Earthfix | KUOW News and Information

Earthfix

Carbon emissions are making the oceans more acidic. That’s long been known to harm shellfish, but new research shows more acidic water could take a toll on salmon, as well.

  Everyone poops. Even climbers on the world’s tallest mountain.

All that human waste has caused a lot of problems for local villagers near Mount Everest’s base camp. But a group of Northwest volunteers thinks they've found a fix.

Right now, Sherpas carry barrels of human excrement down from base camp on the backs of yaks. The barrels used to be dumped into large pits above a glacier that flows into the valley below. After those pits filled up, the waste has been carried to excavated sites alongside water banks.

Burn scars left after major wildfires can look pretty bleak.  But take a couple million steps back and you’ll find those fires aren’t keeping up with the natural filling-in of forest vegetation.

New research out of Oregon State University makes the case that considering the big picture is important to our understanding of fire in our region.

Turning to face the water behind her, Roxanne White recalled her ancestors’ memories of the Columbia River.

“At one point, if you can imagine, they would say you could walk off the backs of the salmon across the river,” said White, a Yakama Nation descendant. “Now they’re so minimal, and they’re sick. Just like our mother earth; just like our water.” 

 Wildlife advocates want Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to reopen an investigation into an elk hunter’s shooting of a wolf in Eastern Oregon, which was initially ruled self-defense.

In the weeks since, potential discrepancies in the evidence and the account from Oregon State Police have been raised by wolf advocates, a prominent wolf biologist and former Fish and Wildlife Service trapper, as well as a former district attorney in Oregon.

The Interior Department is set on changing up an Obama-era plan to protect greater sage grouse. That’s given stakeholders in the high-desert Northwest a lot to reconsider.

For more than 10 years, ranchers, conservationists and government agencies worked on a plan to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list. That hard-fought compromise led to what many hoped would be a new way to protect species on the brink.

It’s a windy, snowy day in early November, and my boots keep slipping on the asphalt-paved Alta Vista trail that leads up away from the visitor center at Mount Rainier’s Paradise.

In the summer, this trail winds through wildflower meadows — but, even so, it’s the least used of any of the trails that start at Paradise. Jim Ziolkowski, my reluctant guide to Alta Vista, says that’s because it’s in such bad repair.

Later this week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown will discuss how the West Coast can push a progressive agenda to curb carbon emissions.

For years, Inslee — who has been called the green governor — has pushed to tax his state’s biggest polluters. But with a Republican-controlled state Senate, the ambitious plan languished.

On Tuesday, Republicans lost their one-vote majority in the Washington state Senate, giving Democrats control of the “great blue wall": full control over the legislatures across the West Coast in Oregon, Washington and California.

Don Orange will be the next Port of Vancouver commissioner. Initial results Tuesday night show Orange won 64.58 percent, beating candidate Kris Greene.

Orange's victory is likely a death knell for a massive oil terminal that's been proposed at the port for years. 

In 2015, University of Washington biologist Elli Theobald and her fellow researchers caught a glimpse of the future.

"The climate conditions in that year happened to mimic what we expect the climate conditions to be in the 2080s under unabated climate change," Theobald says.

Different flower species responded differently to the hot, dry weather. Some flowered a little earlier. Others flowered a lot earlier. Some flowered for a shorter time. And others flowered for a longer time.

Solving The Northwest's Energy Storage Puzzle

Nov 3, 2017

As the Northwest moves toward using more renewable energy like wind and solar, one big issue keeps popping up. What to do when there’s too much power on the grid?

When there's not enough demand to run air-conditioners, heaters, or other appliances, all that clean energy just goes to waste.

But several utilities in Oregon are starting to figure out how to store that extra energy.

Partly in response to a legislative requirement, Portland General Electric Company is proposing to develop several projects.

The beaver may be Oregon's official state animal but that status is not shielding it from being killed by the hundreds by a federal agency. 

The killing could end, though, if two environmental groups prevail with their new lawsuit challenging the practice. They contend that it's harming more than just the state’s marquee mammal.

The Department of the Interior is outlining steps aimed at increasing energy production on federal lands. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says boosting production of resources like oil and gas creates jobs and enhances the nation’s energy security.

Hillsboro, Oregon – At the SolarWorld Americas plant outside Portland, John Clason loads a stack of solar cells into a machine that builds them into panels.

He used to be a cabinet maker, but he switched industries after the 2008 recession.

"The job I had dried up," he said. "So, I looked around and I thought solar panels would be great – the wave of the future, you know?"

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has asked the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to withdraw its application for a water rights transfer with the city of Cascade Locks.

