Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
1:00 am
Sun August 24, 2014

Northwest Researchers Work To Boost Geothermal Power

A geothermal power plant. There’s been a lot of hype around geothermal power, which uses heat from the below the earth’s surface to provide energy. Several Northwest researchers are hoping to push the renewable energy forward.
Flickr Creative Commons: Scott Ableman

There’s been a lot of hype around geothermal power, which uses heat from the below the earth’s surface to provide a steady, renewable source of energy. But the sector has been slow to take off, even though the U.S. is the world's top producer of geothermal energy.

With help from federal grants, several Northwest researchers are hoping to push the technology forward.

Read more
2:00 pm
Fri August 22, 2014

Oregon Approves Subsidies For Oil Transport, Not For Coal

The Port of St. Helens applied for grants through the ConnectOregon program to expand this dock, which is used to ship crude oil and would also be used to export coal for the Morrow Pacific project.
Cassandra Profita

The Oregon Transportation Commission voted Friday to approve nearly $5 million in subsidies for rail and dock infrastructure tied to controversial coal export and oil-by-rail projects.

Read more
NPR Story
6:43 am
Fri August 22, 2014

A Visit To The Largest Elwha River Dam In Its Final Moments

For 100 years the Glines Canyon Dam blocked the Elwha River, forming Lake Mills. Now, the lake has drained and that last 30 feet of the dam are set to be blown up next week.
Ashley Ahearn

PORT ANGELES, Wash. -- The National Park Service is in the final phase of the largest dam removal in U.S. history, taking place on the Olympic Peninsula.

Just 30 feet of concrete dam stand between the Elwha River and its freedom.

And early next week, it’ll be gone.

A giant orange crane moves slowly overhead as Don LaFord looks down from a narrow walkway over the Elwha River.

Read more
NPR Story
3:27 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Washington Approves Killing Wolves After Livestock Attacks

Washington wildlife officials have authorized killing wolves from a pack outside of Spokane if they go after sheep from a herd that the Huckleberry Pack has attacked recently.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

A rancher in northeastern Washington will be allowed to shoot wolves approaching his herd of sheep. State officials made the decision after they confirmed wolves killed dozens of his sheep.

The Huckleberry Pack usually roams around the Spokane Tribe of Indians reservation. But data from a radio-collared wolf shows it attacked a rancher’s sheep herd.

Officials confirmed 16 sheep were killed over a two-week period. The rancher used guard dogs and a herder to try to scare away the wolves.

Read more
NPR Story
2:45 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Feds Consider Grizzly Bear Reintroduction In Washington Cascades

A grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The National Park Service is evaluating whether to reintroduce grizzly bears to Washington's North Cascades.
National Park Service

Only a handful of grizzly bears now roam the North Cascades of Washington.

Their numbers are so small that none of the 20 grizzlies have been sighted since 2010. The bears may now be getting some help.

A three-year process from the National Parks Service will find out if grizzly bears should be restored in the North Cascades. Officials are looking at a wide range of options. Those options include letting the bears recover on their own to transplanting bears from British Columbia.

Read more
2:29 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Oregon Senators, Fire Chiefs See Gaps In Proposed Oil Train Rules

Eugene Fire Chief Randy Groves, Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Tim Butters, deputy administrator at the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration, lead a discussion on oil train safety in Eugene, Oregon.
Tony Schick

EUGENE, Ore. -- Local fire chiefs joined Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on Monday in their push to expand proposed federal safety rules for oil trains.

Read more
NPR Story
1:36 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Oregon Denies Permit For Controversial Coal Export Dock

Several Columbia River tribes asked the state of Oregon to deny a permit for a controversial coal export dock at this site in Boardman.
Courtesy of Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission

Oregon regulators announced Monday they will not issue a permit for a controversial coal export dock in Boardman.

The announcement follows a fight between the Morrow Pacific coal export project developer Ambre Energy and Columbia River tribes over tribal fishing at the proposed dock site.

