Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
4:22 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Report Finds Weakness In Seattle's Ability To Respond To Oil Train Mishap

Increased oil train traffic prompted a City of Seattle report on the safety risks and ability of public safety agencies to respond to a derailment or explosion.
Flickr/Russ Allison Loar

A new report by public safety agencies highlights several weaknesses in Seattle's ability to respond to an oil train accident.

The report to the Seattle City Council was complied by the Seattle Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management.

At the top of the report's list of concerns: the 100 year old tunnel that runs through the middle of downtown Seattle. The report said that the lack of safety systems in the Great Northern tunnel will present significant challenges to first responders.

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Earthfix
6:24 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Oregon Lawmakers Consider Stronger Oversight Of Aerial Herbicide Spraying

The yellow helicopter belonging to Steve Owen of Pacific Air Research was at the center of an investigation into alleged overspray during an aerial herbicide application onto forestland near Oregon's southern coast.
Oregon Department of Agriculture

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon lawmakers are considering new rules to better protect the public from aerial herbicide spraying.

The Senate Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources met Monday in response to a case on state's southern coast, where dozens of people in the community of Cedar Valley claimed nearby forest spraying this past fall made them sick. Several residents traveled to attend the meeting and sat in the front row as lawmakers deliberated.

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NPR Story
3:21 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Flash Floods Create Unusual Problem For Farmers, Fish

A fish screen on Frazier Creek is clogged with mud and debris after flash floods swept through Washington's Methow Valley. The floods were made worse because of the Carlton Complex wildfire earlier this summer.
Courtesy of Danny Didricksen

Flash floods this August swept mud, debris, and ash through north central Washington. All that gunk created an unusual problem for farmers and migratory fish.

Farmers often install screens on the end of irrigation pipes to prevent clogs. Those screens also keep fish from being sucked out of the water and into farmers’ fields. But fish screens do little good when they get inundated with debris and mud.

Danny Didricksen, the fish screening unit leader for Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said crews have been working non-stop to help unclog fish screens.

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NPR Story
4:39 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Conservation Groups Say More Lynx Habitat Needs Protection

One of North America’s imperiled wildcats, the lynx, is now federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. But conservation groups say not enough of the cat’s Northwest habitat is protected under the law.
Flickr Creative Commons: Keith Williams

After years of litigation, one of North America’s imperiled wildcats, the Canada lynx, is now federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. But conservation groups say not enough of the cat’s habitat is protected under the law, especially in the Northwest.

Lynx resemble bobcats with very furry paws and short tails. They thrive in dense boreal forests, where they can easily hunt snowshoe hare.

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NPR Story
4:33 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

Mine Pays For Environmental Projects As Part Of Fine

In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington and took residents by surprise. High tech weather sensors will now warn residents of potential flooding.
Courtesy of the Department of Ecology

High tech weather sensors are now installed throughout the area scorched by the Carlton Complex wildfire. The hope is that they will warn residents of potential flash floods. The funding for the technology is coming from an unusual source.

In August, flash flooding swept through north central Washington. The area had earlier been burned by the Carlton Complex fire. The flooding took residents by surprise.

Now, new rain gauges that communicate via satellite will warn of future flash flooding in the area.

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NPR Story
8:04 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

West Coast Leads Surge in Electric Cars

A pair of Nissan Leaf electric cars charging up at a public charging station.

In all three West Coast states, transportation accounts for the largest share of climate-changing greenhouse gases. And all three states are trying to boost the number of zero-emission vehicles on their roads.

This week, California passed a milestone toward that goal; 100,000 electric cars sold in the state since the end of 2010.

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NPR Story
12:30 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

Scientists Say Large Wildfires Are Likely Here To Stay

Scientists at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference in Seattle said modeling suggests large wildfires are increasingly likely to occur going forward.
Flickr/Washington DNR

SEATTLE – Megafires could be the new normal if climate models are on target.

