Earthfix | KUOW News and Information

Earthfix

In a tiny island laboratory in the Northwesternmost corner of Washington, one marine biologist is on a mission: scan every known fish species in the world.

It’s a painstaking and smelly task, but one that promises to fundamentally change the way scientists and educators look at marine anatomy.

President Obama on Thursday announced an anticipated expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon.

The monument is currently about 65,000 acres in Jackson County, east of Ashland. The expansion adds 48,000 acres to the monument.

The president issued a statement announcing the expansion, saying his administration has tried "to protect the most important public lands for the benefit of future generations."

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that two proposed fossil fuel terminal projects in Grays Harbor cannot go forward without further environmental review.

The court Thursday sided with the Quinault Indian tribe and four environmental groups in overturning a 2015 appeals court decision that the two projects were not subject to review under the state’s Ocean Resources Management Act.

Clam shells and pebbles crunch underfoot on the shore of the Lummi Nation’s Portage Bay in northwest Washington. At the lowest tides, Lummi fishermen can walk out to harvest clams.

“Usually, it’s during the nighttime,” says 25-year-old Lummi tribal fisherman Lonnie James Jr, who’s been digging clams since he was six. “We go out there with headlights and a rake and a bag and have to dress warm and inch down in the ground, flip flop it over,” he explains. “You’re bent over for five or six hours.”

Union Pacific Railroad is suing Oregon's Wasco County and Columbia River Gorge commissioners in an effort to push through a proposed track expansion.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, the company asked a federal court to preempt a Wasco County ordinance that is blocking the company from expanding its track through the Columbia River Gorge.

It was a historic evening for Portland and surrounding areas Tuesday night as record snowfall led to one of the snowiest days ever recorded at the Portland International Airport.

By 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service said it recorded 6.5 inches at their offices near the airport.

“That makes this the ninth snowiest calendar day at PDX since 1940,” said Colby Neuman, a meteorologist with the NWS in Portland. The agency also described it as the snowiest day in the Portland and Vancouver area since Jan. 20, 2008.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit over dams in the Columbia River Basin are asking the court to order federal agencies to spill more water over the dams this spring to help threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead

Conservation groups together with the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe filed a motion in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Todd True, an EarthJustice attorney representing the conservation groups, said new science shows spilling more water over the dams in the spring will improve the survival rate of imperiled fish by helping them reach the ocean.

The Navy is scraping the hull of a decommissioned aircraft carrier docked at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard just outside of Bremerton. The goal is to prevent potentially invasive species from traveling with the ship when it’s towed to Texas to be dismantled.

Predicting Toxic Algae Blooms Just Got Easier

Jan 9, 2017

Scientists at Oregon State University have figured out a way to predict outbreaks of a dangerous neurotoxin called domoic acid in the Pacific Ocean. The toxin is produced during algae blooms and can make crab and shellfish unsafe to eat.

A few years back, Oregon State University researcher Morgaine McKibben noticed that the ocean off Oregon had warmed considerably. It was part of a natural climate cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is raising the price of cleaning up the Portland Harbor Superfund Site from $746 million to $1.05 billion in a final plan that calls for more dredging and capping of contaminated soil along a 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River.

West Coast lawmakers are seeking a permanent ban on offshore drilling along the coast of Washington, Oregon and California. Democrat-sponsored bills have been introduced into both the Senate and House of Representatives.

There have been no oil and gas lease sales off the West Coast since 1984. But as the Trump administration prepares to take office, concerns are growing that could change.

A northwest Washington tribe's shellfish beds are a step closer to getting cleaned up after years of contamination.

On Thursday, the Lummi Nation signed an agreement with dairy farmers to keep cow manure out of streams that drain into Portage Bay, where the tribe's shellfish operations have been closed because of contamination by fecal coliform. Over the past two years, Lummi clam diggers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Port of Portland is suing agriculture giant Monsanto Corp. for widespread PCB contamination on port property, the Port announced Thursday.

The lawsuit doesn’t state a dollar amount, but wants the company to pay for its portion of the clean up in the Columbia and Willamette rivers.

“The damages for the Port of Portland range anywhere between tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars in total PCB clean-up costs,” said John Fiske, a California-based attorney representing the Port of Portland.

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark announced Tuesday he will deny a sublease request for the coal export project proposed in Longview and expand an aquatic reserve at Cherry Point in Puget Sound where another coal terminal was proposed.

Goldmark, who is leaving his post this month when his term expires, says he doesn’t have a position on coal exports.

Coal Train Derails Near Vancouver, Washington

Dec 28, 2016

A single Burlington Northern Santa Fe train car carrying coal derailed early Wednesday about 5 miles east of Vancouver, Washington.

The train was traveling from Montana to British Columbia, Canada.

Gus Melonas, a spokesperson with BNSF, said the railroad has a team on site that's investigating the cause of the derailment, but so far it has ruled out track failure.

Marijuana growers use a lot of pesticides — especially when these mildew- and mite-sensitive plants are grown indoors.

But a growing number of farmers and shops are trying to give their customers a satisfying cannabis high without the downer of pesticide-related environmental or health risks.

