Earthfix | KUOW News and Information

Earthfix

New Plan Aims To Recover Threatened Snake River Salmon

Oct 27, 2016

Northwest dam operations are getting a closer look from federal officials charged with ensuring the survival of imperiled fish that migrate hundreds of miles up the Columbia and Snake rivers to their native Idaho streams

United States commercial fisheries are doing fine overall, but fishermen on the West Coast are hurting. A 2015 annual report out Wednesday from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a stark fall-off in the big seafood money-makers in the Pacific Northwest.

Nationally, 2015 was an above average year in terms of catch rate, commercial value and national seafood consumption.

Chris Maletis is driving his SUV along Highway 551 between Aurora and Wilsonville at the southern end of Clackamas County. It takes a few minutes to drive around the 385 acres Maletis owns here with his brother Tom.

“We’re coming right up on the airport, which employs hundreds of people,” said Maletis, who contends this area is urban in nature.

The property includes the Langdon Farms Golf Club. But Maletis sees his land as helping address the region's — and especially Clackamas County's — shortfall of industrial property.

Taking Down Snake River Dams: It's Back On The Table

Oct 21, 2016

Starting Monday people will get a chance to weigh-in on a controversial question: Should four dams come down on the lower Snake River? They’re facing renewed scrutiny because of a court-ordered analysis on how the dams are harming salmon.

Last May, a federal judge — for the fifth time — rejected the government’s plan for protecting threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River system. He said agencies must take a new look at all approaches to managing the dams — including breaching those on the lower Snake River in southeast Washington.

Last winter was the first time the Dungeness crab fishery in Oregon closed temporarily because of toxic algae in the ocean. And even just a week ago, another toxic bloom was happening off the coast.

Scientists are just beginning to understand what triggers these conditions. A study this month from Oregon State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides a rare peak below the waves.

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe has stepped up its opposition to a proposed coal terminal in Longview, Washington, saying state and federal officials have underestimated the environmental risks of the project and ignored the tribe’s requests for consultation.

Cowlitz Chairman Bill Iyall, on a call with reporters Friday, said plans to export 44 million metric tons of coal through a terminal in Longview threaten the tribe’s culture and homeland.

“Since time immemorial we’ve relied on the once bountiful resources for survival,” Iyall said.

Opponents of a methanol plant proposed in Kalama, Washington, are challenging the environmental review of the project.

The Chinese-backed facility would convert natural gas to methanol, which would then be shipped overseas to be made into plastic. If it's built as proposed on the lower Columbia River, it will be the world's largest gas-to-methanol plant.

Hanford Workers' Skin Exposed To Radioactive Waste

Oct 19, 2016

At least 10 Hanford workers were exposed to radioactive waste Tuesday at the nuclear cleanup site’s tank farm in southeast Washington.

Workers were removing a connection line that’s used to transfer radioactive waste between tanks when the contamination was detected. A test found radioactive waste on the workers’ skin and clothing. The contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, says the contamination was low.

Tom Carpenter, who heads the worker advocacy group, Hanford Challenge, disputed that characterization.

Imagine a stretch of water so dangerous even huge ships can’t cross it safely. A place sailors call the “graveyard,” where hundreds of boats have sunk and thousands of people have drowned.

Now imagine this place is crucial to the global economy, and like it or not, shipping vessels must enter it every day to keep things moving and avoid economic collapse.  

Such a place exists in the Pacific Northwest. The Columbia River Bar, located at the intersection of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, is considered one of the most dangerous stretches of water in the world.

Gov. Kate Brown is promising “sweeping change” from the new state air pollution rule-making process now underway.

Advocates for a healthier Puget Sound have long contended that it needs to be treated as a nationally significant water body, just like the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

Such recognition, they say, will attract more money and attention for improving the Sound’s environmental health.

Larry Schwitters is putting a lot of hope into a five-gallon bucket of bird poop.

It’s one of the ways he plans to lure thousands of Vaux's swifts into his homemade version of the chimneys these birds use as a nightly roost.

"The idea is we throw it in the chimney and it has an odor supposedly the swifts can smell," he said. "If they fly over it and take a sniff, they’ll think, ‘Hey, swifts have used this before. This is a good one. You can smell it.’”

Back in the 1970s, Gens Johnson got really interested in handmade and regional art. She started buying pieces from shops in Portland and across the Northwest.

“I bought two pieces that were scrimshaw, and they were done on whale ivory and walrus tusk,” she said.

Scrimshaw is a kind of carving – typically of boats and sea life. It was popularized by whalers in the 1800s.

“I was concerned when I bought it that it wasn’t elephant ivory, and I really didn’t think there was any problem with it being a sea mammal product,” Johnson said.

The government and a conservation group both are offering reward money for help find whoever killed a federally protected gray wolf in South-Central Oregon.

The wolf, a radio-collared 3-year-old female known as OR-28, was found dead on Oct. 6 in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

It’s a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act to kill a gray wolf, which is listed as endangered in the western two-thirds of Oregon. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon State Police are investigating.

Tornado Touches Down In Manzanita

Oct 14, 2016

A tornado hit Manzanita, Oregon, at about 8:20 a.m. Friday.