The transfer is a key part of Nestle's plans to build at $50 million water bottling plant in Cascade Locks.

Last year, Hood River County passed a ballot measure banning all commercial water bottling. It was an attempt to block Nestle from moving forward.

It's not a Dumpster fire, but could be something far more serious: A fire may be smoldering under a landfill-turned-Superfund cleanup site in southeastern Washington.

This fire is the second underground hot spot at the Pasco Sanitary Landfill — a 250-acre federal Superfund site. An earlier fire took nearly two years to extinguish.

Can Fugitive Atlantic Salmon Survive In The Wild?

Oct 25, 2017

Atlantic salmon have been entering Pacific waters for decades. Most of them have died of starvation. 

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of colonizing the Northwest.

Backers of a coal export terminal proposed in Southwest Washington are suing state regulators over their denial of a key permit needed to build the project.

Last month, the Washington Department of Ecology denied a water quality permit to the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, saying the development would have too many environmental, transportation and cultural impacts.

Coming To Washington Ski Slopes: Fake Snow

Oct 24, 2017

This winter, skiers and snowboarders will see something new at Crystal Mountain — a robust $5 million snowmaking system designed to fight warmer winters in the Pacific Northwest.

Crystal’s state-of-the-art program features 36 new snow guns on the lower mountain that have the capacity to create up to 53 football fields covered in snow in a 24-hour period.

Is this the new normal for ski areas in the historically snow-rich Cascades?

Washington recyclers are worried they could soon have no place to send your discarded paper and plastics. That’s because China has decided the U.S. is letting food and garbage contaminate too much of its unwanted milk jugs and other recyclables.

China is the biggest buyer of recyclable plastic, paper and metal from the U.S. Starting next year, China will no longer take our recyclables. They say those materials are coming over with food scraps or types of plastic that can’t be recycled.

How Salmon Sex Shapes Landscapes And Watersheds

Oct 20, 2017

It may have taken millions of years, but researchers have found that the way salmon reproduce has shaped our watersheds and landscapes.

When salmon spawn, the female digs a big hole in the stream bed. She then swishes around — that movement can send fairly large pieces of gravel downstream.

These tiny movements can add up to big changes.

Flash Flood Watch In Effect For Chetco Bar Fire Area

Oct 18, 2017

A flash flood watch is in effect Thursday for the Chetco Bar Fire area, 16 miles west of Selma, Oregon.

Damaged soil, loosened vegetation and heavy rain in the forecast has increased the risk of landslides in recently burned areas ­— a threat that can last months and even years after a fire has burned out.

With less than three weeks before the November election, the two candidates for Vancouver Port Commissioner District 1 are getting big checks.

This week Kris Greene accepted $140,000 from Tesoro Savage. The oil companies are behind an effort to build the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal at the port.

The Pacific Northwest was once a coal mining powerhouse.

In the late 1800s, The area around Oregon’s Coos Bay had over 70 coal mines. Later, Washington’s biggest coal mine in Centralia supplied the Bonneville Power Administration with electricity.

The race for a Port of Vancouver commissioner seat has become highly personal in recent days, leading candidate Kris Greene to seek legal protection.

On Friday, Greene served a temporary protection order from harassment against his former campaign strategist and volunteer Robert Sabo.

Oregon regulators have received more than a dozen requests from companies that want to throw recyclable materials into landfills, and they're expecting more as China cracks down on waste imports from the U.S.

Oregonians love to recycle, so it makes sense that we're still putting paper and plastic into our recycling bins week after week.

A bill sponsored by several U.S. House members from the Northwest aims to overturn two recent court decisions on Columbia and Snake river dams.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon rejected the federal plan for managing dams to protect salmon in the Columbia River Basin.

Washington’s cannabis is a bit more potent than the national average. And the state’s teens are more likely to smoke marijuana than young people nationwide.

Although we have the same problems with marijuana as we do with liquor abuse, no blockbuster conclusions came from a recent report on Washington’s marijuana universe.

Big money is pouring into the Port of Vancouver commissioner race from backers of a proposed oil terminal.

On Monday, state election filings showed Vancouver Energy has put an additional $150,000 into the race. It’s the largest single contribution made to any candidate running for office in the state of Washington this cycle. 

Apparently, we haven’t been doing a very good job of sorting our trash from our recycling — and the Chinese government has noticed.

China doesn't want loads of our paper and plastic waste that often have contaminants like dirty diapers inside.

So, the government is cracking down on the shipment of recyclable material from the U.S. By the end of the year, much of the mixed plastic and paper in our recycling bins will be banned from China.

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