EarthFix

News Fixed on the Environment.

EarthFix is a public media partnership of KLCC, Oregon Public Broadcasting, Idaho Public Television, KCTS9 Seattle, KUOW Puget Sound Public Radio, Northwest Public Radio and Television, Jefferson Public Radio, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Yet another building with 400 offices, first-floor retail space, and underground parking is going up in Seattle’s South Lake Union.

One of the primary ingredients for the building is concrete. As each concrete truck empties its contents into the site, a new one pulls up: that’s a truckload of concrete every five minutes.

As the Pacific Northwest booms, it’s using a lot of concrete to build buildings, roads and other infrastructure — and making all that concrete is a big part of our carbon footprint.

Hillsboro-based SolarWorld is hiring back workers and planning to ramp up its production now that President Donald Trump has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels.

"My administration is committed to defending American companies," President Trump said before signing a proclamation of import duties on Tuesday, "and they’ve been very badly hurt from harmful import surges that threaten the livelihood of their workers."

Tsunami Watch Tests Readiness Along Oregon Coast

Jan 23, 2018

Emergency management officials along the Oregon and Washington coasts woke up to a tsunami watch Tuesday morning, prompted by a magnitude 7.9 earthquake off the coast of Alaska.

The watch was later downgraded when the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration determined a small tsunami observed in Alaska posed no threat to coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest, but local emergency response protocols were still put to the test.

Trump Approves 30 Percent Tariff On Imported Solar Panels

Jan 22, 2018

President Trump has approved a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels in a decision that could both help and hurt the U.S. solar industry.

The tariff approval, announced Monday by a U.S. trade representative, is expected to help U.S. solar manufacturers including Hillsboro-based SolarWorld — but many argue it will hurt the rest of the U.S. solar industry by raising the price of solar panels.

Farmers, cities, and conservationists rely on melting snow to water their crops, feed their aquifers, and fill streams and rivers for fish. But, usually, no one has any idea how much snowpack--and, thus, snowmelt--to expect until it’s too late.

“It’s important for farmers to understand what can they plant, and when should they plant?” NOAA scientist Sarah Kapnick explained when I caught her on the phone just before the government shutdown went into effect for her agency. “It also matters for people that are really interested in fisheries.”

In the wake of the Oso landslide and the current situation unfolding at Rattlesnake Ridge, Washington state public lands commissioner Hilary Franz is asking the Legislature for more time to review proposals from timber companies to log potentially unstable slopes.

The U.S. Forest Service gave an update on the conditions of Columbia River Gorge trails Friday, indicating that some of the most damaged trails "may take several years to reopen."

Forest Service employees and volunteers have been working since the fall to assess damage from the Eagle Creek Fire to more than 20 miles of trails.

"Crews found a range of conditions from low burn severity to treacherous sections where washouts, landslides, and heavily burned conditions make trails hard to follow," a press release from the agency stated.

Lynn Tompkins peers down at a red-tailed hawk laid across a small exam table at Blue Mountain Wildlife’s clinic in Pendleton, Oregon.

It’s out cold.

“She was in very good shape until she got zapped,” Tompkins says as she removes the bandage on the hawk’s left wing, revealing a raw wound.

The bird was electrocuted a week earlier near Boardman, likely the result of a run-in with a power line.  

Tom and Marie Cawrse live on the far east side of Port Townsend, on the northeast point of Washington's Olympic Peninsula, right on the beach.

Since their house was built three decades ago, ice caps have been melting and the ocean’s been expanding as it warms up.

Oregon lawmakers are considering a major change in how the state will go about reducing its contributions to climate change. 

 

Right now, there’s nothing to stop a lot of Oregon businesses from pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

 

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill introduced Wednesday would launch a cap and trade system that would limit some of those emissions and charge businesses for the right to pollute. 

 

It took the threat of a lawsuit, but a federal agency is no longer killing the Beaver State’s beavers. Environmental groups had challenged the practice in Oregon because, they said, it’s a threat to more than just the state animal.

Beavers just can’t help themselves — they have to build dams from sticks and mud. Those dams can create really good habitat for other species, like imperiled salmon.

“The slow moving waters created by the beavers provide ideal cover and food for endangered fish,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is calling for an investigation into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s misuse of wildfire preparedness funds after news reports revealed Zinke used the funds for unrelated travel.

Researchers had long suspected salmon have lost huge amounts genetic diversity over the years. But they’d never tested the hypothesis.

Now, technology has finally caught up with scientists' questions.

Researchers were able to compare ancient salmon DNA to modern salmon. They collected a wide range of ancient bones to study the fish's DNA. One sample about 7,000 years old -- that's  3,000 years older than the first pyramid. The most recent was about 150 years old.

