EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

Port of Vancouver commissioner Brian Wolfe announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election this fall. He’s vacating his seat after nearly 12 years on the job.

Wolfe said he’ll be stepping down at the end of this year to spend more time with his wife.

Wolfe has supported a massive oil-by-rail project proposed for the port. He said increased pressure from opponents of the oil terminal have been taxing on him and his family.

A federal court ruled Tuesday that wildlife managers must reconsider a decision to deny endangered species protections to the coastal marten.

The red-orange mink relative was once believed to be extinct — a victim of the fur trade. But small populations have been found in the coastal mountains of Southern Oregon and Northern California.

In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided the marten did not qualify for listing under the Endangered Species Act because the population was not small enough or isolated enough to be at risk of going extinct.

On the northern panhandle of Idaho, the Kootenai River’s endangered white sturgeon are getting help from scientists who are “listening” to the river. A U.S. Geological Survey team is using soundwaves to learn how sediment is building up and affecting the fish’s ability to reproduce.

Every river has sediment. It’s the sand, gravel and general muck that rolls along with the current. Sediment can be both good and bad for a river.

A judge has ordered federal agencies to spill more water over Columbia and Snake river dams to help threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, though not until next year after testing.

Driving up the coast toward Bay Center, Washington, it’s obvious when you start to approach Willapa Bay. Fifteen foot high piles of shucked empty oyster shells began to appear on the side of the road. This is an oyster town.

But it's also home to a sinking piece of history.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington are banding together in support of clean energy. They met Saturday in Seattle to discuss concerns over the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate policies that combat climate change.

“It doesn’t make sense for Oregon to do it alone; it makes sense when we do it in a regional basis,” Brown said, emphasizing that West Coast states need to work together.

Controversial Logging Project Debated In NE Oregon

Mar 24, 2017

There’s a tiny stretch of land in Northeastern Oregon that can inspire lofty description like this:

“An amazing treasure,” said Peter Barry, who lives in Joseph, Oregon. “I don’t want to extol its virtues too much because it’s already so crowded."

The Lostine Corridor is a narrow strip of land, surrounded by the designated wilderness. For 11 miles, it reaches up into the Eagle Cap, making it one of the most popular entrances to Oregon’s largest wilderness area. Running through the corridor is the Lostine, a National Wild and Scenic River.

Vancouver Approves Ethanol Terminal Without Crude Oil

Mar 24, 2017

An oil-by-rail terminal in Vancouver is off the table. The city approved a plan by the company NuStar that would allow it to ship and store ethanol, under the condition that it drop its proposal to handle crude oil.

Two years ago, NuStar proposed a plan to handle 22,000 barrels of oil a day. But the company wanted the city of Vancouver to allow it without doing an environmental impact statement. After the city refused, NuStar switched gears — deciding to move forward with a plan to store and export ethanol instead.

The Trump Administration has issued an executive order rolling back fuel economy standards for cars and trucks and is expected to do the same soon for the Clean Power Plan. Both were designed to put the United States on a path to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The decision by automaker Volkswagen Group to cheat on diesel emissions tests means Oregon and Washington are in line for big payday.

The states plan to turn millions of dollars from the company’s settlement into cleaner air by replacing dirty old diesel engines.

But some say the money presents a golden opportunity not just to upgrade some old trucks, buses and construction equipment, but to start phasing them out altogether.

The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River rushes over 40 miles from the North Cascades down into Puget Sound. It’s a big river, with enough rapids and undercurrents that only expert kayakers can navigate it.

“I love this place,” says Mark Boyer, who’s been coming here since the 1980s. “My friends get discouraged with me. They do interventions on me to get me out of the Middle Fork.”

If you’ve lived in Oregon long, chances are you’ve visited a place you learned about on "Oregon Field Guide."

For 28 seasons, the show has transported audiences to just about every corner of the state, from a trek in the Wallowa Mountains to a stroll around the town of Dufur. And the man behind it all? Steve Amen, the host of the show since its first season on OPB TV in 1989.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality expects to lose more than 30 people in the agency’s core programs protecting air and water quality because of President Trump’s proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget, according to an internal DEQ memo.

Seattle's Gas Works Park About To Undergo Toxic Cleanup

Mar 20, 2017

Kite flyers, picnickers, and Ultimate players treasure Seattle’s Gas Works Park, whose famous towers and pipes were once part of a coal gasification plant on the shore of Lake Union that lit up early Seattleites’ homes.

But beneath the grass lies a more insidious legacy of the park’s industrial past: toxic waste.

Bend Says Goodbye To 'Oregon Field Guide' Host Steve Amen

Mar 18, 2017

Friday night was not short on smiles at the Tower Theatre in Bend, Oregon. OPB members and guests from around Central Oregon said goodbye to "Oregon Field Guide" host Steve Amen, who is retiring after 28 years on the show.

Theatergoers saw an advance screening of a "Field Guide" tribute to Amen and his contributions to OPB and the Pacific Northwest.

"You come away from a program that you've done and you feel better about yourself. You feel like you've learned more about the world ... I just want to thank you for that," one member told Amen after the show.

The Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas project is still alive, despite being denied by federal regulators last year. Canadian energy company Veresen has resubmitted its plans and are holding a new round of required public meetings this week.

Backers of the export terminal propose to build a pipeline to bring natural gas from the inland West to the Port of Coos Bay on the South Oregon Coast. There, it will be liquefied and exported to markets in Asia.

The wet and cold winter may have been a doozy for urban Oregonians, but for farmers all that snow was good news.

"For agricultural users that means that we are expecting a full supply of irrigation water since most of our reservoirs are going to be filling or are nearly full by the end of the runoff season," said Mary Mellema, a hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation.

In Malheur County, for example, the Owyhee Reservoir is expected to be full for the first time in five years. The hearty snowpack also means that all regions of Oregon are now considered out of drought.

Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen was paid $11,438 for his first four weeks working for the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, with a listed annual salary of $161,900, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hunters, fishermen and environmental activists: it’s not often these groups are mentioned in the same breath. But recently they’re finding themselves standing shoulder to shoulder over the issue of public lands.

Despite having an avid hunter in Ryan Zinke leading up the Interior Department, which oversees the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, there’s a sense that calls to sell off or transfer public lands are gaining traction.

A federal judge in Medford, Oregon, ruled Tuesday that several environmental groups can intervene in a lawsuit aimed at preventing the expansion the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

During his final days in office, President Obama expanded the national monument by about 48,000 acres. The monument was first established by President Clinton.

The judge’s ruling means Oregon Wild, the Wilderness Society, the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council and other groups will be allowed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Murphy Timber Investments.

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