EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Update 6:15 p.m.: Officials fighting a fire near the town of Roosevelt, Washington, ordered residents of about 25 homes to evacuate immediately Wednesday evening. The mandatory evacuation order comes after the Columbia River Gorge fire grew to more than 17,000 acres Wednesday.

No injuries have been reported. The Klickitat County Sheriff's Office upped the evacuation order from Level 1 to Level 3 after the wind-driven fire in sage and grass lands kicked up Wednesday afternoon.

Some good news for anglers in Central Oregon: The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has lifted fishing restrictions on the Lower Deschutes River.

Water temperatures, which were fatally hot for fish earlier this summer, have now dropped to near-normal.

The Climate Action Plan And Oregon

Aug 4, 2015

Each state will have a slightly different goal in the new carbon emissions reduction goals announced yesterday by President Obama. The Clean Power Plan mandates that nationwide, all power plants reduce emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In Oregon, the goal is to reduce emissions 20 percent by 2030.

This year was supposed to be one of the biggest returns in 40 years for the endangered Idaho sockeye salmon. But it’s not turning out that way. Only a fraction of these fish have survived their journey up the Columbia and Snake rivers. The biggest problem: warm waters. Now dam and fish managers and tribes are in a race against time to save the few remaining fish.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales will attend a clean power conference at the White House Monday with 10 other mayors from around the country.

The group will discuss the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut emissions at power plants around the U.S.

“We need the President and EPA to set national limits on greenhouse gas emissions," said Hales in a statement earlier this week about the Clean Power Plan. "Then our local efforts to use electricity more efficiently, and get more of it from renewables, can build on those limits and not be undermined by their absence."

High temperatures and low humidity in southern Oregon caused the Stouts Fire to grow overnight. The wildfire is now burning more than 15,000 acres east of Canyonville.

Evacuations have been ordered for 188 homes. Additional evacuations could be forthcoming.

When Oregon Field Guide profiled nature author Tim Palmer in 2014, they called him the closest thing Oregon had to a river evangelist.

Palmer's 40 years of photography and study of rivers has resulted in 22 books and, among other accolades, a lifetime achievement award from the nonprofit American Rivers. He was the first recipient of the award.

The Willamette River twists south to north, spanning half the state and reaches two-thirds of its population. It's the country's 13th largest waterway by water volume and is home to a diverse ecosystem.

Through its history, the Willamette has faced a long list of environmental challenges. One of the greatest is thanks to the state's largest city. The Portland Harbor, a 10-mile industrial stretch from the Fremont Bridge to Sauvie Island, was declared a Superfund site in 2000.

Two years after the Civil War an internationally renowned landscape photographer turned his lens to Oregon. In 1867, Carleton Watkins traveled along the Columbia River Gorge by steamship to capture the first comprehensive images of this breathtaking 100-mile stretch.

These photos capture the Columbia River Gorge in a way that's both familiar today and lost with time. What's truly remarkable are the sheer size of these prints — 18 x 22-inch. Watkins was the first American landscape photographer to construct a camera that could create such large negatives.

How Oregon Rivers Carried Millions Of Trees Into Production

Jul 31, 2015

Around the same time famed photographer Carelton Watkins first captured the Columbia River Gorge with his traveling darkroom, on the south fork of the Coos River in southwest Oregon a large dam helped fuel Oregon's burgeoning timber industry.

The Tioga Dam was the largest splash dam in the Northwest. It was the first of what would grow to become 230 splash dams throughout western Oregon.

We’re kicking off our inaugural Greetings From The Northwest with a look at Oregon’s rivers.

“We have, I think, the most incredible suite of rivers in America,” said author Tim Palmer.

Top 4 Moments From Think Out Loud This Week

Jul 31, 2015

This week on OPB's daily talk show, Think Out Loud, a number of our guests told stories filled with passion, drive and even aggression. Here are some of our favorites.

1. Locals activists in kayaks on the Willamette River attempted to block the Royal Dutch Shell's icebreaker, Fennica, from leaving Portland. Then they looked up at the St. John's Bridge.

—Daphne Wysham on the show Wednesday

A protest Thursday in Portland drew hundreds of activists and spectators as an icebreaker working for Royal Dutch Shell, the Fennica, moved along the Willamette River and into the Columbia. protesters with Greenpeace USA attempted to stop the ship by blockade, as 13 people dangled from the St. Johns Bridge. Portland-based kayakers also attempted to block the icebreaker by swarming the river at times.

Today, we check in with OPB News and EarthFix reporters about a few stories they’ve been following, including:


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Stouts Creek Wildfire Expands Rapidly In Southern Oregon

Jul 31, 2015

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown invoked the state's Emergency Conflagration Act Thursday evening as the Stouts Creek Wildfire encroached on homes in Southwest Oregon.

The wildfire began Thursday afternoon and reached nearly 6,000 acres by the end of the day. The fire threatened about 50 homes 11 miles east of Canyonville in Douglas County. An additional 300 homes are at risk as hot and dry conditions are expected to fuel the blaze Friday.

The Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker, Fennica, has left Portland after undergoing repairs at a local dry dock, but it wasn't an easy task.

Officials spent the afternoon removing environmental activists with Greenpeace USA who were hanging from Portland's St. Johns Bridge. Greenpeace and other activist groups oppose Shell's ongoing drilling efforts for oil in the Arctic.

Police and rescue officials spoke at a press conference after the protesters were removed.

Protesters dangling for two days from Portland's St. Johns Bridge kept a Shell Oil icebreaker at bay for more than 36 hours before it passed through en route to the Arctic.

Greenpeace and other environmental groups involved claimed their temporary blockade a success: they sent Shell a message and drew worldwide attention to their campaign to stop Arctic oil drilling and to wean the world from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change.

But what does it really mean in the context of plans for offshore drilling in the Arctic?

Portland Mayor On Bridge Activists: 'Protests Are Helpful'

Jul 30, 2015

For more than 24 hours, protesters with the environmental group Greenpeace have suspended from ropes below Portland's St. Johns Bridge like spiders hanging by a thread, blocking the passage of the Fennica, an icebreaker that is key to Shell's Arctic oil exploration plans.

A judge in Alaska has ruled that Greenpeace will be fined $2,500 for each hour the protesters remain in place. The U.S. Coast Guard and the Portland Police Bureau have not made any attempts to remove them.

A standoff continued Thursday on the Willamette River between environmental group protesters and a multinational energy company in Portland. Protesters suspended from the St. Johns Bridge and in kayaks on the water essentially blocked the Shell icebreaker, Fennica, from leaving for oil exploration in the Arctic.

The Fennica moved north along the river with the U.S. Coast Guard enforcing a safety zone, petty officer George Degener said.

Update 5:59 p.m.: The Shell icebreaker, Fennica, has cleared the St. Johns Bridge and has moved past the protestor blockade to continue on the Willamette River.

Reporter Amelia Templeton was at the scene as the ship crossed under the bridge. Protesters weighed down the nearby docks, yelling "Stop the boat!" as the Fennica moved by. Templeton said the ship appeared so close to the protestors paddling nearby that they could have reached out and touched it as it passed.