EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Mmm … lunchtime. These Beanfields Nacho Bean and Rice Chips sure are tasty. They also happen to be made by a company that hasn't fueled opposition to labeling genetically modified foods – according to the Buycott app I tried out today.

Resolving Oregon's Truffle Kerfuffle

Nov 14, 2013

Oregon’s Board of Forestry moved forward Thursday to regulate truffle hunting on state and private lands.

That means truffles will became Oregon’s first regulated forest product in nearly twenty years.

Truffles aren’t mushrooms, though they are fungi. Mushrooms grow above-ground, truffles underground.

This small distinction kept truffle hunting from being regulated on state and private forestlands the way mushrooms are.

A state regulatory board is withdrawing its approval of permits for two crude oil shipping terminals in Grays Harbor, Wash., saying backers have faied to address public safety and environmental issues.

The Quinault Indian Nation and several conservation groups successfully argued that permits issued for two terminals in Grays Harbor, Washington should be reversed.

"Those permits should have never been issued in the first place," said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinalt Nation.

A Turbine That Toppled In A Windstorm

Nov 14, 2013

The weekend before last I was out running errands around the Tri-Cities, and it was impossible to ignore the wind. Trees swayed side-to-side in a strange yoga-like dance. Shopping carts raced across parking lots. Dust clouded the air like an early morning fog.

About 40 miles away, a wind turbine bent in half.

Across the Northwest, thousands of people are crowding into meeting rooms to submit their comments on coal export and oil-by-rail projects.

Many of them wear T-shirts in protest or in support; they wait hours for a chance to speak for two or three minutes. The crowd isn't allowed to clap or cheer so they silently wave their hands or put their thumbs up if they agree with the people speaking.

Officials listen as people sound off one by one. What happens after that?

Study: 600,000 Bats Killed At Wind Farms In 2012

Nov 13, 2013

More than 600,000 bats may have been killed at wind farms in the continental U.S. last year. That’s a lot for these flying mammals, which are already suffering from a virulent disease and climate change.

At wind farms, bats are most often killed when they are struck by spinning turbine blades. They may sometimes die from a sudden change in air pressure, which harms their respiratory systems.

China's Building Boom Revives Northwest Log Export Debate

Nov 13, 2013

If you want to know how China’s construction market is reshaping the Northwest, a Rainier, Ore. log yard is a good place to start.

The Teevin Brothers yard along the Columbia River rumbles with activity while workers prepare half a million logs for the towering ships docked across the river in the Port of Longview. A yellow stacking truck opens its pinchers and sends its payload rolling out across the ground. The air smells like sap and sawdust. Scalers wearing neon safety vests inspect the logs, stapling each with a plastic barcode.

Salmon Get A Helping Hand From Above

Nov 13, 2013

By Erick Bengel

CANNON BEACH — A salmon-friendly project, involving large tree trunks strategically placed in Ecola Creek is expected to improve fish habitat in the Ecola Creek Forest Reserve.

On a recent weekday, a Chinook helicopter recently airlifted 109 trees, mostly spruce, in the forest reserve and placed them at 19 preplanned sites along the creek, furnishing the fish with much-needed woody debris.

“One of the main deficiencies in our watershed is the presence of large wood,” said Jesse Jones, coordinator for the North Coast Watershed Association.

Can Mushrooms Help Fight Stormwater Pollution?

Nov 13, 2013

SEATTLE -- Ah, the Garden Giant. He’s a jolly fellow who roams around your garden at night tossing mulch as he merrily skips along, helping your veggies grow lush and tall.

Not quite. The Garden Giant is actually a species of mushroom, scientifically known as Stropharia rugosoannulata, that may hold a key to filtering harmful pollutants from stormwater runoff.

China’s new demand for logs may be blunting economic troubles for timberland owners and logging crews, while making things worse for Northwest sawmills.

A strengthening Asian export market for raw logs has ports up and down the coast interested in getting back into the business. In 2011, almost a quarter of the logs harvested in the Northwest were shipped to Asia. In recent years, China has displaced Japan as the top buyer of logs from the Northwest.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Washington's four Catholic bishops have released a statement calling for “exhaustive and independent review” of the state's two coal export terminals under consideration:

How much sludge can be dumped into a double-shelled radioactive waste tank before flammable gas might build up in a big bubble?

That's the question managers and scientists at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are asking. And they are working against the clock to solve the possible new problem.

Idaho has the distinction of dropping the farthest in ranking in the 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. Lead author on the report Annie Downs attributed Idaho’s decline to “not keeping up with peers in utility spending and savings.”

The Washington State Department of Ecology is working to update the state’s fish consumption levels. Plans are to release a draft plan soon for public comment.

They range from 125 grams to 225 grams per day; the current standards are based on 6.5 grams.

The proposed higher standards are based on the diets of some coastal Native Americans.

The standards under consideration would require reducing pollution discharges by 50 percent to 97 percent.

Gilchrist State Forest May Expand By 29,000 Acres

Nov 7, 2013

The Oregon Department of Forestry is seeking public input about a property acquisition that could incorporate 29,000 acres into the Gilchrist State Forest.

The 60-day public comment period began Nov. 5 and will close Jan. 3. A public hearing will be Dec. 5 in Klamath Falls, according to an ODF press release.

The proposed acquisition includes a 3,000-acre parcel privately owned by Central Oregon Land Holdings and a 25,453-acre parcel owned by the Conservation Fund, the press release said. Both properties are adjacent to the Gilchrist State Forest.

(Editor’s note: EarthFix Field Notes are reporters’ personal impressions and experiences from their coverage of the Pacific Northwest. In this entry, Idaho-based Producer Aaron Kunz takes a close look at water’s scenic value, its importance to the economy, and its function as the veins and arteries of southern Idaho’s arid sagebrush steppe.)

Editor's note: Check back for updates on this story later today.

Whatcom County, in northwestern Washington, had four seats up for grab on their seven member county council, members who will eventually vote on permits for the largest coal export terminal proposed for the West Coast.

ICYMI: Caves, Climate And Creatures

Nov 6, 2013

In case you missed it, a roundup of some of the interesting Northwest environmental news stories (from our team and others) in October.

A Week For Polar Bears, Too

Nov 5, 2013

First there was Shark Week. Now conservation group Polar Bears International is hoping to bring the same fame (and awareness) to the snow white bears with Polar Bear Week.