Earthfix | KUOW News and Information


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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Early this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said no to a massive oil-by-rail terminal proposed in Vancouver, Washington.

The $210 million Vancouver Energy project, a joint venture from Tesoro and Savage, would have brought up to 360,000 gallons of crude oil a day on trains traveling along the Columbia River. The proposal would have been the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country.

Polluted Stormwater Damages Fish's Ability to Survive

Feb 13, 2018

Each time it rained during an eight-week period in the winter of 2015, someone from Jenifer McIntyre’s team drove up to Seattle and collected stormwater near the Highway 520 bridge across Lake Washington.

It was a rainy stretch, so that meant 25 trips.

After each trip, McIntyre says, "we would bring the dirty runoff to the fish" — the larval fish the team was rearing in Indianola on the eastern side of Puget Sound  — "and expose them to that for 24 or 48 hours."

The Interior Department plans to expand energy development on public lands and offshore to pay for the National Park Service's maintenance backlog.

In the Pacific Northwest, the needs range from washed-out roads and trails at Mount Rainier National Park to repairing bridges and parking lots at the Olympic National Park.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the parks’ maintenance backlog is $11.7 billion. The entire Interior Department’s backlog is $16 billion.

The Forest Service has given its consent for exploratory mining on public land near Mount St. Helens.  

The Canadian mining company Ascot USA wants to take 63 rock-core samples in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which involves creating 2-3 inch boreholes down into the earth. The company is testing for valuable mineral deposits – including copper and gold.

It’s 8 o'clock on a rainy, windy Saturday morning, and John Hoac and Brandon Teeny just got to school —  Cleveland High in south Seattle. They’re here to measure air and noise pollution on campus.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced plans to reopen the West Coast to offshore oil and gas leasing.

It’s a dramatic reversal of Obama-era policies that blocked offshore drilling, and it’s drawn fierce opposition from all three West Coast governors.

Ash Grove Cement Company is shown on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

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.

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.  

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 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.

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.


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.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s attempt to lower the Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions has suffered a setback:  A judge's ruling that the state can't implement parts of his signature Clean Air Rule.

The ruling, issued last Friday, strikes down the Washington Department of Ecology’s plans to curb greenhouse gases from imported petroleum and natural gas products. Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon said the state needs the Legislature to pass a law okaying that part of the rule.

State and Portland city officials have agreed on a compliance schedule that outlines how the city plans to build and construct a water filtration plant in the Bull Run Watershed that will treat water for the parasite cryptosporidium.

The agreement marks the official end of a variance that made Portland the only city in the country that didn't have to treat its water for the parasite. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized the next big step in cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund site: inking an agreement for how pollution levels will be tested.