Read more
NPR Story
8:59 am
Mon August 18, 2014

History Pollutes The Bottom Of Lake Washington

Dive into the inky black waters of Lake Washington and you may find the oldest wreck recorded: A dozen coal trains from a wreck 139 years ago.
Jake Warga/KUOW

For KUOW Public Radio’s Local Wonder project, I embarked on a strange journey that took me to the heart of this vast lake that separates Seattle from the Eastside. What I learned was astonishing, often gross and, on occasion, heartbreaking.

On a recent evening, I hopped a boat with five scuba divers who have mapped the whole lake floor with sonar. We shoved off from the Magnuson Park boat launch.

Read more
NPR Story
9:44 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Oregon To Decide On Controversial Coal Export Dock Permit Monday

Members of the Yakima and Umatilla tribes say they fish here, where the Morrow Pacific coal export project has proposed to build a dock in Boardman.
Courtesy of Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission

Oregon regulators plan to decide Monday whether to deny a permit for a coal export dock in Boardman to preserve tribal fishing on the Columbia River.

The Morrow Pacific coal export project needs a permit from the Oregon Department of State Lands to build a dock for coal barges. The project would ship nearly 9 million tons of coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia. It would transfer coal shipments from trains to barges in Boardman, and load the coal onto ships at a dock in Clatskanie, Oregon.

Read more
NPR Story
8:00 am
Fri August 15, 2014

Cantwell: Shellfish Growers Are The Canary In The Coal Mine

Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) are calling for a national strategy to respond to ocean acidification and protect the nation's fishing industry.

The senators have called for federal funding for a national network of ocean-going devices — from high-tech buoys to aquatic drones that resemble small yellow missiles — to track just how fast the world’s oceans are turning sour.

Read more
NPR Story
3:29 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Washington Wildfires Displace Deer

Wildfires have ravaged more than a million acres across the Northwest. In central Washington, the burned landscape will leave one of the state’s largest deer herds without a place to go this winter.
Flickr Creative Commons: Alan Vernon

Wildfires have ravaged more than a million acres across the Northwest. In central Washington, the burned landscape will leave one of the state’s largest deer herds without a place to go this winter, when deer like to eat bitterbrush and chokecherry.

Those shrubs will be hard for deer to find this year – with 25,000 acres of habitat scorched by fire, including parts of five wildlife areas.

Read more
4:52 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Lawsuit Challenges Protection For Farming, Forestry

John and Barbara Burns. Burns says he felt symptoms similar to a sinus infection he attributes to herbicide exposure.
Amelia Templeton

Residents of a Southern Oregon community who say pesticide spraying made them sick have now filed a lawsuit challenging a state law that shields farmers and foresters from liability.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Curry County Circuit Court, claims Oregon’s Farm and Forest Practices Act violates the state’s constitution, which guarantees the right to remedy for injury to person, property or reputation.

Read more
NPR Story
12:48 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

Dangerous Olympic Goats May Face Eviction

Male goats can be especially aggressive during breeding season, generally between October and December.
Flickr Photo/Ryan Ludwig

The National Parks Service is considering a change of scenery for mountain goats in a Washington park.

They may be beautiful to look at in the wild, but, with their sharp horns, the animals have long been a cause of concern in the Olympic National Park, especially since a goat fatally gored a 63-year-old hiker in 2010.

The goats may be moved to another mountain range in Washington that has seen a decline in the goat population, according to parks spokeswoman Barb Maynes.

Read more
NPR Story
5:00 am
Wed August 13, 2014

Trouble in the White Clouds

In the late 1960's, ASARCO wanted to build a massive open pit mine under these two peaks. The one on the left is Castle Peak and on the right is Merriam Peak deep in the White Cloud mountains.
Aaron Kunz

BOISE, Idaho – Tempers and emotion ran high at a recent meeting between leaders from Idaho’s Blaine and Custer Counties. The meeting was an attempt to get public reaction to efforts aimed at convincing the Obama Administration to declare the Boulder-White Clouds a National Monument.

The Boulder-White Cloud Mountains in Idaho are rugged, located in the heart of the state's mid-section. It is the true example of mixed use land, divided among several federal agencies and managed under many different rules.

Read more
7:55 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

How Drones Could Make Forest Restoration Easier

Rheno Prajadipta tests out a drone he helped build with Yakima Valley Community College classmates. The drone will survey the health of the forest. The hope is that drones will speed up restoration efforts and save some money.
Courtney Flatt

Originally published on Thu July 31, 2014 6:01 pm

NACHES, Wash. -- Drones could soon be the newest gadgets in forest conservation.

