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.

Gray whale sightings are up on the Oregon and Washington coast in recent weeks.

Counts at Oregon’s Whale Watching Center at Depoe Bay have been between five and 10 per day, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, although many more pass the along the coast undetected.

Park ranger Luke Parsons says the actual number of whales passing by on their way from Baja to feeding grounds in the Arctic is relatively typical for this time of year.

Congress appears to be ending a long impasse over how to attack the West's growing wildfire problem.

Negotiators say they've reached a deal to offload the costs of the most catastrophic fire seasons onto the nation's disaster relief budget.

Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., hailed the deal, calling it "an important step forward" in grappling with wildfire and forest health. He issued a statement just as Congress released the text of the omnibus spending bill that includes the wildfire and forest management provisions.

Federal officials hit a milestone Tuesday for a new program designed to stabilize and grow the populations of two endangered species of sucker fish in the Klamath Basin.

At a calm cove on Upper Klamath Lake, Alan Mikkelsen, senior advisor to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, ceremonially released the first small group of suckers from a new rearing program.

"We got a lake full of food, little guy," he told them.

Mikkelsen upturned a net with three fish and watched the 8-inch juveniles disappear into the murky water.

First responders say they continue to deploy law enforcement and search and rescue teams to rescue hikers entering closed-off areas of the Columbia River Gorge that were damaged in the Eagle Creek Fire.

The U.S. Forest Service says responders continue to be placed at great risk rescuing hikers who ignore barricades and signage in burn-affected areas still at risk of landslides, rockfall and falling trees.

Canadian oil has found a new route to Asia: It’s moving by rail through Washington to a shipping terminal in Portland.

In the long run, Canada wants to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline to move oil from the Alberta tar sands west to British Columbia — and from there onto ships that would travel through the Salish Sea and then onto Asia.

But that expansion has yet to begin. And oil producers have instead begun shipping that oil by rail to Portland and loading it onto vessels for export.

Ocean conditions off the Pacific Northwest seem to be returning to normal after a three-year spike in water temperature.

It’s promising long-term news for fishermen who are looking ahead in the short term to yet another year of low salmon returns.

In Klamath Falls Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order declaring a drought emergency in Klamath County. This is the 11th time a governor has declared drought in the Klamath Basin in the past 16 years.

The governor signed the order, which makes available various types of state assistance to help water users. Brown met with local officials, as well as representatives of the stakeholders who’ve been fighting over the region’s scarce water for years.

Ali Amhaz left Las Vegas on his black Honda motorcycle and rode for Utah. He wanted his $28,000 back.

A month earlier he’d signed up with Legend Solar to put some panels on the roof of his house.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a Washington lawmaker that his proposal for offshore oil and gas drilling will reflect the "interests of Washington."

"You should know off the coast of Oregon, Washington, most of California, there are no known resources of any weight," Zinke told Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday.

Environmental groups are petitioning the federal government to add an Oregon salamander to the federal endangered species list. They say plans to boost logging on federal land are a major concern.

The Siskiyou Mountains salamander lives only in its namesake mountains straddling the Oregon-California border. It lives in damp mossy areas of old growth forest

While the orcas of Puget Sound are sliding toward extinction, orcas farther north have been expanding their numbers. Their burgeoning hunger for big fish may be causing the killer whales' main prey, Chinook salmon, to shrink up and down the West Coast.

Chinook salmon are also known as kings: the biggest of all salmon. They used to grow so enormous that it's hard to believe the old photos now. Fishermen stand next to Chinooks almost as tall as they are, sometimes weighing 100 pounds or more.

Southern Oregon Salmon Fishery May Open Again

Mar 9, 2018

Salmon forecasts are now out, and the organization that sets catch limits for the Pacific Northwest will soon decide what kind of commercial and recreational fishing season is ahead.

Salmon forecasts for the north region are low, but farther south, things are looking somewhat more positive.

Pacific Northwest salmon runs have been hurting the past few year. So much so that the ocean fishery off of Southern Oregon and Northern California was closed in 2017.

Shavon Haynes tromps into a small, quiet clearing in the woods on Mount Ashland. He drops a black pack into the knee-deep snow. He pulls out a snow sampler, two lengths of worn metal pipe and screws them together.

“I've dubbed it Excalibur, because when it's put together it looks like a large sword. And Excalibur is the only sword I really know the name of,” he says.

Haynes works as the Jackson County Watermaster. He plunges Excalibur into a fresh patch of snow, calling out a measurement to his colleague Ben Thorpe.

Supporters of Oregon’s cap and trade bill say their plan isn’t dead yet – even though lawmakers failed to pass it this session.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, have a plan to revive the controversial bill, which aims to reduce the state's contributions to climate change.

Oysters are a cornerstone of Pacific Northwest cuisine. But there was a time when our region’s oysters were in trouble, all but obliterated by over-harvesting and pollution.

Then a Japanese immigrant helped turn things around.

His name was Masahide Yamashita, and he came to Seattle from Japan in 1902.

“He was only 19 years old,” said Patrick Yamashita, Masahide's grandson. “And I think he came here in part because he didn’t want to get drafted into the army in Japan.”

