EarthFix Northwest Environmental News

UPDATE (July 20, 7:15 a.m. PT) — The Substation Fire burning east of The Dalles, Oregon, is now the nation's top priority fire. That means it's first in line for national fire resources as needed and available.

"This adds more people and tools to the 217 firefighters who are currently out here, and that's representing 73 fire agencies across our state," said Stefan Myers with the Oregon State Fire Marshal's Office.

UPDATE (July 19, 8:41 a.m. PT) — One person died as a result of the Substation Fire east of The Dalles, Oregon, and county officials have called in state help in determining whether someone intentionally set the blaze.

UPDATED COVERAGE: Man died trying to protect neighboring land from Substation Fire.

For almost 80 years, the Charles E. Nelson House stood abandoned and alone, tucked into a hollow on the high plains of Oregon. A clapboard farmhouse, sun-bleached, empty, leaning against the wind. It was widely considered the most photographed abandoned farmstead in Oregon.

Now, it's gone.

The iconic house near The Dalles burned to the ground in the Substation Fire, which had burned more than 36,000 acres and left one person dead as of this story's publishing on Wednesday.

The Oregon Health Authority says there are higher-than-normal levels of fecal bacteria in the water at Nye Beach in Lincoln County and Sunset Bay State Park Beach in Coos County.

The bacteria can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, skin rashes and upper respiratory infections — especially among children and older people.

Increased pathogens and fecal levels come from shore and inland sources like sewer overflows, failing septic systems and animal waste.

UPDATE (July 18, 12:44 p.m.) — A fast-growing wildfire east of The Dalles, Oregon, that forced evacuations Tuesday night and Wednesday morning is expected to make a push to the south and east due to dangerous fire conditions in the area, fire officials said. 

UPDATED COVERAGE:  Substation Fire may have been human-caused, officials say.

Plans for a wooden high-rise in downtown Portland are no more.

Developers behind a 12-story building project known as Framework say the project has been put on hold for the foreseeable future. They cited inflation, escalating construction costs and market changes.

For the first time in 40 years, there are Oregon silverspot butterflies on Saddle Mountain.

With Tupperware full of caterpillars loaded painstakingly into backpacks, a team of biologists, zookeepers and park rangers winds its way up an increasingly steep trail. They're headed for the few, isolated meadows capable of supporting the endangered butterfly.

   

Klamathon Fire Nears End As Lightning Starts New Fires

Jul 15, 2018

Summer lightning returned to the skies over Southern Oregon and Northern California on Sunday, just as Klamathon Fire managers were preparing to declare that fire 100 percent contained.

Cal Fire reported new fires, likely from lightning down strikes, in Siskiyou County. The Steamboat Fire in the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area near Montague quickly spread to dozens of acres. Officials closed the wildlife area to the public.

"Deliberate use of fire, as well as control of wildfires, must be an integral part of the planning process.” — Thomas C. Nelson, Deputy Forest Service Chief, in 1979.

The U.S. government spent a record $2.9 billion fighting wildfires last year. This year is shaping up to be another costly fire season. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Lawmakers Set Sights On Changes To Endangered Species Act

Jul 12, 2018
Jes Burns / EarthFix

Federal lawmakers are making a move to change the Endangered Species Act. 

On Thursday, members of the House of Representatives announced legislation they say will “modernize” one of the country’s seminal environmental laws, originally passed in 1973.

Self-Driving Bikes: The Next Transit Revolution?

Jul 12, 2018

What does your future commute look like? Will you be taking a self-driving car, a solo-wheel, the hyperloop?

What about a self-driving bike?

In this episode of "ReInventors," we look at how Professor Tyler Folsom and his students at University of Washington Bothell are spearheading a grassroots effort to test and develop lighter, more affordable, personal rapid transit: self-driving bikes.

Oregon regulators have fined a Washington County company for violating asbestos rules more than 100 times.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality fined the company, Oregon Environmental LLC of Cornelius, more than $436,804. It also revoked the company’s license to handle asbestos.

Crews Turn The Corner On The Klamathon Fire

Jul 11, 2018

Five days after the Klamathon fire raced across the dry grasslands along the Oregon-California border, crews have fought the fire to a standstill. Even after days of gusty winds, containment lines have held and the fire has not increased in size since Monday.

“Any time our lines hold after strong winds like that, that next day is always a good day,” CalFire Team 4 Chief of Operations Mark Brown said at a briefing in Yreka Tuesday evening. “Today we had a good day.”

Fire managers have expressed cautious optimism that they will be able to continue making progress against the Klamathon fire in the coming days.

So far, the fire has burned 36,500 acres in northern California and southern Oregon and is 40 percent contained. 34 homes and 43 other structures have been destroyed, and more than 3,100 people have been evacuated or sheltered.

You know that expression, "Leave no stone unturned?"

That’s how Washington State University neuroscientist Allison Coffin goes about catching midshipman fish — at least during mating season.

Standing on the rocky, oyster-covered shoreline of Hood Canal, she rolled over a beach-ball sized rock to reveal a small pool of water just barely covering two fish.

“Oh yeah! Another female,” she said. “And then there’s the male right there.”

Because it’s low tide, some of the fish she and her research partner Joe Sisneros uncovered aren’t in any water at all.

Backers of an initiative to fund clean energy projects in Portland with a new business tax say they have gathered enough signatures to put it on the ballot in November.

The Portland Clean Energy Fund would pay for programs like home weatherization, energy efficiency upgrades and job training in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields. Many of the programs would be earmarked for low-income Portlanders and communities of color.

A new report finds significant air quality problems at a middle school building slated to open this fall in North Portland.

Oregon has adopted new rules to protect farmworkers from pesticides. 

The new regulations establish zones around pesticide applications that workers cannot enter. It also allows workers the choice to take shelter in housing or other structures instead of moving away.

For additional EarthFix coverage, click here.

Recreation in an untamed part of Southern Oregon generated far more economic benefit than grazing and logging put together. Yet it's difficult to say how changing the boundaries of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument might alter that mix.

Walla Walla County might just be the only place on Earth where you have to brake for bees.

“You can see the signs here,” says Mike Ingham, as he drives by a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit sign with a smaller sign below stating “Alkali Bee Area.” “There’s actually a county ordinance to slow the cars down who go by here, because a speeding car can kill a lot of alkali bees.”

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