Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

Crews Work To Clean Up Yakima River Oil Spill

Mar 2, 2015

Emergency crews are responding to a 1,500-gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River.

The used motor oil has threatened wildlife since it escaped Sunday from an above-ground storage tank at the site of a former feedlot. The heavy oil flowed across a paved area and into an irrigation ditch, known as Sulphur Creek, which drains into the Yakima River. An oil sheen flowed as south as Prosser, about 25 miles away.

The North Cascades of Washington used to be home to thousands of grizzly bears. Their numbers have dwindled to only a handful over the past century, mainly after over-hunting for fur in the late 1800s.

Now, the federal government is asking for the public's input on its plans to boost grizzly bear numbers in Washington’s North Cascades.

Legal recreational marijuana will become a reality in Oregon on July 1.

That's expected to create new market opportunities for large-scale indoor marijuana producers who rely on powerful grow lights.

“They’re energy hogs. They use an ungodly amount of electricity,” says Ashland City Administrator Dave Kanner.

What Is The Value Of Nature?

Feb 27, 2015

Environmentalists agree that conservation is key, but there is a long-standing dispute over how much to focus on nature's intrinsic value rather than emphasizing its value to humans.

New Orca Baby Spotted Off Washington Coast

Feb 26, 2015

When a family of killer whales swam near a small research vessel off the Washington coast this week, the scientists on board were excited by the large number of endangered orcas that they saw. Their excitement grew when they spotted an orange-tint in the water.

A baby calf.

“We saw it again this morning swimming with its mother,” Brad Hanson, a biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday. “It’s probably just a few days old.”

Hyla Woods

Feb 26, 2015

A family-run timber company in Oregon's coast range defines profit differently. At Hyla Woods, cutting trees must profit the health of the forest more than the owners' bank account. Peter and Pam Hayes are 5th generation loggers whose philosophy embraces the public trust, not just personal wealth.

MORE INFORMATION

Hyla Woods Website

Oregon Forest Health Reports

President Obama has vetoed the KeystoneXL Pipeline, but as more oil moves through the Northwest by rail, one Republican state senator says a pipeline through Washington state could be a solution.

Rep. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane has introduced legislation that would provide $250,000 to study a possible oil pipeline through Washington state.

The pipeline would move oil from the middle of the country to refineries and terminals on the Washington coast.

A New System To Keep Troops Cool And Use Less Diesel

Feb 25, 2015

Keeping cool may soon take a lot less energy. Northwest researchers have developed a new air cooling system that could be used in cars, buildings and on the Navy’s front lines.

The new air chilling system designed by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could soon be helping to keep troops and cargo cool while they’re at sea.

Japanese Fish Found Alive In Oregon Waters

Feb 25, 2015

Oregon scientists are trying to figure out how a fish, native to Japan, was pulled out of a crab pot on the Oregon coast - alive.

"I've been thinking about it ever since I heard about it," says John Chapman, an invasive species expert at the Hatfield Marine Science Center.

He says there's only a handful of ways the striped knifejaw could make it here: in the ballast water of a ship; someone could have dumped their aquarium into the ocean; or the fish survived under debris washed out to sea after the Japanese tsunami.

It’s no secret lead exposure is dangerous. Even low levels can affect a child’s brain.

It’s also no secret that airports are one of the last remaining sources of airborne lead in the U.S.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attests to both these facts.

And yet, the EPA has yet to declare an “endangerment finding” for leaded aviation fuel. That means it hasn’t said whether those emissions pose enough of a threat to public health or welfare to trigger the long and complex process of regulating them.

Northwest Faces Greater Risks From Acidifying Waters

Feb 23, 2015

The Pacific Northwest faces a higher risk of economic harm from ocean acidification than other parts of the country, according to a new study released Monday.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found a "potent combination" of risk factors along the coasts of Oregon and Washington. The region has cold ocean water that absorbs carbon dioxide more readily than warmer water, and it has upwelling ocean currents that bring corrosive water to the surface.

HOQUIAM, Wash. -- Grays Harbor, with its deep-water berths and fast access to Pacific Ocean shipping routes, has all the ingredients to be a world-class port.

In some respects, it already is. The Port of Grays Harbor once bustled with shipments of lumber from nearby forests. Next came cars, grains and biofuel. Now, local leaders are warming up to the idea of adding crude oil to the mix.

This little Oregon minnow has the big distinction of becoming the first fish to come off of the endangered species list.

Railriders

Feb 19, 2015

Hop aboard your own pedal-powered railcar for a spectacular 12-mile round-trip on the old Joseph Branch rail line between Joseph and Enterprise, Oregon. Part bike, part old-fashioned railcar, a trip on a "railrider" is a one of a kind experience in Oregon. The brainchild of Kim and Anita Metlen, this excursion is one of just a few legal "railrider" operations in the country. The line veers away from the road, passing through forest and ranch and and gives you a view of Wallowa county you can't see any other way.

MORE INFORMATION

Rockfish and Marine Reserves

Feb 19, 2015

Oregon's Marine Reserves are now a few years old. Fishing is banned in them. Scientists are using SMURFS, drifters, satellites and even high controlled fishing to determine if they have an impact. The ambitious plans to save entire ecosystems in the ocean may take many years to have an effect.

MORE INFORMATION

Oregon Marine Reserves Website

Oregon Policy Advisory Council Website

Bluebird skies, warming temperatures, and snow-free terrain might have you itching to hike your favorite trail.

But be prepared to encounter a "closed trail" sign. Several Northwest hiking routes are off-limits to humans this time of year. That's because the region’s migrant mule deer still need a few months to themselves.

“Giving them a little bit of space and a little consideration can be helpful to ensure that we have healthy deer populations,” said David Volsen, a district wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The folks at Metro have put together an amazing time-lapse video using night-vision cameras to show beavers and nutria working together to build a dam in the Smith and Bybee Wetlands. Other critters, mostly ducks and herons, stop by to watch.

This week’s fiery oil train derailment in West Virginia has lawmakers thinking about oil-by-rail safety through the Northwest. There has been a dramatic increase in oil trains traveling through the region to reach West coast refineries.

Two government biologists say millions of dollars in federal funds intended to secure water for fish in the Klamath Basin were instead used to directly compensate local farmers and ranchers.

Irrigators have long come up against the water needs of fish and wildlife in the drought-prone region of Southern Oregon and Northern California. There isn’t enough surface water to go around, and efforts are underway to find other irrigation sources for agriculture.

The Oregon Senate voted Tuesday to extend the state's low-carbon fuel program despite objections from Republicans that the plan is tainted by the ethics scandal embroiling Gov. John Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes.

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, noted early in a three-hour debate over the bill that the low-carbon fuel program was called out specifically in a subpoena federal investigators issued to the state Friday regarding Kitzhaber and Hayes, his fiancee.

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