An environmental group is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase protections for a small ground-nesting bird called the streaked horned lark.

The lark once ranged from the grasslands of Southern Oregon north into Canada, but now can only be found in the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound region. It was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2013.

While the orcas of Puget Sound are sliding toward extinction, orcas farther north have been expanding their numbers. Their burgeoning hunger for big fish may be causing the killer whales’ main prey, chinook salmon, to shrink up and down the West Coast.

Chinook salmon are also known as kings: the biggest of all salmon. They used to grow so enormous that it’s hard to believe the old photos now. Fishermen stand next to chinooks almost as tall as they are, sometimes weighing 100 pounds or more.

Lani Estill's family ranches on thousands of acres in Modoc County on the border of Nevada and California. Her operation, Bare Ranch, sits in a place called Surprise Valley. It's a beautiful, almost forgotten place "Where the West still lives" — that's the county's motto.

"We have things going on here that you just don't see going on everywhere in the nation," Estill says. "Cattle are still gathered on horseback. We have cattle drives down the main country road."

It’s been nearly a month since a barrage of hikers overwhelmed the Mount St. Helens online permit system. But starting Monday, those hoping to nab a coveted climbing permit have a second chance.

When permit sales first opened on Feb. 1, it took just 20 minutes for the Mount St. Helens Institute server to malfunction. That’s because nearly 15,000 people — more than three times as many as last year — overloaded the system. 

An industrial mining explosives manufacturing company pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court Friday for failing to notify authorities of the release of 13,000 pounds (6.6 tons) of ammonia into the air at its St. Helens plant.

UPDATE (Feb. 22, 2:31 p.m.

Over the next century, sea level rise is expected to wreak havoc on the U.S. coastlines – and a new analysis shows that the Northwest is not immune. Nearly all coastal wetlands in Oregon, Washington and California will be swamped at the highest predicted sea level change.

Sea level rise is a byproduct of climate change. It happens as the world’s oceans warm and physically expand.  Melting glaciers and ice sheets are also contributing.

New research from the U.S. Geological Survey gives the first ever insight to how specific bays, marshes and harbors will fare.

Oregon wildlife managers are trapping sea lions at Willamette Falls and trucking them out to the coast in an effort to protect a very fragile run of steelhead.

Biologists estimate the sea lions at Willamette Falls are eating at least a quarter of the winter steelhead run. At that rate, they say, there’s about a 90 percent chance at least one population of the fish will go extinct.

New Timeline Proposed For Oregon’s Cap And Trade Bill

Feb 20, 2018

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek is proposing an amendment to a controversial cap and trade bill that would allow the Legislature to delay voting on key details until next year.

The amendment, developed in coordination with co-sponsors of the bill, would allow the lawmakers to vote on the “cap” for greenhouse gas emissions this session while delaying a vote on the “trade” portion of the bill until next year.

The Pacific Northwest once held a magnetic pull on fur trappers. It started with the beaver-hat craze and continued with all sorts of  animals that could be exploited for their pelts.

Of course, the fur-trapping trade has all but vanished from Washington and Oregon. But even today, there are still people out in the woods, trying to track down a sleek, furry creature called a fisher.

UPDATE (Sunday, Feb. 19, 2018 at 6:30 a.m. PST) — Just when you thought winter was heading for an early retirement this year, Mother Nature is reminding Oregon it's still February. 

A cold front moved southward through the Willamette Valley Sunday, dropping 9 inches in Boring and as much as 3 inches in Portland's Southwest Hills.

The snow may be over, but the cold is still here.

Oral arguments in a federal lawsuit filed against 30 private companies and government entities for cleanup costs associated with pollution at the Portland Harbor Superfund site are expected to start in April.

The lawsuit, filed in January 2017, asks for a reimbursement of $283,471 in cleanup response costs incurred by the Washington-based tribe as of Sept. 30, 2016. Defendants include Calbag Metals Co., ExxonMobil Corp., Union Pacific Railroad Co., the Port of Portland and the city of Portland.

Rep. Joan McBride worries about what she's helping her children put in their bodies whenever she takes them to get a hamburger and fries.

And it's not the fatty meat or processed carbs that has her so concerned.

"Potentially those little pieces of paper wrapping up the hamburger had chemicals that potentially migrate into our bodies," said McBride, a lawmaker whose Washington House district includes the city of Kirkland.

The Washington House has voted to phase out farming of non-native fish in state waters, drawing the end of Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound one step closer.

The move comes one week after a similar vote by the state Senate.

Both bills let existing salmon farms keep operating only until their current leases run out, in the next four to seven years.

The House vote also comes six months after a poorly maintained fish farm collapsed near Anacortes, letting an estimated 250,000 Atlantic salmon escape into Puget Sound.

Scientists in the Northwest have detected a species of shrimp much farther north than it’s ever been found before.  Researchers at Oregon State University haven’t actually seen the snapping shrimp, instead, they heard them off the Oregon Coast.

Oregon State University scientist Joe Haxel recorded hours of underwater sound, tracking whales and boat noise.

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