waste cleanup projects.

'Small' Oil Spills Can Add Up To Big Costs

Mar 23, 2015

State Fish and Wildlife Biologist Brian McDonald is careful not to raise his voice as he approaches a row of baby cribs in a warehouse in Pasco, Washington. Each one holds mallard ducks.

“They’re typically in pretty rough shape--they’re sick, they’re cold, they’re oiled, they’re hungry,” he says.

Why The Nuclear Energy World Is Thinking Small

Mar 21, 2015

In the world of nuclear power, one technology is generating debate: factory-produced reactors that are no bigger than a house.

These "small modular reactors" are designed to produce power on the scale of a single factory or business campus. That’s a big departure from a traditional nuclear plant — the kind that's powerful enough to run an entire metropolis and big enough to be seen from miles away.

Southeastern Oregon is preparing for the fourth drought year in a row. The region has received record-low or near-record-low snowfall this winter.

On Friday, the first day of spring, the federal government announced it was making emergency aid available to 13 Oregon counties because of drought. Gov. Kate Brown has declared a drought emergency for Lake and Malheur Counties. Similar declarations are expected soon for Harney, Crook and Klamath Counties.

Washington regulators say the region's biggest oil-train operator should be penalized after failing to comply with reporting requirements following 14 spills of hazardous materials, including crude oil.

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission said Thursday an investigation had found that between Nov. 1 of last year and Feb. 24, BNSF Railway committed 700 violations of the state's reporting requirement for railway spills of hazardous materials. Four of those spills involved trains carrying crude oil through Washington state.

Lake Abert Dries Up

Mar 19, 2015

Oregon's third largest lake, Lake Abert dried up in 2014 for the first time since the 1930s. 3 million migrating shorebirds depend on it for food. Drought has hit that region of the state but some people wonder whether human use of Abert's only water source made things worse. Under Oregon law, Lake Abert has no legal right to any water at all. In March, 2015, the Oregon Water Resources Department recommended approving the extension of the permit of the Rivers End Ranch dam, which frequently blocks the flow to Lake Abert.

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The Oregon Transportation Commission on Thursday voted 3-1 to deny a $2 million grant of state funds for dock improvements at Port Westward in Clatskanie, Oregon, a project tied to proposed coal exports.

It was the second time the commission voted down the controversial application, which the former chair of the commission claims she was fired for refusing to approve the first time.

Environmental groups had urged the commission to reject the application and lauded the vote.

It’s a double-whammy kind of year for the Pacific.

An unusually warm winter in Alaska failed to chill ocean waters. Then this winter’s El Nino is keeping tropical ocean temperatures high. Combine these and scientists are recording ocean temperatures up to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average off the coasts of Oregon and Washington.

“This is a situation with how the climate is going, or the weather is going, that we just haven’t really seen before and don’t know where it’s headed,” says National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Chris Harvey.

Much of the Northwest has very low snowpack right now. But Mt. Bachelor near Bend is faring better than most western ski resorts.

After a bit of snow over the weekend, Mt. Bachelor now has the third deepest snowpack of any U.S. resort. That's according to On The Snow, a website that tracks resort conditions across the country.

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Mountain Bikers Protest At City Park

Mar 16, 2015

Portland’s mountain bikers are unhappy over the city’s recent decision to ban them from riding at the River View Natural Area in Southwest Portland. The Park is home to some of the city’s only natural trails for mountain biking. Portland City Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish stated in a letter that they’re trying to “protect the city’s investment in the area,” by allowing only “passive, nature-based recreational uses.”

They may be our state animal, but many people think beavers are a nuisance. They can cause flooding to parks, backyards, and farmland, and it was long believed that salmon couldn't pass through beaver dams. But now some scientists have found that beaver dams actually create a good habitat for young salmon.

Scott Pattee stands well over 6 feet, but he’s dwarfed by the tall white tube set up near the Stevens Pass Ski Area to measure snow depth.

Little black numbers marking inches of snow ascend the side of the tube. The top number reads 250 inches, an amount of snow that’s hard to imagine right now.

Most of the mountains around Pattee are green and brown, not white - even though it’s officially still winter until March 19 arrives.

And the snow depth, according to the tower?

Timber interests and environmental groups are gearing up for a multi-year fight over how federal forests are managed in Washington, Oregon and Northern California.

The Northwest Forest Plan is now 20 years old and due for an update, according to the US Forest Service.

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