EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A federal agency has approved the continued killing of California sea lions that are eating salmon and steelhead near the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

NOAA Fisheries announced Wednesday it is allowing Oregon, Washington and Idaho to continue what the agency is calling the "lethal removal" of those sea lions until the middle of 2021.

Several Portland factories are in the public eye this month as Oregon regulators take public comment on new rules for making art glass.

Their process involves some heavy metals. Untill now, those emissions have gone mostly unfiltered.

While the state Department of Environmental Quality is working out a permanent system of rules, there’s still a long list of people with unanswered questions about the art glass business and human health.

One of the names at the top of that list is Jess Beebe. She got some unwelcome news from the lab this spring.

Crater Lake shimmers deep blue in the afternoon sun. It's striking as always in the high Cascades of Southern Oregon. High above the lake surface, on the rim of the old volcano’s caldera, the wind whips an American flag to full display.

A voice comes over a speaker: "Raise your right hand and repeat after me."

Engineers at Oregon State have created a free, open-source computer program that can determine a stream or river’s potential as an energy source. They released the program last Thursday.

OSU’s new software compiles a network of global climate data and calibrates it with local data collected by users to assess a region’s hydropower potential.

Kendra Sharp, a professor of humanitarian engineering at OSU, said giving previously off-the-grid areas power was the main goal of the program.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Wassen Pond Fire in Wasco County.

The fire has burned about 300 acres and is threatening nearby homes and structures.

A level-2 pre-evacuation notice was issued Monday to some residents.

The emergency declaration will allow additional resources to support the effort to contain the fire.

The environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over oil spills from Grand Coulee Dam.

The group already sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over water pollution coming from eight other dams in the Columbia River Basin.

More than a dozen organizations are calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to stop renewing air pollution permits until a new set of rules are in place.

The state is in the process of setting new limits on air pollution to protect human health after testing revealed numerous toxic hot spots around Portland – including unhealthy levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead near the Bullseye Glass facility.

Water loving willows hug the edges of the shore. Lost Lake, at its peak, is around 79 acres. Right now, it is draining away.

About half way around from the lake entrance, a sharp eye might spot a footpath leading out onto the grassy, muddy lake bed. Follow that and soon the sound of rushing water is audible.

Then, there it is. The hole.

Dave Kretzing has a pretty good grasp on the mystery of Lost Lake. He's a retired hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service and he's spent years thinking about what happens here and why.

Oregon says it is in line to receive $85 million from Volkswagen as part of the German automaker's emissions fraud settlement. With more than 13,000 affected residents, the state has the highest per capita ownership of the affected VW cars in the nation.

Neighboring Washington state announced it will receive $129 million from VW as part of the car manufacture’s settlement over deceptive marketing of its diesel cars. More than 22,000 Washingtonians are affected by the settlement.

A federal appeals court panel sided with 21 Native American tribes Monday, ruling the state of Washington must continue to repair culverts that prevent salmon from freely moving along waterways.

Culverts are structures that allow water to move under roadways. But when they’re too small, too high or blocked with debris, they can prevent salmon from passing.

Tribes argued successfully more than a decade ago in the case's first hearing that the state’s culverts hurt salmon populations, violating their fishing rights.

Washington state begins its public review Monday of what would be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, slated to be built at the Port of Vancouver.

The hearings are one of the final steps in determining whether the project gets built.

The state will use five weeks of hearings to determine how to move forward with the Vancouver Energy Project, a joint venture backed by companies Tesoro and Savage.

Portland Bans Demolition Of Old Homes

Jun 25, 2016

Portland is the first city in the country to ban the demolition of its oldest homes.

The city will require that homes built in 1916 or before are deconstructed, so the materials inside can be salvaged.

The city council passed a resolution in favor of the demolition ban this winter. They’re set to review changes to the city code next Wednesday, with a vote likely following in early July.

About 20 percent of the waste in landfills comes from building construction and demolition, according to the mayor's office.

Federal regulators are giving additional time to comment on their plan for cleaning up Portland’s most polluted stretch of the Willamette River.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it has received numerous requests for more time to review its plan to bury toxic sludge on the bottom of the river’s Portland Harbor.

The EPA is extending its deadline for public comment by 30 days to Sept. 6

Seven companies have filed a legal dispute with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the plans to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

The companies, including Chevron, Gunderson, NW Natural, Union Pacific Railroad, Evraz Inc., Arkema and TOC Holdings Co., are all members of the Lower Willamette Group. The group has agreed to accept responsibility for some of the pollution in the highly contaminated 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River and work with the EPA on the cleanup.

It’s Union Pacific’s fault. That’s the basic thrust of a preliminary report from federal railroad regulators on Thursday. It investigates why a nearly 100-car oil train partially derailed and caught fire in the Columbia River Gorge on June 3.

OPB's Kate Davidson spoke to Sarah Feinberg, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration to learn more. The following exchange has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You can hear their full conversation by clicking play on the audio player at the top of the article.

A new report from the Federal Railroad Administration released Thursday said Union Pacific is solely responsible for an oil train derailment earlier this month in the Columbia River Gorge.

The federal rail agency said in its preliminary findings that the derailment was caused by broken lag bolts that the railroad failed to maintain, which led to a widened track that caused the 16-car derailment.

“When it comes down to it, it’s Union Pacific’s failure to maintain its track led to this incident," said Sarah Feinberg, who heads up the Federal Rail Administration.

If you want to know how our relationship with wildlife has changed, consider how two different Seattle aquariums provided their visitors up-close encounters with one of the world’s largest predatory sharks.

In the 2000s, the Seattle Aquarium used underwater cameras so guests could watch sixgill sharks glide through the waters of Elliott Bay.

Union Pacific Locomotive Spills Fuel Near Troutdale

Jun 22, 2016

A 92-car Union Pacific train heading east spilled an undetermined amount of diesel fuel near Troutdale, Oregon, on Tuesday night.

The diesel leaked out of the locomotive. The cause was a fuel filter ring that failed, according to Justin Jacobs, a spokesman for Union Pacific.

The railroad has moved the locomotive to a location where officials can get a better sense of the amount of diesel that spilled.

Despite state and local calls for a moratorium, Union Pacific officials say they plan to resume sending crude oil through the Columbia River Gorge this week.

These would be the first trains carrying crude oil to pass on the Oregon side of the Gorge since the June 3 derailment in Mosier where 16 cars carrying crude oil left the tracks. The derailment spilled 42,000 gallons of crude oil and caused a fire that forced 100 people to evacuate their homes. The crash closed Interstate 84 for hours and left a small oil sheen on the Columbia River.

North Portland Residents Complain Of Flawed Air Testing

Jun 21, 2016

North Portland residents say state air testing in their neighborhood was flawed and doesn’t address their longstanding concerns about strong paint odors.

Neighbors of the Swan Island industrial area voiced their complaints Monday night at a forum at the University of Portland.

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