John Abatzoglou, an associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Idaho, presented findings from a review of 20 different climate models at the Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference, held at the University of Washington this week.

The models looked at weekly temperature and wildfire data over time.

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Earthfix
6:14 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Indoor Marijuana Growers Create Big Demand For Northwest Energy

An indoor medical marijuana growing facility in Oakland, California.
Flickr/Rusty Blazenhoff https://www.flickr.com/photos/blazenhoff/6716761531/in/photolist-bexaci-j6CvG2-3J2ju-egU4pY-egNhFV-egNic6-egNiiT-egU4Jf-fEgJgt-fEgJfe-nVP5VW-afDraH-3DYxK-3J2jo-3J2j6-3J2jx-3J2iZ-3J2jc-3J2iQ-3J2iD-bevX

Power planners are studying how much indoor marijuana growing could increase the region’s electricity demands in the near future.

The study is being conducted by the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Researchers say they need to know how much energy is being used by Washington’s licensed indoor cannabis producers -- and how much that usage will increase as pot production expands.

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NPR Story
4:47 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Seattle Area Leaders Announce Plans To Merge Duwamish River Clean Up Efforts

a 2012 file photo of scrap metal that environmentalists say was contributing to pollution in the Duwamish River.
Katie Campbell

SEATTLE -- King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced plans Monday to combine efforts to clean up of the Duwamish and Green River watershed.

The strategy calls for coordinating the work of governments, non-profits and businesses already involved in the clean-up.

Constantine said bringing all the players together will improve the chances that the cleanup will work, permanently.

"We can begin to get more value for each dollar, to get more clean up, to get better environmental outcomes, and economic outcomes," he said.

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NPR Story
4:22 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Coal Export Backers Appeal Permit Denial For Columbia River Project

Coal mining operations near Gillette, Wyoming. The state's governor is one of three coal supporters appealing Oregon's decision to deny a permit for a coal-export project on the Columbia River.
Katie Campbell

The developer of the proposed Morrow Pacific coal export project, as well as two project supporters, have appealed the state of Oregon's decision to deny a permit for a dock on the Columbia River.

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NPR Story
4:02 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Wolf Shot By State Was Alpha Female

The helicopter shooting of a wolf in northeastern Washington didn’t go as planned. A sharp shooter accidentally took out the livestock-killing pack’s alpha female.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The helicopter shooting of a wolf in northeastern Washington didn’t go as planned. A sharp shooter took out the livestock-killing pack’s alpha female, jeopardizing the entire pack's chances of survival.

The so-called Huckleberry wolf pack repeatedly attacked a herd of sheep in August, killing at least 24 sheep. Non-lethal attempts to keep the wolves away from the sheep in Stevens County were unsuccessful. That prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to authorize the killing of four wolves.

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NPR Story
12:52 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

The Last Dam on Whychus Creek Slated for Removal

The last remaining concrete dam on Whychus Creek.
Mathias Perle

The removal of the last remaining concrete dam on Whychus Creek near Sisters, Oregon is slated to get underway following a ceremony on Monday.

The removal is a part of a larger campaign to restore the creek to a condition it hasn’t seen since the first dams were built there at the end of the 19th century.

The dam’s removal will reopen 13 miles of upstream spawning and rearing habitat for chinook salmon, steelhead, and redband trout.

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NPR Story
11:54 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Conservation Groups Concerned Oil Spill Would Harm Wildlife

An oil train moves through Skagit County in Western Washington, headed to refineries in the Northwestern part of the state.
Katie Campbell

As more oil trains travel along the Columbia River and Puget Sound, conservation groups worry that cleanup plans could harm sensitive wildlife, like endangered salmon and shorebirds.