Johnny Vanella is among them. At the JV Ranch outside Goldendale, Washington, he harvested his first organically grown cannabis crop this fall.

The Federal Railroad Administration is requiring Union Pacific railroad to increase its inspections and the quality of its track maintenance.

The agreement announced Friday comes in response to a fiery oil train derailment in June in the Columbia River Gorge.

Under the agreement, Union Pacific will need to increase track inspections to twice per week.

A judge has cleared the way for eight Seattle-area youths to move ahead with an expanded lawsuit that contends Washington has failed to take action on climate change.

The Washington suit is one of several brought against states by children who say they're not doing enough to protect them from climate change. A U.S. District Court judge in Eugene, Oregon, ruled last month that a group of Oregon youths can move ahead with a similar case against the federal government.

Climbers and hikers in the Pacific Northwest have seen first-hand how our glaciers have been shrinking in recent decades. But, until now, scientists couldn’t prove those changes were due to climate change.

Scientists have long known that, globally, glaciers are shrinking because of climate change. But looking at individual glaciers is a different matter, says Gerard Roe, a professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington.

OPB looks back at the stories that defined 2016 in Oregon, Southwest Washington and the United States.

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February this year, Republicans in Washington, D.C., promptly announced they would not vote on any candidate to fill the vacancy until after the election. Meanwhile, Democrats urged those across the aisle to meet with Merrick Garland, outgoing President Barack Obama’s nominee for the bench.

Winter Storms Give Oregon Snowpack An Early Boost

Dec 20, 2016

Across Oregon and much of Washington, the snowpack is above normal.

Julie Koeberle, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said the string of winter storms across the Northwest in recent weeks is benefiting the region’s snowpack.

“Year’s past, we’ve had a little bit of a slow start to the snow season. And so, this year we’ve had an early start and it’s benefited the ski areas," Koeberle said. "It’s been great for recreation."

Judge Halts Logging On State Forest In Oregon

Dec 20, 2016

A federal judge in Eugene has ordered a pair of Oregon timber companies not to log on a former section of state forest near the south coast.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken told Scott Timber Company and Roseburg Forest Products to halt further work on a parcel called Benson Ridge in the Elliott State Forest.

Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered a sound coming from one of the deepest spots in the ocean. They believe it’s the song of a Minke whale, but it’s not like any they’ve identified before.

The so-called “Western Pacific Biotwang” is more horror movie than Nashville ballad. A low moan at the beginning is typical of baleen whales, but it was the end that caught the ear of OSU researcher Sharon Nieukirk.

“What makes this call special is the second part, and the way it sweeps way up and it sort of has that metallic twang sound to it,” she said.

An underwater volcano, some 300 miles off the Oregon Coast, is providing clues about how to better understand — and predict — eruptions.

The seamount erupted in 1998, 2011 and 2015.

Researchers from Oregon State University, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, and the University of North Carolina found that after each eruption, the seafloor dropped by about eight feet and then gradually rose back up again over several years.

Biologist Adrian Wolf searches the ground for something camouflaged in the dry prairie grass. Then he spots it: a baby streaked horned lark.

Wolf’s hands tremble as he puts a tiny silver identification band on its leg.

“I have an endangered species little life in my hand,” he says, and then places the bird back in its nest.

Only about 2,000 streaked horned larks are left on the planet. Wolf is trying to prevent the native Northwest songbirds from going extinct. But that’s not an easy task considering the dangers nearby.

California Gov. Jerry Brown wants President Barack Obama to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling in his state. Brown says in a letter sent Tuesday to the president that allowing new drilling would be inconsistent with goals of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and combating climate change.

At an even launching the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, a new organization to protect oceans, Brown said he plans to ask Oregon and Washington to help him convince the current Administration to act.

The Waste That Remains From Arming Nuclear Weapons

Dec 10, 2016

Hanford is the nation’s largest nuclear cleanup site, with 56 million gallons of radioactive waste sitting in old, leaky underground tanks just a few hours upriver from Portland. After more than 20 years and $19 billion dollars, not a drop of waste has been treated.

WATCH: Battle Ready - The Digital Documentary

Choice Of Scott Pruitt To Run EPA Frustrates Some Oregonians

Dec 9, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has ruffled some feathers in Oregon.

He’s sued the EPA for everything from the Clean Power Plan to the Clean Water Act.

But Pruitt’s assertion that it was states, and not the EPA, that were intended to be the nation's foremost environmental regulators, has antagonized Frank Potter.

He’s now retired and living in Portland. But Potter worked for Congress in the 1970s and helped draft the National Environmental Policy Act.

Eastern Washington lawmaker Cathy McMorris Rodgers is emerging as President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead natural resources policy as interior secretary.

Several news organizations, including the Associated Press and The New York Times reported this development Friday, based on information from unnamed sources.

Such an appointment would ensure that a Washington state resident remains at the helm of the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

An environmental group filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Washington state of failing to control water pollution along the coast and Puget Sound.

Portland-based Northwest Environmental Advocates is asking a U.S. district court to force two federal agencies – the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – to cut funding to the state as a form of punishment.

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