Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

4:09 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Southern Oregon University Wants To Lead Pacific Northwest in Campus Biomass

Southern Oregon University Facilities Manager Drew Gilliland wants to replace the natural gas boilers on campus with biomass cogeneration.

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 12:20 pm

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Southern Oregon University is vying to join a small but growing number of campuses around the country turning to biomass energy -- or put more simply, burning wood and forest debris -- to produce power on campus.

Tucked away on the backside of Southern Oregon University is a modest 1950s-era warehouse. Puffs of cloud-white steam emerge from the smokestack on top. They're a result of burning natural gas to produce heat for the campus.

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6:07 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Klamath Basin Agreements Move Toward Senate Floor

The J.C. Boyle Dam, one of four that the Interior Department has recommended for removal from the Klamath River. It runs through Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Amelia Templeton

A long-negotiated series of agreements to manage water in the Klamath Basin in Southern Oregon and Northern California received Senate committee passage Thursday.

“This legislation is the result of a historic collaboration of efforts,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden during the committee meeting.

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3:47 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Wyden's O&C Timber Bill Clears Senate Committee

O&C Lands in Western Oregon are currently administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 3:49 pm

The substitute bill would increase harvest levels even further than in previous legislative versions - from about 350 to 400 million board feet per year.

Despite the increased logging levels, Wyden says "major environmental groups" stand by the changes. The groups include The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Pew’s Campaign for America’s Wilderness, Pacific Rivers Council and the Wild Salmon Center.

“The legislation does this by protecting controversial lands and requiring ecological forestry in non-controversial areas,” he said.

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NPR Story
10:24 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Rogue Valley Residents Question University Biomass Proposal

A biomass plant at Missouri University. Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon, wants to be the first campus in the Northwest with a power plant to run on biomass -- woody debris from the forest.

ASHLAND, Ore. - Southern Oregon University has a plan to make its campus the Northwest to install a biomass power plant.

Like many universities, Southern Oregon uses natural gas to heat its campus. But its current boiler system is getting old.

As a replacement, SOU wants to build a biomass cogeneration plant that would produce steam heat and electricity. The steam would be pumped out to campus buildings for heat. The electricity would be sold back to the grid.

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NPR Story
7:16 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Paying Wind Generators Not To Produce Power

The first powerhouse of the Bonneville Dam, 40 miles east of Portland, on the Columbia River.

The Bonneville Power Administration operates the federal hydropower dams in the Columbia Basin. In springtime, during snow melt, there can be so much water in the river that – combined with the output of the dozens of wind farms that have cropped up in Oregon and Washington – there’s more electricity in the system than anyone can use.

Dam operators could dump the extra water over the spillways. But as the BPA’s Doug Johnson explains, that causes problems for salmon and other fish.

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NPR Story
6:40 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

Wash. Forest Practices Board Adopts New Logging Guidelines

File photo of the Oso landslide, taken in March, 2014.
Snohomish County

Washington state essentially prohibits logging on unstable slopes -- since removing trees can worsen erosion and landslides. But it's not always obvious which slopes are unstable.

State officials Wednesday adopted a more cautious approach around slopes like the one that collapsed onto the town of Oso in March. That deep-seated landslide killed 43 people.

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NPR Story
1:00 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

What A Junk Food Diet Means For Seagulls In The Northwest

New research across several decades shows seagulls are eating more food from the garbage. Just like humans, their health is suffering as they eat more junk food.
Flickr Photo / Bev Sykes

Anyone who’s been to the beach knows that seagulls will eat pretty much anything.

New research from the University of British Columbia shows just how bad seagull diets in the Northwest have become.

Louise Blight analyzed hundreds of seagull feathers stored in museums around Washington and British Columbia over the past 150 years.

She found a decline in heavier carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the feathers.

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11:01 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Study: Communities Must Learn To Coexist With Wildfire

Firefighter at 2012 Barry Point Fire in Southern Oregon

Originally published on Tue November 11, 2014 8:30 am

“There’s a feeling that we have control over fires, and the fact is we don’t,” said Southern Oregon University ecologist Dennis Odion.

Odion is co-author of “Learning to Coexist with Wildfire,” published in the journal Nature last Thursday. The paper examined the findings of more than 100 studies, and says wildfire should be treated like other natural disasters.

“You know earthquakes and hurricanes are viewed as something that we prepare for and do our best to withstand.”

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NPR Story
2:47 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Research Suggests Sea Lions Are Eating More Columbia River Salmon

New research suggests sea lions are eating more salmon in the Columbia River than previously thought.
Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

PORTLAND -- New research suggests sea lions are eating more salmon in the Columbia River than previously thought.

Data from tracking salmon over the past five years show a significant drop in survival below Bonneville Dam. Michelle Rub, a researcher with with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, says preliminary numbers show survival dropping from 90 percent in 2010 to 55 percent in 2014.

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2:13 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Harm From LNG Project On Oregon Coast Could Be Offset, Report Says

Tugboats in Coos Bay
Gary Halvorson, Oregon State Archives

That sums up the preliminary findings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement Friday for the Jordan Cove project.

“Nothing in the EIS is a surprise to us,” said Michael Hinrichs, the public affairs director for Jordan Cove and Pacific Connector.

He said the company has spent two years analyzing the potential environmental impacts of the project.

