EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

A federal judge ordered a Germany-based eyeglass manufacturer on Monday to pay $750,000 in criminal fines for repeatedly discharging hazardous waste from its facility in Clackamas, Oregon.

Court documents show Carl Zeiss Vision, Inc. routinely discharged industrial wastewater with very high and low pH levels into the Kellogg Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"By failing to disclose its discharges to Clackamas County, the company operated completely outside pretreatment regulations for years," the U.S. Attorney for Oregon's office said in a release.

Homes located near or inside forests are a big complication for managing wildfires. Forest managers find themselves under increasing pressure to suppress natural fires because of the risk of nearby homes igniting.

But experts now say keeping those homes from burning could be cheaper and simpler than previously thought.

Researchers at Oregon State University have worked out a way to detect and identify whales long after they move on — just by sampling the water.

When whales swim they leave behind a plume of genetic material in the environment: skin, poop and bodily fluids. If you know what to look for, you can use that DNA to figure out what kind of whale went by.

While searching for seabirds in July of 2017, biologist Luke Halpin instead saw a sea bubbling with about 200 bottlenose dolphins and 70 false killer whales. It would be an unusual sight anywhere — bottlenose generally travel in much smaller groups — but Halpin’s sighting was made more remarkable by where it happened. These usually tropical animals were off the west coast of Canada.

In a big grass pasture in the shadow of Mount Rainier, hundreds of chickens are crowded around a little house where they can get water and shelter from the bald eagles circling overhead. This is the original location of Wilcox Family Farms, an egg farm that also has locations in Oregon and Montana.

SunPower, a solar manufacturing company headquartered in San Diego, California, has purchased SolarWorld Americas, a solar panel manufacturer based in Hillsboro.

Details of the sale weren't disclosed. In a news release, SunPower announced plans to use the Hillsboro solar panel manufacturing plant to make the solar panels the company currently manufactures overseas, marking the company's "return to U.S. manufacturing."

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to log trees killed or damaged in last year’s Chetco Bar Fire. Chetco Bar was by far Oregon’s largest wildfire in 2017, burning just over 191,000 acres in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

Jessie Berner is the Chetco Bar Coordinator for the Forest.

"We are trying to capture the value of those trees to try to recoup some of the economic value of that timber in support of our local communities," she says.

Growing up, Gary Kempler remembers watching flocks of bighorn sheep near his hometown of Clarkston, Washington.

“Good size herds along the river,” Kempler said — he could see up to eight flocks in one day.

Slowly, after the wildlife faced battles with a virulent form of pneumonia, Kempler saw fewer and fewer bighorns. Maybe one or two sheep at a time.

Farmers, fish advocates, tribes and government officials are headed to federal court in California on Wednesday to argue who will get water — and when — in the Klamath Basin.

Federal dam operators are asking to open the irrigation season next week in lieu of holding back water to benefit fish.

In recent years, salmon in the Klamath River have suffered from high rates of disease. Warm water and low flows on the dam-controlled river helped a parasite ravage juvenile fish at rates far higher than federal protections allow.

Washington regulators have tentatively denied a controversial request by shellfish growers to poison burrowing shrimp that damage commercial oyster beds. Growers say controlling the shrimp is vital to the shellfish industry in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor.

The native shrimp are kind of like finger-sized moles of the ocean. They dig tunnels in the tide flats and anything put on top – whether it be a oyster or a rubber-booted shellfish farmer – just sinks into the mud.

The Trump administration wants to slash the federal government’s biggest source of funds for conservation on private land. Here's what you need to know:

1. That funding is found in a surprising place: the Farm Bill.

Nationally, Farm Bill programs conserve about 50 million acres of land. For scale, that's more than half the entire acreage of the National Park system.

There’s a whole suite of conservation programs in the Farm Bill, but most of them do one of two things.

Oregon, Washington Sue EPA Head Over Alleged Clean Air Act Violations

Apr 5, 2018
Contributed by Michael Durham/East Oregonian

Oregon and Washington have joined a lawsuit alleging U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is violating the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit says the government needs to limit methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities.

After a six-year delay, Timberline Lodge says it is moving forward with construction of a mountain bike park on Mount Hood.

Construction had been put on hold after environmental groups sued to stop the project. They raised concerns about sediment, erosion and impacts on aquatic habitat.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken dismissed the lawsuit on March 31.

Renewable energy developers are taking a second chance on an ocean wind project off the West Coast. They’re planning a floating array of wind turbines in Northern California.

The effort comes two years after a similar project failed to gain traction in Southern Oregon. Efforts to find a buyer for the power – at an estimated four times the going rate – failed.

Lori Biondini of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, the local agency organizing the new project near Eureka, California, said they’re working to solve the “buyer” problem up front.

Conservation groups want the state of Oregon to ban the trapping of Humboldt martens in coastal forests.

Five groups filed a petition Wednesday asking the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to protect these rare forest carnivores.

Humboldt martens are relatives of minks and otters that live in old-growth forests and shrub along the coast in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Some of Oregon’s solar customers are going to miss out on thousands of dollars in savings, thanks to the expiration last weekend of Oregon’s solar tax credit.

And to add a little sting, some of those deadline-missing customers were victims of installation delays beyond their control.

While lawmakers in nearby Washington recently approved new incentives for solar power, Oregon lawmakers killed their state’s tax credit last year. That created a rush to buy solar systems before the incentive vanished.

Portlanders Likely To See A 10 Percent Increase In Garbage Bill

Apr 2, 2018

An emergency increase in Portland’s garbage bills is expected to be approved this month because of stricter Chinese recycling requirements.

China recently required paper and plastic bales to contain no more than 0.5 percent of other garbage.

That’s extremely low compared with the general market.

The result is most of the recyclables that U.S. cities produce are being stored as processors search for new markets.

Last summer’s wildfire season had the distinction of being one of the smokiest in Oregon’s history. And you might see evidence of that showing up in an unusual place: your glass of pinot noir.

The aroma and taste of smoke can make it into nearby grapes and linger in the wine, even after it’s been fermented and distilled. That’s worrying growers and winemakers here in Oregon.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is gearing up for its biggest-ever planned spill of water over dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

It’s a controversial move that was ordered by a federal court to help endangered fish avoid extinction. To make sure it’s done right, dam managers tested their options first, using miniature models of Northwest dams way down in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Brian Cladoosby and his fellow fishermen stood on the dock of a channel that empties into Puget Sound. They talked about getting their boats ready in time for summer salmon runs.

Cladoosby is the chairman of the Swinomish Tribe. He said those summer salmon runs aren’t what they used to be.

"A lot of the fishermen — Indian and non-Indian — are stuck on the banks now,” he said.

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