Earthfix | KUOW News and Information

Earthfix

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.

Four Washington landowners in the Moses Lake area are facing stiff penalties after illegally pumping more than 500 million gallons of water from a declining aquifer.

That illegally pumped water could have provided water to more than 4,000 homes for a year.

The Odessa aquifer in central Washington has been rapidly losing water since 1980. But that didn’t stop the four  landowners from illegally using the water to irrigate their alfalfa, timothy hay and potatoes last season.

The Trump administration is suspending efforts to bolster the grizzly bear population in Washington's North Cascades. That would leave this part of the mountain range with fewer than ten of the imperiled bears.

Two activists were acquitted of felony charges Thursday for protesting a liquefied natural gas plant currently under construction at the Port of Tacoma.

Marilyn Kimmerling, Cynthia Linet, and three other protesters linked themselves together last May to block construction crews from working on the future plant site.

Washington adopted new federal rules Wednesday that establish protections for farmworkers working with and around pesticides.

They bringing state regulations in line with new federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

The state has been trying to navigate ambiguity around the status of the EPA rules. Hector Castro of the Washington Department of Agriculture says they acted after learning the federal regulations would take effect next month.

A band of raccoons scamper over a downed tree. A coyote sneaks a drink from a mossy pool. The black and white photos that flash across Professor Mark Jordan’s computer screen look like they could have been shot out on the Olympic Peninsula or maybe at a remote spot in the Cascades — until a curious house cat sneaks out of the underbrush.

This is the final part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read part 1 here.

Inside a chilly warehouse on the north end of Vancouver Island, eight giant tanks are lit with swimming pool lights. These are fish tanks — some of the biggest fish tanks around. Every so often the glistening back of a fish surfaces.

This is the first part in a series on the future of fish farming in the Pacific Northwest. Read the second part here.

The Hope Island Fish Farm floats in the middle of Puget Sound, about a 15-minute boat ride from Whidbey Island’s Deception Pass. Narrow metal walkways surround giant nets anchored to the bottom of the sound. Those nets hold thousands of Atlantic salmon--though it’s difficult to see them till they jump.

UPDATED (Wednesday, Nov. 29, 8:55 a.m.): Washington state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council voted unanimously Tuesday to turn down a controversial oil terminal planned for Vancouver, Washington.

The council’s decision to not recommend the project is another major blow against the massive oil-by-rail facility proposed by Vancouver Energy.

It’s also one of the last steps in a years-long permitting process to develop the oil terminal. The ultimate decision on whether the project goes forward will be up to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

Autumn rains have washed away the smoke of the summer wildfires. But Congress remains embroiled in a high-stakes environmental debate over how to reduce the growing threat of catastrophic blazes in Western forests and rangelands.

Lawmakers are under more pressure to act after a wildfire season that was particularly harrowing. Nearly 9 million acres – an area about the size of New Jersey and Connecticut combined – burned. Intense smoke hit many of the West’s major cities, including Denver, the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland.

The long hunt finally paid off on the night of Aug. 6 for two employees of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. They’d spent a combined 85 hours and driven 752 miles in pursuit of the Harl Butte wolf pack in the northeast corner of the state.

They had already come close, spotting wolves twice but never firing a shot.

But finally, on a Saturday evening, they killed a young male. Two days later, an Oregon Fish and Wildlife employee fired a kill shot from a helicopter while patrolling the rolling forests and pastures. This time it was a young female.

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