EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A new forest study reveals an unexpected silver lining for forests attacked by insects like the mountain pine beetle.

Researchers from the University of Vermont and Oregon State University studied fires in forests with outbreaks of both mountain pine beetles and western spruce budworms in the past 25 years. The new report shows that forests eaten up by insects had less severe wildfires than those that were insect-free.

In a ruling Wednesday, Federal District Court Judge Michael Simon rejected the government's latest plan for protecting salmon in the Columbia River Basin, saying the system of fish-blocking dams “cries out for a new approach.”

Forty centimeters is a long way down when you’re digging a pit in the forest.

“That’s why you never find perpetrators burying a body six feet under – it’s way too much work,” quips Western Oregon University Professor Misty Weitzel to the raucous approval of her sweaty students.

These Western Oregon University students aren’t burying bodies. They’re digging them up. Weitzel assures that the bodies are not human.

“What we have are three domestic pig burials that were placed in the ground 10 years ago,” says Weitzel, who teaches criminal justice.

CASCADE LOCKS – Klairice Westley stoops at the edge of a spring in the woods above the Oxbow Fish Hatchery.

"Want to get a drink?" she asks.

She dips a cupped hand into the pool of water and takes a sip.

"Oh, that's good water,"she says. "That's the best."

Westley lives nearby in Cascade Locks and also belongs to the Grand Ronde and Warm Springs tribes. She says drinking from Oxbow Springs is more than a tradition among tribal members – it’s a religious rite.

A summary out Friday shows there are still elevated levels of hexavalent chromium in Southeast Portland — and Department of Environmental Quality investigators still don’t know where it’s coming from.

State health officials say the emission levels don’t pose an immediate health risk, but Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said risks can go up, the longer people are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

Environmental Impacts Linked To Columbia River Coal Project

Apr 29, 2016

Coal dust, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and traffic congestion are among the environmental impacts from the proposed coal export terminal in Longview, Washington, according to a draft report released Friday.

Portland State University, the city of Portland and Multnomah County announced plans Wednesday to spend $125,000 on a two-year study of the city’s toxic air pollution.

In Seattle's King County, property owners have walled off most of the shoreline with concrete bulkheads and other heavy infrastructure.

Along Hood Canal and other rural parts of the sound, the owners of coveted waterfront homes keep building more walls to keep their properties from eroding.

These walls are going up around Puget Sound, and the sound is paying for it.

A new study from the University of Washington suggests the practice, known as shoreline armoring, is more harmful to Puget Sound than previously thought.

Oregon Regulators Fall Short In Response To Air Pollution Complaints

Apr 25, 2016
Tony Schick/OPB

If you smell an industrial odor in your neighborhood, it can raise a lot of questions: What is it? Where’s it coming from? Is it unsafe? Regulators encourage people to file complaints about such odors because there could be a real problem.

The EarthFix team investigated what happens to these air pollution complaints. The answer, at least in Oregon, is "very little."

Old-growth forests in the Northwest have the potential to make the extremes of climate change less damaging for wildlife. New research out of Oregon State University shows complex forests do a surprisingly good job of regulating temperature on the ground – even compared to fully mature tree plantations.

“On a sunny day, if you were sitting underneath them, you’d get a similar amount of shade,” says study co-author Matt Betts, an Ecologist at OSU.

Herrera Beutler Pushes More Oil Train Spill Planning

Apr 22, 2016

Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler has introduced a bill that would help firefighters around the country get grant money for oil train derailment and accident planning.

The bill doesn’t actually call for more dollars. Instead, it would create a higher priority for funding plans in communities where oil trains regularly travel.

Oregon regulators have results back from new air quality monitors installed after toxic hot spots were found in Portland. They show yet another reason for concern.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to approve new air pollution restrictions for colored glassmakers statewide.

Commissioner Morgan Rider voted no, saying the rules were a rushed overreaction to public outcry and would be unnecessarily burdensome to businesses.

Neighbors To North Portland Polluter Say DEQ Ignored Their Complaints

Apr 20, 2016

Adam Bartell felt like a crackpot for complaining about air pollution in his neighborhood.

The smell of paint fumes in University Park was potent, frequent and eventually intolerable.

He smelled it in the morning when he took the kids to school. He smelled it in the afternoon when he picked them up.

But when he tried to tell someone who could stop it, he felt ignored.

The U.S. Senate passed energy legislation Wednesday with a host of provisions important for the Pacific Northwest. This is the first time in nearly a decade an energy bill of this scale has passed from one house of Congress to the other.

Provisions in the Energy Policy Modernization Act would:

- Speed up a long-awaited land swap near Mount Hood.

Neighbors Protest Daimler At New Headquarters In Portland

Apr 19, 2016

Neighbors of the Daimler Trucks manufacturing plant on Swan Island say the company needs to do more to control its paint odors.

They protested the opening of Daimler’s new corporate headquarters in Portland on Tuesday.

Daimler says it has taken steps to reduce air pollution from its Swan Island plant.

But neighbors say they’re still suffering from fumes coming from the company’s truck painting operations.

An Oregon start-up that’s trying to use kites to generate electricity has secured close to a quarter of a million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies.

Beaverton-based eWind Solutions is working with Oregon State University to develop kites that generate power by flying in a figure ‘8’ pattern. The hope is that will make the kites pull hard on their cords, which are attached to a ground-based ratchet system that spins a power generator.

Oregon Department of Transportation

This year, state lawmakers moved to get Oregon off of coal-fired electricity  by 2030.  That means replacing one-third of the state’s power supply in just 14 years. Renewable energy will likely benefit – and in particular, Oregon’s new laws are setting up solar as a potential big winner.  JPR’s Liam Moriarty spoke with EarthFix reporter Jes Burns about the emerging landscape for solar power. 

Commissioners at the Port of Vancouver unanimously approved an amended lease with the backers of a proposed oil terminal Friday.

If Tesoro-Savage accepts the amendments, it will effectively extend the lease, giving the companies more time to receive state approval for the project.

The port and the companies were facing what amounted to an Aug. 1 deadline on the lease. Without the extension, the future the project seemed uncertain.

Fishermen Look Ahead To Slow Ocean Salmon Season

Apr 15, 2016

Fishing groups saw it coming: the counts were looking low for this year’s runs of chinook - and abysmal for coho. And now commercial and recreational fishermen are coming to terms with lower ocean salmon catch limits set Thursday by fishery managers.

The new recommended catch limits put forth by the Pacific Fishery Management Council cut the non-tribal quotas by more than half in most areas.

Bob Rees is with Northwest Steelheaders, a sport fishing group. He says low number of fish make anglers less excited to spend the money and effort to get out on the ocean.

Pages