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NPR Story
2:00 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

NW Colleges Showcase Innovations In Campus Sustainability

Portland Community College students Andrea White (left), Xiaofeng Huang (right back) and Gaetan-Dauphin Nzowo (right) harvest spinach in the Rock Creek Learning Garden. The garden grows produce for the cafeteria. Kitchen scraps are returned as compost.
Elaine Cole

In the Reuse Room at Portland State University, everything is free and the door is always open.

Students and staff can walk into the converted mailroom anytime to donate or take supplies, ranging from three-ring binders to iPods.

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5:49 pm
Wed November 5, 2014

Election Shifts Oregon Closer To Carbon Tax, Not So For Washington

Smoke stacks during a night scene in Tacoma, Wash. Election-night shifts in the Oregon state Senate moved it closer to a carbon tax. Washington might have distanced itself further.
Flickr/Tom Collins

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 5:50 pm

Environmentalists spent more than $1.5 million in Oregon and Washington in bids to secure Demcoratic majorities in state legislatures -- majorities they wanted for approving clean-fuel standards and a tax on carbon emissions.

The plan worked in Oregon. It didn't in Washington.

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NPR Story
4:22 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

4 Things To Know About The Columbia Generating Station Lawsuit

Environmental groups say the Northwest’s only nuclear power plant is harming fish. The groups are suing a Washington state permitting agency because they say a permit it issued violates the Clean Water Act.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Three environmental groups say the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear power plant is harming fish. The groups are suing a Washington state agency because they say it issued a permit that violates the Clean Water Act.

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NPR Story
12:40 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

SolarWorld To Expand, Add 200 Jobs At Hillsboro Plant

Solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld is expanding its Hillsboro plant in Oregon and adding around 200 jobs.
Courtesy of SolarWorld

Solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld announced Thursday it will be expanding its plant in Oregon, adding a new production line and around 200 jobs in Hillsboro.

SolarWorld U.S. President Mukesh Dulani said the expansion represents "a great turnaround" for the company, which has been fighting to maintain its market share amid fierce competition from Chinese manufacturers.

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NPR Story
10:38 am
Tue October 28, 2014

Portland Bike Share Company Moving To New York Under New Owners

Alta Bicycle Share, which launched citi bike, the world's largest bike sharing program in New York, wil relocate to New York City under new ownership.

Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share will be acquired by a New York company and will relocate to New York City to be run by a new CEO, under an agreement announced Tuesday.

Alta has launched bike-share programs in many cities across the country including New York, Chicago, Seattle and Melbourne, Australia. It also has plans to start a program in Portland.

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NPR Story
3:18 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

Conservation Group Makes Huge Land Purchase Near Snoqualmie Pass

A conservation group has made the largest private land acquisition in Washington history, purchasing 47,921 acres near Snoqualmie Pass. The acquisition covers lands near three lakes: Keechelus, Kachess, and Cle Elum.
Courtesy of The Nature Conservancy

A conservation group has made the largest private land acquisition in Washington history, purchasing nearly 48,000 acres near the Cascade Mountains' Snoqualmie Pass east of Seattle.

The Nature Conservancy announced Monday it has bought the land from timber company Plum Creek. The land acquisition cost about $49 million.

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NPR Story
1:41 pm
Sat October 25, 2014

Billionaire's Money Helps Enviros Spend Big On Northwest Races

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, takes a morning walk with his father, Len, at the Bellis Fair mall in Bellingham. More than $200,000 of the campaign money being spent to unseat Ericksen can be traced to climate activist and billionaire Tom Steyers.
Ashley Ahearn

Environmental groups are among the biggest spenders in this year’s state elections in Washington and Oregon, pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into campaigns to ensure Democratic statehouse control.

Most of those dollars are coming from California billionaire Tom Steyer -- the biggest super Pac donor of this election cycle nationwide.

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NPR Story
3:19 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

UW Receives $8 Million From Navy To Develop Tidal, Wave Energy

Andy Stewart (left) and University of Washington graduate students on the boat that will do in-water tests. The university received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Navy to develop wind and tidal power technologies.
Courtesy of University of Washington

There aren’t any tidal or wave energy projects in the Northwest right now, but researchers at the University of Washington are hoping to change that with an $8 million grant from the U.S. Navy.

Andy Stewart, lead researcher at University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory, said they’re testing technologies that will work in different conditions around the world.

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NPR Story
1:20 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

National Parks Vandalism Cleanup On Hold During Investigation

Image widely posted on social media of alleged vandalism at Crater Lake National Park

Originally published on Fri October 24, 2014 1:21 pm

Although the National Park Service regularly deals with vandalism – especially in parks set in urban areas - spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet called the case especially egregious.

Picavet says the current case is complex to investigate because of the number of locations and the geography involved.

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4:45 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

How To Kill An Invasive Plant On The Metolius River

Mike Crumrine adds dye to an herbicide mixture so that he can see where he applies it. Crumrine is applying herbicides to an invasive plant, ribbon grass, that is choking Oregon's Metolius River.
Courtesy of Maret Pajutee

Originally published on Fri October 17, 2014 3:39 pm

SISTERS, Ore. -- Looking at the banks of the Metolius River in Central Oregon, nothing really looks wrong. But train your eye a little, and you start noticing large patches – even entire islands – covered in a thin, green grass.

Forest Service ecologist Merit Pajutee has trained her eye and turned her thoughts to the words of a 20th century ecologist.

“Aldo Leopold said that living with an ecological consciousness is like living in a world of wounds,” Pajutee said.

The wound on the Metolius River is ribbon grass.

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