EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to release its proposed Portland Harbor Superfund Site cleanup plan early next month.

The plan, 16 years in the making, will include the agency’s preferred option for cleaning up a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River that’s highly contaminated from more than a century of industrial use. The EPA has spent years investigating the site and developing a range of options for reducing contamination to an “acceptable” level.

Greg Davis/EarthFix

Studies estimate the impacts of climate change will curtail spending on winter recreation by billions of dollars in the coming decades. And that spells trouble for the Northwest businesses and communities that depend on snow sports.

But a new winter activity is starting to gain traction: fat bikes.

Air testing conducted early this month near two Portland glassmakers shows no urgent health risks, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Data collected from five monitors running 24 hours a day March 1-8 show no change in levels of metals in the air from the February testing results, and short-term health risk remains low, officials announced Thursday.

Nearly three years ago, the Port of Vancouver signed a lease with companies that want to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country. But the project has not gone as planned and may now be running out of time.

The Port of Vancouver has until Aug. 1 to decide if it wants to opt out of a lease with companies planning to build the terminal.

The opposition to the proposal has been intense, with the brunt of it felt by leaders at the port.

“The interesting thing in this whole phenomena has been the passion of the opponents," said port Commissioner Brian Wolfe.

Cantwell Opposes Mining Near Mount St. Helens

Mar 22, 2016

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said Monday that she’s concerned about an exploratory mining project that’s proposed on Goat Mountain, just north of the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Ascot USA, Inc. wants to drill more than 60 exploratory holes on 23 sites in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The company’s searching for metals like gold, copper and silver.

Judge To Hear Water Case For Upper Deschutes

Mar 20, 2016

A federal judge in Eugene will hear a case Tuesday about water management in the Upper Deschutes River.

Officials from at least three governments are considering the establishment of a local air authority in the greater Portland area.

Multnomah County chair Deborah Kafoury said during her State of the County address Friday that Oregon's Department of Environmental Quality should do more to crack down on air pollution.

Until the agency does, Kafoury said the county plans to hire a consultant to look into forming a local air agency. She said the effort has extended beyond Multnomah County.

Oregon’s Top Utility Regulator Resigns

Mar 18, 2016

Oregon’s top regulator of power companies announced her resignation Friday in a letter to Gov. Kate Brown.

Susan Ackerman is a longtime utility lawyer who was appointed to the Oregon Public Utility Commission in 2010 and promoted to chairwoman in 2012. The three-member board regulates investor-owned utilities including their natural gas and electricity rates.

Puget Sound’s Dark Role In Orca Captures

Mar 18, 2016

SeaWorld says it will end its killer whale breeding program and will stop making the mammals perform tricks for stadium crowds. It’s a historic about-face from the days when SeaWorld hired people to capture wild killer whales in Puget Sound.

Tacoma native Ted Griffin wrangled orcas for aquariums in the mid-to-late 1960s.

“We were flying in helicopters and float planes, we got sea boats running up and down Puget Sound at 70 miles per hour,” Griffin said in an interview with KUOW in 2002.

Oregon regulators said Thursday air and soil samples continue to show low health risks for Portland residents. But the level of arsenic in some areas is elevated.

A new test for arsenic around Uroboros Glass in North Portland showed levels several times higher than the state guideline.

But David Farrer with the Oregon Health Authority said people needn’t be concerned.

Video: When Enforcement Lags For Livestock Grazing Rules

Mar 17, 2016

The federal government permits livestock grazing on more than 240 million acres of public land — an area bigger than Texas and Oregon combined.

And despite all its regulations to protect the land from livestock damage, some of those rules aren’t being fully enforced.

This 1-minute video explains what’s at stake with America’s unenforced grazing rules:

Last week an overwhelming majority of voters in Malheur County rejected the idea of a national monument in a corner of southeast Oregon known as the Owyhee Canyonlands, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. Ultimately, the executive branch of the federal government has authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to create national monuments on federal lands.

Uroboros Glass has signed an agreement with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality that prohibits the use of cadmium, chromium and nickel to protect public health until pollution controls can be installed on the company's furnaces.

On a cold January morning, a posse led by a former Army company commander named Matt Shea rolled into the Harney County Courthouse and wanted to speak to the sheriff.

But this wasn’t a group of militants, or outlaws. They were state lawmakers from four western states, including Oregon. Most of them were members of a group called the Coalition of Western States, or COWS.

Winter is usually when cyclists store away their mountain bikes and switch to skis or snowboards. But that’s changing, now that fat bikes have rolled onto the scene.

Fat bikes are the monster trucks of the cycling world. With tires about twice as wide as a regular mountain bike’s, fat bikes provide more traction so they can travel over almost any surface. They bounce over hard-crusted snow and plow through drifts of soft powder.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission decided Tuesday to postpone a vote on new air pollution rules for colored glassmakers.

The decision followed numerous calls for the board to delay its decision and give the public more time to weigh in.

Forest Service lichenologist Sarah Jovan hardly has to walk half a block from her office in downtown Portland to find the type of shaggy, green moss she used to discover the city’s hidden hot spots of toxic air pollution.

“I mean, it’s just everywhere,” she said. “You can see it on all these trees here, across the street. For a sample you’d need probably a couple handfuls.”

Fishery Managers Consider Closing Ocean Salmon Seasons

Mar 14, 2016

To protect fragile runs of coho, regional fishery managers are considering a rare total closure of Oregon and Washington ocean salmon fisheries north of Cape Falcon, near Manzanita, Oregon.

State, tribal and federal fishery managers have three options for non-treaty ocean salmon fisheries north of Cape Falcon. Two options would permit some salmon fishing this year, but one would close both recreational and commercial ocean fisheries for chinook and coho salmon.

Managers are not considering a total closure option for salmon fisheries south of Cape Falcon.

Work is resuming at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Employees had to stay away during the 41-day armed occupation. During that time, some critical work on controlling the common carp got missed.

The carp is an invasive species that really messes up bird habitat on Malheur Lake. Linda Beck is a fish biologist at the refuge. She says they were planning to divert water away from the lake and catch thousands of pounds of carp before they got there. But that was supposed to happen in January; then, the occupation got underway.

Derek Bowen is standing on top of small, enclosed trailer, at the edge of a grassy park in Eugene. It’s overcast and misty but an acronym on the side of this air monitoring station is clear: LRAPA – Lane Regional Air Protection Agency.

Bowen comes down a ladder with a small cylindrical filter in hand. It's been collecting super-tiny particles from car exhaust and wood burning that get lodged in people’s lungs.

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