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NPR Story
10:19 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Northwest Climate Study Shows Rising Temperatures Linked to Human Activity

This image of the coal-fired plant in Colstrip, Mont., was made in the 1980s by Montana native David T. Hanson. It was part of an exhibit at Modern Museum of Art in New York.
David T. Hanson http://www.davidthanson.net/

A recent study has found that the Northwest’s average annual temperature increased significantly over the last century, and that the shift is most likely caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

The study was published by researchers at the University of Idaho and Oregon State University. It found that the region's average annual temperature has risen by a total of 1.3­ degrees Fahrenheit over the last hundred years.

The study drew together data from 141 weather stations across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming from the period between 1901 and 2012.

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The Wilderness Act at 50
1:00 am
Thu September 4, 2014

Why It's Harder To Create Wilderness Now, 50 Years After Landmark Law

Locals in Oregon's Malheur County worry that a wilderness designation on the Owyhee canyonlands will close roads and restrict access to the land they love to explore.
Stephen Baboi

This is the final part of a three-part series on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Read Part I here and Part II here.

MALHEUR COUNTY, Oregon – A 2.1-million-acre wilderness proposal here includes breathtaking red rock canyons, prime habitat for sage grouse and the largest herd of California bighorn sheep in the country.

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The Wilderness Act at 50
1:00 am
Wed September 3, 2014

Climate Change Creates Challenges For A Wilderness Pine Tree

A dying whitebark pine in Crater Lake National Park. The National Park Service is planning to plant disease-resistant varieties in its wilderness zones but the Forest Service says the Wilderness Act prevents it from doing so in its wilderness areas,
Amelia Templeton

This is the second part of a three-part series on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Read Part I here.

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. -- If you want to see a whitebark pine up close, be prepared for a hike. These trees thrive at high elevation, where the terrain is often too high up and the climate too extreme for most plant species.

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NPR Story
12:49 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Port of Portland, Canada's Pembina Make Plans For Propane Exports To Asia

Pembina Pipeline Corporation plans to invest $500 million in an agreement with the Port of Portland for a propane export facility on the Columbia River.
Pembina Pipeline Corporation

PORTLAND -- The Port of Portland and Pembina Pipeline Corporation of Canada announced an agreement on Tuesday for a propane export terminal involving a $500 million investment from the company.

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NPR Story
7:00 am
Tue September 2, 2014

The Golden Anniversary For Wilderness In America

Wildflowers at the foot of the Goat Rocks, the remains of an ancient and now extinct volcano in the Goat Rocks Wilderness of Washington's Cascades.
David Steves

This is the first part of a three-part series on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

GOAT ROCKS WILDERNESS, Wash. -- After two days of walking, Andy Wunder and Sivan Goobich are miles away from the nearest road or cell phone signal. They’ve been getting their drinking water from streams and lugging their food, clothes and gear in 40-pound loads on their backs.

That’s just what Wunder wants from his wilderness experience.

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Earthfix
6:21 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Oregon Spotted Frog Listed Under Endangered Species Act

The Oregon spotted frog will now receive protection under the Endangered Species Act. The small frog was once abundant in the Northwest.
Vince Patton/OPB

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 12:21 pm

The Oregon spotted frog, once abundant in the Northwest, now lives in a few scattered wetlands across the region. Over the years, it's lost up to 90 percent of its habitat. Now, the frog will receive protection under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

"We've just lost so much of our wetland habitat, especially in the last 50 years, to conversion to agriculture, to channelization of our rivers to dams," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Earthfix
1:00 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Rafting The Dam-Free Elwha

Now that the dams are gone, rafters are enjoying the changing Elwha River.
Ashley Ahearn

OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, Wash. -- The waters of the Elwha River are clear right now, for a change.

For nearly three years, this glacier-fed river on Washington's Olympic Peninsula has been sluicing millions of tons of sediment that were held back for a century by a pair of dams.

The dams are nearly gone. The Elwha Dam has been completely removed and the last 30 feet of the upper dam, known as the Glines Canyon Dam, is set to be demolished Tuesday.

A dry summer stretch has temporarily slowed the Elwha's flow, keeping the sediments from muddying up the water.

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