Earthfix | KUOW News and Information

Earthfix

The City of Portland and Port of Portland can proceed with lawsuits against Monsanto, but a judge has dismissed several of the city’s claims over chemical contamination of the city’s waterways.

Portland is one of eight West Coast cities, including Seattle and Spokane, with pending lawsuits against the agrochemical corporation. The suits focus on lasting contamination from polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, a now-banned group of chemicals widely used decades ago, often as coolants or lubricants in electrical equipment.

The Washington Department of Ecology on Monday denied a permit for a proposal to build North America’s largest coal export terminal in Longview, Wash, citing a raft of concerns about impacts to the region’s environment, transportation and culture.

Millennium Bulk Terminals, the last standing of a half dozen proposals to export coal to Asia from terminals built in the Pacific Northwest, needed a water quality from Ecology to move forward with construction.

Orca researchers and conservationists are urging more steps to protect Puget Sound's endangered southern resident killer whales. The push comes in the wake of the death of a 2-year-old male orca known as J52.

The death, which researchers say was caused by malnutrition, brought the population to a 30-year low.

The economic expansion in Asia during the 2010s ramped up that region’s demand for coal. And the energy resource is in abundance in the Powder River Basin that straddles the Montana-Wyoming border.

But how to get it from the Rocky Mountain heartland of North America to factories and power plants in China, Japan, South Korea?

That’s where proposed coal export terminals came in.

Gold And Copper Mining In The Rainy Shadow Of A Volcano

Sep 21, 2017

Mining operations almost always touch off environmental opposition.

So, when there’s talk of an open-pit mine in the shadow of one of America’s most active volcanoes, in a place where heavy rains can slough toxic mine waste into rivers, controversy is bound to tinge the conversation.

A Washington state board has invalidated two key permits for a $1.8 billion methanol project proposed in Kalama, Washington

In denying the permits, Washington’s Shorelines Hearings Board sided with Columbia Riverkeeper, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, three environmental groups that appealed the permits in June.

New details about a proposal to shrink the size and loosen protections for Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument are being greeted with anger and dismay by opponents.

Air pollution can contribute to asthma and heart disease. And it puts children at greater risk of developmental and behavioral problems.

But not everyone is equally likely to be exposed to air pollution.

While regulations and cleaner energy have meant the air’s getting a little cleaner for everyone, a new study by University of Washington researchers shows that, at every income level, people of color are still exposed to more air pollution than white people.

Sarah Dudas doesn’t mind shucking an oyster or a clam in the name of science.

But sit down with her and a plate of oysters on the half-shell or a bucket of steamed Manila clams, and she’ll probably point out a bivalve’s gonads or remark on its fertility.

Don’t expect to take in the stellar views from the top of Angel’s Rest anytime soon.

That's just one of popular hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge that lies inside the perimeter of the Eagle Creek wildfire (see complete list below).

Rachel Pawlitz of the Gorge National Scenic Area says some of the best-known trails in the Gorge – including Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls, Larch Mountain and, of course, Eagle Creek – will be off limits at least until spring.

As the smoke settles, people are asking how to heal the Northwest’s forests. What’s to be done with the blackened trees, spread across hillsides?

One sore spot for people is the Columbia River Gorge.

In an effort to help rehabilitate the land, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., has introduced a bill that would expedite a controversial logging practice in the National Scenic Area: salvage logging.

On a clear day, Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich can see Mount Adams from the vineyard where she works in Hood River. But lately, she’s had difficulty seeing to the end of her property line. 

With the Eagle Creek Fire burning along the Columbia River Gorge, Hood River has been cloaked in heavy smoke for more than a week. 

On Sept. 1, the U.S. Forest Service swore in Tony Tooke to lead the agency charged with managing the nation's 154 national forests and 20 grasslands across 43 different states.

Tooke said there are about 80 large fires (defined as those burning more than 100 acres) burning nationwide. Normally at this time of the year, that number looks more like 20. 

Oregon Republican Congressman Greg Walden introduced a bill to Congress Friday to expedite salvage and reforestation projects in the Columbia River Gorge and other National Scenic Areas after catastrophic events like the Eagle Creek Fire. That blaze, which ignited Sept. 2, is now the nation's top priority wildfire and is burning more than 33,000 acres in the Gorge.

Of all the resources that hang in the balance as firefighters attempt to slow the growth of the Eagle Creek Fire, one stands out: the Bull Run watershed.

It’s 150 square miles of hemlock, fir and cedar trees just south of the Columbia River Gorge. The forest soaks up rain and fills the lakes and reservoirs that provide drinking water for close to 1 million people in Portland, Gresham, Beaverton and Tigard.

It’s September, the month when monarch butterflies are at their peak in the Pacific Northwest.

These are western monarchs, not the eastern monarchs that spend their winters in Mexico. Western monarchs breed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and eight other states and then migrate to their winter home in California.

New research shows these monarchs are disappearing even faster than their eastern cousins. Scientists are trying to figure out why.

Climate Change Is Making Smoky, Unhealthy Air More Common

Sep 7, 2017

On Wednesday, as smoke blotted out the sun across the city of Portland, about a dozen people were hiding out from the smoky heat in the air conditioned Hollywood Senior Center – one of the county's designated cooling centers for those needing relief on the hottest days of the year.