A federal judge has approved a plan to spill more water through dams in the Columbia River Basin this spring.

It's part of an ongoing lawsuit over how to manage dams to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon ordered dam managers to develop a plan to spill more water on the Columbia and Snake rivers to help fish.

The Port of Vancouver’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to put an end date on a lease with Vancouver Energy, the company behind a controversial project to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the nation.

At the board’s first meeting of the year, commissioners set a deadline of March 31 for Vancouver Energy to have all necessary permits and licenses in place.

If the company fails to get its paperwork in order, the Port will allow its lease with the company to expire, essentially ending the project.

Could Slower Ships Help The Orcas?

Jan 5, 2018

 

This story first appeared at Crosscut.com

To the human eye, big ships cruising along the west side of San Juan Island this summer might have looked like they were traveling in slow motion. To the perceptive ears of killer whales, those same ships might have sounded a little bit quieter.

Oregon Sues Monsanto For PCB Clean-Up Costs

Jan 4, 2018

Oregon is suing the agro-chemical company Monsanto to help clean up toxic chemicals in the environment. The Attorney General’s Office filed suit Thursday in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

The suit is seeking at least $100 million to cover decades of cleanup of a now-banned group of chemicals called PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, which the company manufactured.

Washington’s commissioner of public lands is calling on the state legislature to put a price on carbon to try to curb emissions in the state.

But Hilary Franz differs with Gov. Jay Inslee about how to use the money.

The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Portland City Council did not violate the U.S. Constitution with a 2015 resolution that banned new fossil fuel terminals.

The Trump administration announced a new plan Thursday that would allow offshore oil and gas drilling in the ocean off the West Coast for the first time since 1984.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the plan would open up 90 percent of the country's outer continental shelf to oil and gas leasing, including an area off the coast of Oregon and Washington.

As oil and gas drilling has gotten closer and closer to homes and communities, residents continue to wonder: Is it safe? How does it work? What are the tradeoffs? And, should I be worried?

The public media journalism hub Inside Energy has teamed up with the National Science Foundation-supported team, AirWaterGas, to address these kinds of concerns — along with this single, driving question:

A backlog of outdated air pollution permits is endangering public health and frustrating business owners, according to a newly released audit by the Oregon Secretary of State's Office.

After a mysterious disease killed millions of sea stars up and down the West Coast in recent years, they’ve shown some signs of recovery in pockets of southern California. But, in the Pacific Northwest, they’re still suffering.

About 100 yards down a steep shrubby slope, there’s a low post supporting a green and blue plastic jug. It’s straight out of a psychedelic Tupperware party.

“This is a blue vane trap,” says Sydney Watkins, an Oregon State University field technician.

Watkins can’t see the ultraviolet light reflecting off the funnel-shaped mouth of the trap, but bees can.

“The bees really like the UV, so that's what attracts them,” she says. “We can look inside to see if we got anything.”

She peers through the narrow opening.

How Drones Are Helping Washington's Moose

Dec 22, 2017

Deep in the forests of northeastern Washington, snow blankets the ground. Through the trees, it’s hard to see the moose wandering in the woods.

But from a bird’s eye view? You can see a little brown splotch — with antlers.

Wildlife researchers are ditching the usual (costly, time consuming and invasive) ways they count moose. They’re taking to the sky and taking a new drone for a spin.

A new study from Oregon State University scientists finds that old-growth forests could be an important refuge for songbirds in the face of climate change.

Lead author and ecologist Matt Betts tracked songbird populations in different kinds of forests – including old growth and mature tree plantations.

They’ve been called devil fish. They’re No. 1 on the hit-list for invasive aquatic life in Washington waters.

And they’re creeping farther and farther down the Columbia River system.

So far, northern pike have reached Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir that's impounded behind Grand Coulee Dam.

Oregon Democratic lawmakers unveiled more details Wednesday for their plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the state.

With the February legislative session only two months away, some Democrats are hoping to gather momentum to turn a cap-and-trade proposal into law during the six weeks they are in Salem this winter.

Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, helped draft the policy and said he hopes Oregon could eventually serve as a template for other progressive states to emulate when passing similar carbon-capping proposals.

Portland City Council voted to create a community outreach program to improve communications about the health and safety hazards associated with eating fish from the Portland Harbor Superfund area.

The vote came just one day after the Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement finalizing the next big step in Superfund cleanup.

  

Although it's been decades since the Patterson-Gimlin film turned a Northwest legend, Bigfoot, into a household name, the footage and stories behind it still remain fascinating 50 years later.

The filmmakers, and namesakes of the film, are two former rodeo men from Yakima County in Washington. One, Bob Gimlin, still lives there. Roger Patterson died in 1972. They shot the footage off the banks of Bluff Creek in Northern California.

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