EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Fire officials said Monday the Horsethief Butte Fire in south central Klickitat County has burned more than 8,000 acres and is 50 percent contained.

An undetermined number of outbuildings have burned, but so far no homes have been lost.

On Sunday, officials evacuated more than 300 residents and the town of Wishram, Washington, east of The Dalles.

County officials said evacuation orders have been reduced to level one, meaning residents should be ready to go.

The Red Cross has opened a shelter in in Goldendale.

Earlier this summer, EarthFix reporter Jes Burns took us on a walk in the Southern Oregon woods with Oregon Wild. The conservation group had been chosen by Google to use a backpack-mounted Trekker camera. The plan was to document trails on Bureau of Land Management lands that could be affected by upcoming changes to how the forests are managed.

Washington Residents Evacuated After Wildfire Grows

Sep 14, 2015

Fire officials in Kilckitat County, Washington evacuated 300 residents Sunday after a fast moving wildfire grew to more than 400 acres.

The evacuations include the town of Wishram, Washington, east of The Dalles, according a release from the county.

The Hoursethief Butte Fire was first reported around noon Sunday. State resources were authorized around 3 p-m.

The Red Cross has set up a shelter in Goldendale.

Scientists know a little more about how big earthquakes happen, from research published Thursday in the journal Science.

The study from the U.S. Geological Survey looked at a number of subduction zones, but not the Cascadia Subduction Zone, off the Northwest coast. The research doesn't change predictions that there's a one-in-three chance of a big quake in the Northwest in the next 50 years.

Cool Weather Helps Firefighters Gain On Wildfires

Sep 8, 2015

Cool, wet weather during the last few days has helped wildland firefighters in Oregon and Washington make gains on several large fires.

More than 10,000 firefighters are working on 19 large fires in Oregon and Washington.

“The weather was a huge asset to the firefighters," said Mike Stearly, a spokesman with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland. "We received reports from teams out in the field that received anywhere from a quarter inch to over an inch of rain.”

Jordan Cove LNG Opponents 'Hike The Pipe'

Sep 5, 2015

Opponents of a natural gas export project in Southern Oregon are on a month-long protest hike along the route of a proposed pipeline. This weekend, the hikers neared the halfway point in Jackson County.

The 230-mile Pacific Connector Pipeline would supply the Jordan Cover liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal, proposed for Coos Bay on the Oregon coast.

On Saturday, six “Hike the Pipe” trekkers temporarily gave up their boots for life vests. They floated the stretch of the Rogue River where the pipeline would cross.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced a key step Friday in completing a 1,200 mile trail from Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean.

Hikers already use what's called the "Pacific Northwest Trail," but it has gaps, and isn't fully built out.

Vilsack has named 23 advisers to help finalize the trail corridor, including Jon Knechtel with the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.

Waterside Energy announced Wednesday plans to expand its proposed energy project in the Columbia River town of Longview, Washington.

In addition to a crude oil refinery, the company now wants to build a $450 million transload facility for liquid propane and butane gas, also known as LPG for liquified petroleum gas.

One unit train – about 115 tank cars long – would arrive from Canada at the facility every day, Waterside Energy CEO Lou Soumas said.

“Then loading it on gas carrier to go to the Asian markets,” he said. “The customer base is export.”

Fishing Restrictions Temporarily Lifted In NE Oregon

Sep 3, 2015

Fishing restrictions on 10 bodies of water in Northeast Oregon have been temporarily lifted effective immediately, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The ODFW announced the relaxed rules, which will impact lakes and ponds in Baker, Union, Umatilla and Wallowa counties, Wednesday.

After Denali, Should Oregon Change Mount Hood's Name?

Sep 2, 2015

Days after President Barack Obama signed an executive order renaming Alaska’s Mount McKinley to its traditional Alaska Native name, “Denali,” OPB’s Think Out Loud discussed the idea of changing Mount Hood’s name to the Native American name Wy’east.

Human-Caused Fires Strain Resources In The Northwest

Sep 2, 2015

Ninety-seven large wildfires have burned on 1.5 million acres across Oregon and Washington this season. Of those fires, 43 were started by lightning. At least 12 were human-caused, but dozens more remain under investigation.

A wildfire can burn more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s more than twice as hot as the surface of Venus. Its flames can reach more than 50 meters high.

Wildfires can get so big that they create their own weather systems, with hurricane force winds. On the ground, the average wildfire moves twice as fast as the average person can run.

How do wildland firefighters tame such an inferno?

Afternoon Fishing Restrictions Lifted In Oregon

Sep 1, 2015

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife rolled back afternoon fishing restrictions Tuesday for most rivers around the state.

Since mid-July, fishing for salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and trout has been prohibited after 2 p.m.

Low water levels and warmer-than-average temperatures this summer were hard on fish species in the region.

This is the second story in our two-part series on how drought and climate change are changing the way the Northwest looks to reservoirs to meet its water needs. Read part one here.

This summer’s hot, dry weather has left Northwest apple growers hurting for water to irrigate their orchards. It’s a hint at what’s predicted as the climate continues to warm.

Marine life is struggling to survive in the oxygen-starved waters of Hood Canal.

It’s common during the summer for fish to struggle for oxygen in this long, deep inlet of Puget Sound. But the lack of oxygen is at record lows, researchers say, forcing fish up out of the depths, gasping for air.

Hundreds of rockfish hovered in shallow water, listlessly crowded together to access the limited oxygen closest to the surface. Wolf eels, normally reclusive creatures, came out of their dens, “panting” so as to move water over their gills and avoid suffocating.

The Washington State Department of Ecology has just released its draft environmental review of two proposed oil terminals on the Washington coast. A third proposed terminal has not yet begun the environmental review process.

The terminals could be built in Grays Harbor, near Aberdeen, doubling current vessel and train traffic levels there.

The state's review found that traffic delays at railroad crossings in the nearby communities of Hoquiam and Aberdeen would increase significantly.

Obama's Alaska Trip Prompts Arctic Drilling Protest

Aug 31, 2015

People protesting oil drilling in the Arctic marched through downtown Portland Monday, and held a “die-in.” They're trying to send President Obama a message as he travels to Alaska this week.

Several dozen protesters carried placards, chanted and made their way to the federal building downtown, where some lay down for a “die-in.”

They said drilling in the Arctic will wreak havoc on the fragile ecosystem, and could bring the world closer to the 2 degree Celsius temperature increase scientists are warning about.

Rebuilding A Forest After The Burn

Aug 31, 2015

The Canyon Creek Complex has left big swaths of Malheur National Forest with charcoal stumps and ashen hillsides. When the first big rain of the year comes through, much of that ash will end up clogging streams and culverts if measures are not taken now to shore up vulnerable hillsides.

An energy company wants to build a transfer terminal in Longview, Washington that could handle liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil, according to documents reviewed Friday by OPB.

The project is an expansion on an already proposed oil refinery for Longview.

The documents were obtained by Columbia River Keeper through a public records request. They describe an “off-load and transfer terminal” at the Port of Longview that could handle up to two unit trains per day.

USFS Spends $10M Per Day On Wildfires In Oregon

Aug 28, 2015

Around the region, thick smoke has become commonplace as homes and other structures have been destroyed.

Fire managers said Friday they expect this fire season to last until through September and well into October.

Lawmakers are hoping a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate could help with mounting costs. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D) and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo (R) are working with other western senators to change the way wildfire suppression gets funded.

The bill would pay for wildfires out of a disaster account, similar to clean up from hurricanes and tornadoes.