“We could see on radar that it looked like probably a waterspout over the ocean, and that continued as it came on shore," Andy Bryant of the National Weather Service said.

"We did issue a tornado warning for that. And then just within 5 to 10 minutes we saw a report, I believe via Twitter, that there was possible tornado damage in Manzanita.”

Tillamook County Sheriff Andy Long says there has been some structural damage and one person reported windows being blown out.

A new audit finds that Klamath irrigators should not have received millions of dollars in taxpayer money. The money was used to pay farmers not to use scarce water supplies from streams and rivers in the Klamath Basin straddling Oregon and California.

After nearly 50 years on the endangered species list, Columbian White-Tailed deer are moving up in the world.

Their numbers along the Columbia River have more than doubled since the species was listed in 1967. On Thursday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is upgrading their status from "endangered" to "threatened."

Officials are celebrating the occasion in Ridgefield, Washington, where the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge has played a key role in the deer's recovery.

There's about one month remaining to submit proposals to buy Oregon's Elliott State Forest.

The Oregon Department of State Lands says so far, no one has expressed interest in the 82,000 acre property in southwest Oregon.

The state values the land at $220 million and says whoever buys it would have to maintain public access on at least 50 percent of the site. The new owner would also have to preserve part of it for old-growth timber and protect fish habitat.

But some conservation groups say those guidelines will be hard to enforce if private investors buy the land.

Protesters -- all from the Pacific Northwest -- were arrested Tuesday at all five sites across the northern U.S. where pipelines deliver oil from Canada’s oil sands to American refineries.

The pipelines cross the U.S.-Canadian border in Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and Washington state.

MercyCorps Helping Haiti Recover From Hurricane Matthew

Oct 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew has carved a trail of devastation across southern Haiti, killing more than 800 people. Oregon-based MercyCorps is there.

Speaking from her office in Port-au-Prince, MercyCorps Haitian director Jessica Pearl says farmers were badly hit by the storm.

“The banana trees have just been broken in half essentially," she said. Pearl says soil has washed away and the crops aren't able to be recovered.

The company behind the oil-by-rail terminal proposed for the Port of Vancouver announced new safety measures Friday. It hopes they will quell fears about the project.

Oil company Tesoro says it wants to prove to the community and regulators that it takes safety concerns seriously.

Federal land managers have made little progress in recovering damaged rangelands across the West or clearing the many backlogged acres that have never been studied for ecological health, according to new figures from the Bureau of Land Management.

The new data show the BLM assessed an average of 3.5 million acres per year between 2013 and 2015. At that rate, it would take about 17 years before the agency could finish grading all of its rangeland. It started the process in 1998.

Oregon Health Authority Offers Free Soil Tests

Oct 5, 2016

The Oregon Health Authority is offering free soil screenings at a public meeting in Portland next week.

The event comes after concerns about toxic metals in the air.

Whether you’re growing a lettuce in a window box or your whole yard’s been turned over to vegetables, health officials say it's good to know what's in the soil.

OHA spokeswoman Julie Sifuentes said people can bring soil samples from anywhere in their yard.

Swan Lake Valley is a patchwork of farm fields and grazing land about 20 minutes from Klamath Falls. The slopes of the surrounding juniper-scattered hills rise sharply from the valley floor, brown against the green of hay and alfalfa below.

Gov. Kate Brown's Natural Resource Policy Director Richard Whitman will be stepping in as the next interim director of the troubled Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The Oregon Environmental Quality Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Whitman as a replacement for interim director Pete Shepherd, who was appointed by the commission in April. Whitman will assume the position Oct. 15 and stay in the role until a permanent director is hired.

For the past decade, hikers on the Timberline Trail have had to contend with a hazardous gap in the 40-mile loop around Mount Hood. Now, those days are gone. The U.S. Forest Service recently completed a new route that reconnects the loop.

The rugged trail winds its way through alpine forest and meadows, past waterfalls and over numerous glacier-fed drainages as it circumnavigates the volcano.

Uroboros' Impending Closure Deals Another Blow To NW Art Glass

Oct 1, 2016

Portland art glass manufacturer Uroboros just announced that the company plans to close the plant that it has operated on North Kerby Ave. in Portland for more than 43 years.

In a letter to customers and the business community, the company attributed its decision to close to the fact that its business model and location have “lost viability for the long term.” Uroboros intends to phase out production of sheet glass by late November and continue making some specialty products until mid-2017.

Train traffic congestion and railroad noise are two of the major impacts of the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export project in Longview, Washington, according to an environmental review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The agency released its draft environmental impact statement on the project Friday, outlining the potential environmental damage to air, water, fish, wildlife, and communities. The agency will be taking public comments on the review until Nov. 29.

Regulators say an oil terminal proposed for a coastal Washington state harbor poses several environmental problems.

The state Department of Ecology identified those problems in its final environmental review released Friday for the Westway oil terminal proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor in Hoquiam, Washington.

Hydroelectric power may not be a carbon-free energy source after all.

A new study from Washington State University finds that reservoirs behind dams produce more greenhouse gas emissions than previously thought.

Pages