Earthfix Northwest Environmental News

NPR Story
10:42 am
Wed October 22, 2014

Oregon Divers Find Hope In Thousands Of Baby Sea Stars

Divers with the Oregon Coast Aquarium discovered thousands of juvenile sea stars in Florence.
Courtesy of Oregon Coast Aquarium

Divers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium say they have new hope that sea stars will recover from the widespread wasting syndrome that's wiping them out all along the Pacific coast.

This month they found thousands of thumbnail-sized juvenile sea stars, commonly called starfish, on the North Jetty in Florence.

Diver Jenna Walker said her team didn't recognize them as sea stars at first because there were so many, and they were so small.

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NPR Story
10:53 pm
Tue October 21, 2014

Ashland City Council Passes Fossil Fuel Divestment Resolution

File photo of a truck at a Wyoming coal mine. Ashland has become the second Oregon city to formally come out against the investment of its dollars in coal and other fossil fuel industries.
Katie Campbell

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Ashland has joined in the nationwide movement to divest from fossil fuel. Tuesday night, the city council became the second in Oregon to pass a divestment resolution.

“We’re not going to invest, but we’re going to still use fossil fuels?” he asked.

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NPR Story
9:27 am
Tue October 21, 2014

Baby Orca Missing In Puget Sound And Presumed Dead

A calf born this year to a resident Puget Sound orca has not been seen recently and scientists think it may have died.

Orca enthusiasts rejoiced when a newborn calf was spotted 7 weeks ago.

But as of Tuesday morning, the endangered killer whale calf has not been seen.

L120 was the first calf born in the past 2 years. The calf's mother was spotted three times since Friday. Her baby was nowhere to be seen.

Orca experts believe the calf is dead, though no carcass has been found and it's unclear how it died.

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6:32 pm
Mon October 20, 2014

Coos Bay Shipyard Cleanup Project Resumes After 14 Years

Abandoned Mid-Coast Marine shipyard site near Coos Bay
Oregon DEQ

Originally published on Mon October 20, 2014 8:27 pm

COOS BAY, Ore. -- State environmental officials in Oregon are taking a second look at once heavily-contaminated shipyard near Coos Bay.

Fourteen years after walking away the Mid-Coast Marine cleanup site, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is back to see if its efforts were good enough to declare the project a success -- or if there's still work to do.

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5:17 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Environmental Groups Say Oregon Got It Wrong With Oil Terminal Permit

Oil trains rest on the tracks in Portland, on the line toward on terminal in Clatskanie. Environmental groups claim that terminal's air quality permit was issued incorrectly.
Tony Schick

PORTLAND -- Local and national environmental groups filed a petition Friday claiming Oregon erred in granting an air quality permit to Oregon’s largest oil train terminal.

Their petition claims the Department of Environmental Quality should have considered pollution from the trains and ships that move oil in and out of the terminal, rather than just the terminal itself.

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NPR Story
10:10 pm
Thu October 16, 2014

Oregon On Track To Begin Wolf Delisting Process

Oregon's wolf population is on track to cross the milestone of having four breeding pairs for three consecutive years at the end of December.
Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Oregon's wolf population is on track to reach a key milestone. If current trends in Eastern Oregon continue, the state can relax protections and consider removing wolves from its endangered species list next year.

Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said state rules call for launching a delisting process for wolves when Eastern Oregon has four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. A breeding pair is an adult male, adult female and at least two pups surviving to the end of the calendar year.

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NPR Story
11:20 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Potential For Navy War Games Alarms Peninsula Residents

Lt. Roy Walker, from the Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Pacific Fleet (CC-BY-NC-ND)

The U.S. Forest Service and the Navy are addressing public concerns about a controversial training exercise.

The Navy wants to place electromagnetic radiation emitters at more than a dozen sites on federal and state land in Washington. The real time training would allow pilots to practice finding those signals.

The exercises are designed to mimic an anti-aircraft missile attack. The Navy’s John Mosher said in places like Iraq and Syria enemy forces use electromagnetic signals to locate their target in the air.

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NPR Story
5:33 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Conservationists Sue For Wolverine Protections

Conservationists want the courts to require a federal agency to list the wolverine as an endangered species.
Flickr/Josh More

Wolverines need deep snowpack to build their nests and rear their young. But climate models project a rise in temperatures across the wolverine’s current habitat in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon.

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NPR Story
4:16 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Fish Are Relocating Toward The Poles To Avoid Warming Waters

Sockeye salmon in the Fraser River. Warming waters could steer the Fraser sockeye run away from Puget Sound and north into Canada.

SEATTLE -- If you can’t take the heat… head to the poles. That’s what fish are doing anyway.

A new study published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science looked at historical data for more than 800 commercial fisheries around the world and found that fish are heading to deeper waters and higher latitudes as the world's oceans warm.

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NPR Story
3:52 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Study: After Dams Are Removed, Rivers Quickly Return To Normal

More dams are being removed from rivers as they get older and no longer produce hydropower. Researchers studied the Rogue River and found after aging dams come down, rivers return to their natural state surprisingly fast.
Flickr Creative Commons: Jerry

More dams are being removed from rivers as they get older and no longer produce hydropower. Researchers have found after these dams come down, rivers return to their natural state surprisingly fast.

Over the years lots of sediment backs up behind dams. Ecologists have worried the release of that sediment would harm habitat and cause flooding.

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NPR Story
2:56 pm
Thu October 9, 2014

Seattle's Great Northern Tunnel Turns 110

When it was completed in 1904, the Great Northern Tunnel was the tallest and widest tunnel in the country.
University of Washington Digital Library

SEATTLE -- This month the Great Northern Tunnel, which runs through the heart of the city of Seattle, turns 110 years old. Back in the fall of 1904, when it was finished, the mile-long tunnel was the tallest and widest in the United States.

