Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
1:50 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

THIN ICE: Exploring Mount Hood's Glacier Caves

The Swinomish Tribe is located at the mouth of the Skagit River, the only river in the lower 48 home to all six species of Pacific salmon.

He’s wearing a white helmet with his name and “Cave Rescue” printed on it. Cartaya is worried because the sun is starting to rise and hit the ice.

His climbing partner Brent McGregor follows at a more reasonable pace. The bearded 60-year-old takes in the morning and smiles.

“One of the best sounds in alpine mountaineering is the sound of crampons and ice axes on good firm snow,” he says.

Check out OPB's full digital version of THIN ICE: opb.org/glaciercaves

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NPR Story
10:04 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Glacier Caving Caution

When Brent McGregor and Eddy Cartaya explore the Sandy Glacier they follow safety protocols, including signing into cave register and staying in radio communication with local search and rescue teams.

Glacier cave exploration requires preparation for serious hazards:

The caves are located off-trail in steep areas that are difficult for search and rescue teams to access.

Blocks of ice that weigh more than a ton can fall from the ceiling, particularly near cave entrances.

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NPR Story
2:12 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Environmental Groups Sue To Overturn Vancouver Oil Terminal Lease

An aerial view of the Port of Vancouver in Washington.

Three environmental groups are suing the Port of Vancouver to overturn the approval of a lease for the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal.

Columbia Riverkeeper, the Sierra Club and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center say the Port of Vancouver Commission held an illegal executive session before approving the lease in July. They're asking the court to rescind the lease.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Wed October 2, 2013

Season of Smoke: Changing Climate Leads To Bigger, Smokier Wildfires

Clouds of smoke as big as thunderheads billowed over communities in Central Idaho this summer.

SEATTLE -- Each fire season is a roll of the dice.

Some years lightning strikes more often. Other years soggy summers keep big burns at bay.

This year more than 4,000 wildfires burned almost a million acres across the Northwest. That might sound like a lot, but it falls below the 10-year average. In the last decade, only one year has had fewer fires than this year.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Hotter Summers Mean More Health Risks In Urban Heat Islands

HelenRuth Stephens has asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She says hot weather drains her energy and makes it hard to breathe.

PORTLAND – On hot summer days, 74-year-old HelenRuth Stephens doesn't dare leave her apartment. Not to get the mail or take out the trash.

"You don't do it because you'll be breathless by the time you get back," she says.

She suffers from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Both affect her lungs. Hot weather drains her energy, she says, and makes it hard for her to breathe.

Stephens is the type of person public health officials worry about as they're preparing for climate change.

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NPR Story
10:45 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

Citizens Turn Out To Learn More About Vancouver Oil Terminal Project

An aerial view of the Port of Vancouver. It's one of several locations in the Northwest where train-to-vessel oil terminala have been proposed.

About a hundred people attended a community meeting on the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver Monday night.

Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies have proposed to transport up to 380,000 barrels of crude oil a day through the Port of Vancouver. The Port approved a lease for the project in July.

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Toxic Algal Blooms And Warming Waters: The Climate Connection

The Williford family is all smiles today. But they weren't so happy when Jessica (far right) was the first person in the U.S. with a documented case of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. Climate change could make such illnesses more common.

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- A photograph displayed in Jacki and John Williford's home commemorates a camping trip that would go down in family history.

The most memorable event from that outing in 2011 involved the mussels John and his two children collected from a dock near Sequim Bay State Park on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. The family took them back to their campsite and steamed them in white wine with garlic and oregano.

“It was really good. Like the best mussels in the whole wide world,” remembers their son Jaycee, now 7. “And they were huge.”

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NPR Story
1:00 am
Fri September 27, 2013

How Farmworkers Experience A Warming Climate

For 20 years, Victor Gonzalez has traveled the Pacific Coast picking cherries, pears, and apples. He said he came close to passing out once from the heat. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to health problems from heat.

HOOD RIVER, Ore. -- For 20 years, Victor Gonzales has traveled the West picking crops. In the Northwest that means pears, cherries and apples.

Right now, he’s working at a Hood River pear orchard. In the summer, temperatures here can reach 100 degrees. Gonzalez remembers one day when he’d been working really hard, sweating more than normal.

Gonzales felt like he was going to pass out. He was shaky and very sleepy, he says through a translator. Instead of sleeping, he went to the farmworker housing unit and drank a lot of water and rested until he recovered.

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NPR Story
12:00 pm
Thu September 26, 2013

EarthFix Conversation: Lummi Tribal Carver Takes Giant Totem Pole On "Healing" Journey

Lummi tribal leader and master carver Jewell Praying Wolf James stands in front of the 22-foot totem pole he carved in opposition to coal exports in the Northwest.

Jewell Praying Wolf James is a tribal leader and master carver of the Lummi Nation. Ten years ago he carved totem poles and presented them as gifts and symbols of solidarity and healing for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. He drove the totem poles across the country to Washington, D.C. and New York.

Now he’s on another journey with a slightly different mission. The Lummi tribal reservation abuts the proposed site of the largest coal export terminal on the West coast. He’s carved a 22-foot totem pole that represents tribal opposition to coal and oil exports in the Northwest.

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NPR Story
8:11 am
Thu September 26, 2013

U.S. House Backs Extension Of Timber County Subsidies

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. House has passed a bill that includes a one-year extension of federal subsidies for timber counties.

Oregon counties would get about $100 million under the extension of the now expired Secure Rural Schools program. The money was attached to a must-pass bill that would avert an impending shutdown of the federal helium reserve.

The House decision on Wednesday sends the measure back to the Senate, which has already backed the bill but must conform with technical changes made in the House.

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