EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Agreement Reached To Help Oregon's Spotted Frog

Oct 28, 2016

The Upper Deschutes River and the Oregon spotted frogs that live there will see higher water flows under an interim deal reached Friday between environmental groups, irrigation districts and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The agreement comes after conservation groups filed suit.

“This is the first of many steps to restore a natural flow regime in the Deschutes,” said Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity in a release.

The Center and WaterWatch of Oregon were parties to the agreement.

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Reaction is coming in fast to the not guilty verdicts for the seven Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupiers.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice released exactly the same press release saying while they had hoped for a different outcome, they respect the verdicts and thanked the jury.

But outdoor groups are angry.

Audubon Society President David Yarnold said he’s outraged and that wild lands belong to everyone, not the people who hold them at gunpoint. He said the verdicts undermines the rule of law.

New Plan Aims To Recover Threatened Snake River Salmon

Oct 27, 2016

Northwest dam operations are getting a closer look from federal officials charged with ensuring the survival of imperiled fish that migrate hundreds of miles up the Columbia and Snake rivers to their native Idaho streams

LISTEN: 58 Years Of Climate Change In One Minute

Oct 27, 2016

Climate change is a gradual process, driven by invisible pollution. So it can be hard to wrap your brain around.

But atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington have made it possible to listen to the planet changing.

Ten years ago, a group of farmers, ranchers, anglers, environmental activists, tribal members, power companies and politicians in Southern Oregon and Northern California started meeting. They were trying to come up with a grand bargain for the Klamath Basin — a deal to prevent the kinds of water wars that rocked the region in 2001 and 2002.

United States commercial fisheries are doing fine overall, but fishermen on the West Coast are hurting. A 2015 annual report out Wednesday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a stark fall-off in the big seafood money-makers in the Pacific Northwest.

Nationally, 2015 was an above average year in terms of catch rate, commercial value and national seafood consumption.

Chris Maletis is driving his SUV along Highway 551 between Aurora and Wilsonville at the southern end of Clackamas County. It takes a few minutes to drive around the 385 acres Maletis owns here with his brother Tom.

“We’re coming right up on the airport, which employs hundreds of people,” said Maletis, who contends this area is urban in nature.

The property includes the Langdon Farms Golf Club. But Maletis sees his land as helping address the region's — and especially Clackamas County's — shortfall of industrial property.

Oregon Election 2016: Ballot Quick Look

Oct 25, 2016

As Election Day nears, there's still time to submit your ballot in Oregon. The deadline for all ballots is 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, and remember, it's too late to mail them in. You can drop them off at your local elections office or at a secure ballot drop box. Oregon.gov has a handy search tool to help you locate your drop box to make sure your ballot is received by the right elections office in time to be counted.

Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table

Oct 21, 2016

Starting Monday people will get a chance to weigh-in on a controversial question: Should four dams come down on the lower Snake River? They’re facing renewed scrutiny because of a court-ordered analysis on how the dams are harming salmon.

Last May, a federal judge — for the fifth time — rejected the government’s plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River system. He said agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the dams — including breaching those on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington.

Last winter was the first time the Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon closed temporarily because of toxic algae in the ocean. And even just a week ago, another toxic bloom was happening off the coast.

Scientists are just beginning to understand what triggers these conditions. A study this month from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a rare peak below the waves.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has stepped up its opposition to a proposed coal terminal in Longview, Washington, saying state and federal officials have underestimated the environmental risks of the project and ignored the tribe’s requests for consultation.

Cowlitz Chairman Bill Iyall, on a call with reporters Friday, said plans to export 44 million metric tons of coal through a terminal in Longview threaten the tribe’s culture and homeland.

“Since time immemorial we’ve relied on the once bountiful resources for survival,” Iyall said.

VIDEO: Being A Columbia River Bar Pilot

Oct 20, 2016

Complaining about the weather? Imagine being a Columbia River bar pilot when the weather goes south! This is two minutes we promise you won't be able to look away from and something you won't ever want to try.

Video courtesy of Captain Robert Johnson

See more of these pilots at work in the next episode of “Oregon Field Guide,” Thursday, Oct. 20 at 8:30 p.m. on OPB TV.

Opponents of a methanol plant proposed in Kalama, Washington, are challenging the environmental review of the project.

The Chinese-backed facility would convert natural gas to methanol, which would then be shipped overseas to be made into plastic. If it's built as proposed on the lower Columbia River, it will be the world's largest gas-to-methanol plant.

Hanford Workers' Skin Exposed To Radioactive Waste

Oct 19, 2016

At least 10 Hanford workers were exposed to radioactive waste Tuesday at the nuclear cleanup site’s tank farm in southeast Washington.

Workers were removing a connection line that’s used to transfer radioactive waste between tanks when the contamination was detected. A test found radioactive waste on the workers’ skin and clothing. The contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, says the contamination was low.

Tom Carpenter, who heads the worker advocacy group, Hanford Challenge, disputed that characterization.

On Thursday at 10:20 a.m., millions of people around the world will practice dropping, covering and holding on as part of the Great ShakeOut, a worldwide movement aimed at making people pay attention to earthquake preparedness.

More than 470,000 people are registered to participate in this year's Beaver State version, the Great Oregon ShakeOut. But what exactly does participating in the ShakeOut entail, and why is it such a big deal in Oregon? To understand that we have to take a look at some science first.

Imagine a stretch of water so dangerous even huge ships can’t cross it safely. A place sailors call the “graveyard,” where hundreds of boats have sunk and thousands of people have drowned.

Now imagine this place is crucial to the global economy, and like it or not, shipping vessels must enter it every day to keep things moving and avoid economic collapse.

Such a place exists in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River Bar, located at the intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world.

Gov. Kate Brown is promising “sweeping change” from the new state air pollution rule-making process now underway.

Advocates for a healthier Puget Sound have long contended that it needs to be treated as a nationally significant water body, just like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Such recognition, they say, will attract more money and attention for improving the Sound’s environmental health.

Larry Schwitters is putting a lot of hope into a five-gallon bucket of bird poop.

It’s one of the ways he plans to lure thousands of Vaux's swifts into his homemade version of the chimneys these birds use as a nightly roost.

"The idea is we throw it in the chimney and it has an odor supposedly the swifts can smell," he said. "If they fly over it and take a sniff, they’ll think, ‘Hey, swifts have used this before. This is a good one. You can smell it.’”

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