The Great Northern Tunnel took a year and a half to build and cost $1.5 million back in 1904.

That’s about $38 million today.

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NPR Story
5:30 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Will The California Condor Put Lead Bullets On The Endangered Ammo List?

Portland Audubon WIldlife Care Center workers Lacy Campbell and Deb Scheaffer tend to an injured red-tail hawk.
Alexi Horowitz

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 1:00 am

PORTLAND -- Inside the operating room at the Portland Audubon Society Wildlife Care Center, head veterinarian Deb Sheaffer is carefully inserting a syringe into the shoulder of an injured red-tail hawk.

The hawk was brought in with a broken wing after it was hit by a car. And as with most raptors brought into the center, Sheaffer and her colleagues want to test it for lead poisoning.

“It’s a very simple blood draw.” Sheaffer said. “It takes one drop of blood, and we run it through a machine, and it takes about three minutes and we get a result back.”

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NPR Story
6:31 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Is Alaska Safe For Sea Stars?

Near Sitka, AK, researcher Melissa Miner finds an ochre star with whitened diseased arms – a symptom of sea star wasting disease.
Greg Davis

SITKA, AK -- It’s early morning in southeast Alaska. Stars have yet to fade from the night sky. A group of scientists sets out in search of a different kind of star.

Sea stars, commonly known as starfish, have been vanishing from North America’s Pacific shoreline.

“Almost everywhere we’ve looked in the last year, we’ve seen catastrophic losses of sea stars,” says Pete Raimondi, a biology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been studying an alarming epidemic that’s been killing starfish by the millions.

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New threats and a legal settlement
7:29 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Illegal Pot Farms Are Poisoning This Furry Animal

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the fisher as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Its populations were first damaged by trapping and logging, and now face a threat from rat poison used by illegal marijuana farms.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 7:30 pm

PORTLAND -- New threats and a legal settlement prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal today to list West Coast populations of fisher as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The fisher, an elusive cousin of the mink, otter and weasel, was first driven into scarcity by fur trappers and loggers in the late 1800s. Today it's getting poisoned by marijuana growers.

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NPR Story
5:00 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Scientists On A Quest For Knowledge About Coal Dust Risks

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey head into the marshes of the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge near Washougal, Washington to learn how coal dust from trains might impact the environment.
Ashley Ahearn

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 1:00 am

WASHOUGAL, Wash. -- Coal had been transported around the country by rail for decades before the recent push to bring it by train to ports in the Northwest.

And yet, scientists don't really know how much coal dust could escape from rail cars, how far it might travel, and what coal-borne mercury and other contaminants might do to aquatic life.

With the permitting process moving forward for two large coal terminals in Washington, a team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey is trying to find out how the chemicals in coal might interact with the environment.

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NPR Story
4:15 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Wyoming Offers Northwest Tribal Leaders A Free Trip To Coal Country

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has invited Northwest tribal leaders on an all-expenses-paid trip to see the coal operations in his state.
Michael Werner

Treaty fishing rights give Northwest tribes extra clout when it comes to the future of proposed coal terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

That's not lost on the governor of Wyoming, a big proponent of coal exports.

Gov. Matt Mead is inviting Northwest tribal leaders on an all-expenses-paid trip to coal country in Northeastern Wyoming, according to an email obtained by EarthFix.

The governor's invitation went out to tribes in Oregon and Washington, including the Umatilla, Yakama, Swinomish and the Lummi.

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NPR Story
3:00 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Stealing Fish To Study Seabirds

Scientists are snatching fish from Rhinoceros Auklets to find out how much pollution they're exposed to in their diets. Seabird populations in Puget Sound have declined since the 1970s.
Peter Hodum

SEATTLE -- Seabird populations in Puget Sound have declined since the 1970s and scientists believe pollution is partially to blame.

But how do you prove that? Study what the seabirds are eating. A new paper published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin found that seabirds in Puget Sound are eating fish that are two to four times more contaminated than fish on Washington's outer coast.

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NPR Story
3:55 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Bats May Mistake Wind Turbines For Trees, Study Warns

Hoary bats are one of the tree bats that die the most at wind farms in the Northwest. A new study says that tree bats might not be able to tell the difference between wind turbines and trees.
Flickr Creative Commons: Daniel Neal

An unprecedented number of bats are being killed by wind turbine blades. A new report has found bats may be mistaking wind turbines for trees.

Bats are often looking for a place to roost when the moon is bright and winds are low. That’s when the conditions can be the deadliest for bats flying near wind turbines.

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NPR Story
6:18 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Washington Governor Wants More Done To Ensure Oil Train Safety

A file photo of oil tank cars.

SEATTLE — Oil trains moving through Washington state need upgrades, and slower speed limits. That’s part of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee response to a new state report released Wednesday about the risks of oil transport. The report also lays out some key recommendations for the Legislature

“Sobering” is how Inslee summed up this draft report. In it, the State Department of Ecology points out more oil is moving through Washington by pipeline and railways. And with that, comes a cascade of risks…to public health, safety, and the environment.

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NPR Story
4:42 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Oil Spill Task Force Braces For More Crude By Rail

A regional oil spill task force is bracing for the risks that come along with more crude oil traveling by rail.
Tony Schick

A regional oil spill task force met in Portland Wednesday to discuss the risks of crude oil traveling by rail.

The Pacific States British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force coordinates oil spill response plans among five U.S. states and B.C. A lot of its members have noticed the same worrisome trend: more crude oil is traveling by rail cars instead of arriving on ships, and many agencies aren't prepared for oil spills along rail lines.

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