Wearing an electronic air filter around her neck, Jennifer Young, who works at the center, flipped on the larger, high-efficiency particulate  filter she brought from home to purify her work-space air.

He's survived a stabbing, a kidnapping and now a wildfire.

Oh, and he's a fish.

The Eagle Creek Fire has burned more than 30,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge, torching trees and threatening homes.

The view of Oregon's landmark Multnomah Falls was obstructed Wednesday afternoon by a horizontal surge of water. That water, in this case, was coming from Portland and Gresham fire trucks.

There was concern over what the Eagle Creek Fire burning thousands of acres in the Columbia River Gorge could do to one of the state's iconic tourist destinations.

Fire officials said they knew they had to protect Multnomah Falls.

The Chetco Bar Fire is now burning more than 175,000 acres in the mountains near the coastal Oregon town of Brookings. The good news is that a break in the weather fueled by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lidia should give fire crews a chance to catch up.

Southwest Oregon has seen months of high temperatures and little-to-no rain, creating ripe conditions for fire starts. One of the ways fire managers determine how fire-prone an area is, is a measure called the energy release component, or ERC. 

When the Eagle Creek Fire blew up over Labor Day weekend, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said officials used every available resource to fight it.

The fire quickly doubled in size, and evacuation orders soon followed. People forced to leave the Columbia River Gorge city of Cascade Locks questioned the speed of the initial fire response.

Gov. Brown disagreed with the suggestion that firefighters were slow to react to the fast-growing blaze in the Gorge.

"Absolutely not," Brown responded. "We put all the resources we had on the fire, as quickly as possible."

Washington state’s guidelines for fish farms include things like where they should be located and how many fish can be farmed in how much water. These guidelines are more than three decades old: they date back to 1986.

“We know that the old recommendations are out of date,” says Department of Ecology spokesperson Curt Hart.

As flames from the Eagle Creek Fire pushed closer to the Columbia River, Oregon officials had a quick decision to make.

The Fish and Wildlife hatcheries in the fire’s path housed six million fish, mostly chinook and coho salmon and steelhead.

And some of those fish were in trouble.

“Their water source, which at the time was Tanner Creek at Bonneville Hatchery, was literally engulfed in flames. The hatchery intake on the creek got clogged up, and we weren’t able to get water to the fish,” said Ken Loffink, a spokesman for ODFW.

A Portland woman says the young hikers suspected of starting a fire now consuming the Columbia River Gorge giggled as one threw a firecracker into Eagle Creek Canyon.

One suspect has been identified as a 15-year-old male from Vancouver, Washington. Oregon State Police spokesman Bill Fugate said if charged, the suspect could face the same state charges as an adult. Fugate said OSP will release the suspect's name if and when charges are filed. It is believed he and others may have been using fireworks which started the forest fire along the Eagle Creek Trail. 

Advocates are worried that Trump administration policy changes will damage the ability of national parks to deal with climate change.

Studies show climate change could have serious impacts on national parks in the Northwest.

A disease that can be deadly to deer has been found for the first time in Washington. Wildlife managers are asking people to not give deer food or water — in hopes of minimizing the spread of the infection.

Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease — or AHD — is common in other western states. Washington’s first confirmed case was found in a herd east of Goldendale.

The disease is often fatal for fawns. It’s not a risk to people, pets, or livestock — it’s only transmitted from deer-to-deer.

Is That Mask Really Protecting You From The Smoke?

Aug 31, 2017

The persistent haze of smoke from the wildfires burning around the Northwest has led many people to wear face masks to protect their lungs. But health officials say many of those masks aren’t doing what the wearers think they are.

As the days of thick, smoky air drag on, you’re seeing more people wearing those little paper masks you can get at the hardware store. Dr. Jim Shames has seen them, too. But, he says, while those masks may filter out some of the ash that’s floating around people need more protection than that.

Air quality in the Portland metro area was rated by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality as unhealthy Tuesday. Areas near Grants Pass and Medford also had substantial haze from nearby wildfires.

Smoke from large fires burning in southwestern Oregon and northern California is blowing north and blanketing the Willamette Valley. This includes smoke from megafires such as the Chetco Bar Fire — burning over 100,000 acres near Brookings, Oregon — and the Miller Complex of fires.  

It's been a busy August for the Oregon National Guard.

More than 600 guard members have been called up to fight wildfires burning out of control in the state. They've dropped more than 750,000 gallons of water on the fires by helicopter.

Even as the firefighting continues, two small teams with the Oregon Air National Guard's 125th Special Tactics Squadron are being sent on a very different mission: assisting the relief effort in Texas.

Q&A: So Why Are Atlantic Salmon In The Northwest?

Aug 25, 2017

Last weekend, a net pen broke apart near Washington’s Cypress Island. The pen held 305,000 Atlantic salmon, non-native fish.

The company that owns the pen, Cooke Aquaculture, says it is unsure exactly how many Atlantic salmon escaped. It estimates somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 fish. Cooke and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are inventorying fish are still inside the pens.

Pages