A group of college students in Washington recently built and tested a drone that will survey the health of the forest. The hope is that drones will speed up restoration efforts and save some money.

“You guys ready for the test flight?” asked Ryan Haugo, a forest ecologist with The Nature Conservancy.

“Yeah, I think so,” said Rheno Prajadipta.

Read more
NPR Story
1:00 am
Mon August 11, 2014

How Ocean Chemistry Threatens The NW Oyster Industry

Mark Wiegardt’s family has farmed oysters for more than a hundred years. He works with his wife, Sue Cudd, owner of Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, to supply oyster larvae to farms all over the region.
Karina Ordell

NETARTS BAY, Ore. -- Mark Wiegardt steps slowly through knee-high water, pausing over some jagged lumps of brown-gray shells with a bent flat-head screwdriver.

He picks up a clumps of oysters and rests it on his thigh, stabbing and wrenching until the shellfish crack apart.

The creatures inside are more valuable than ever, so Wiegardt tries his best to make them look nice by bashing off the sharp edges.

Read more
NPR Story
9:28 am
Thu August 7, 2014

Northwest Considers Multi-State Approach To Federal Carbon Rules

The PPL coal-fired power plant in Colstrip, Montana, in 2008. It's one of five coal-burning power plants in Montana. Regional power planners say a multi-state alliance could make it easier to meet carbon-reduction requirements.
Creative Commons/ambimb

Power planners in the Northwest are considering a multi-state approach to federal carbon reduction rules.

The region’s clearest path to meeting carbon targets may come from the Northwest continuing its march toward energy efficiency.

Director of power planning at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, Tom Eckman, says if those efforts continue to be successful - and if coal plants in Oregon and Washington close, as scheduled - carbon targets are attainable, across the region.

Read more
NPR Story
2:50 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Oregon Governor Says Wildfires Point To Need For Forest Thinning

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber at an Aug. 6 briefing on the Oregon Gulch wildfire. He used the occasion to call for Congress to pay for forest thinning.
Liam Moriarty/Jefferson Public Radio

Gov. John Kitzhaber followed his Wednesday tour of Oregon’s biggest wildfire by calling for Congress pay for forest health projects that would thin overgrown forests and reduce future fire danger.

"These fires are a symptom of a much larger forest health issue," he said at the Howard Prairie Lake campground, which is being used as base camp fighting the Oregon Gulch fire. "We just have to deal with the root causes. That means lending some urgency to improving the health and resiliency of our forests ... There's no reason in the world we should be doing this year after year."

Read more
NPR Story
8:00 am
Tue August 5, 2014

Video: How Ready Are Portland Firefighters For An Oil Train Derailment?

Firefighters with Portland Fire and Rescue demonstrate how they would apply fire retardant foam to contain and extinguish an oil train fire.
Anthony Schick

PORTLAND -- Three oil trains roll through the city each week en route to a shipping terminal down the Columbia River near Clatskanie, Oregon.

If one of them were to derail, Portland firefighters say they're not equipped for a major spill, fire, or explosion along the lines of last year's Lac-Megantic explosion in Quebec, Canada.

Portland Fire and Rescue Lt. Dave Keller says the city's fire department could only adequately respond to a smaller-scale derailment -- maybe one car leaking fuel or one car on fire.

Read more
NPR Story
11:18 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Study Says Poor Planning Contributes To Wildfire Costs

An Oregon Army National Guardsman looks for spot fires around the Government Flats Complex fire from a Blackhawk helicopter, near The Dalles, Aug. 21, 2013
Oregon Military Department

Wildfires in the West are getting bigger, hotter – and more costly. A new report from a national science advocacy group says climate change is one major reason wildfires are getting worse.

And short-sighted development policies are a big reason they’re costing more.

In recent years, the number of homes and businesses built in wildfire-prone areas has skyrocketed. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, across 13 Western states there are more than 1.2 million homes -- with a combined value of about $190 billion -- that are at high or very high risk of wildfires.

Read more