environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

Every year, wildlife officials keep track of how many salmon return to their spawning grounds. This year, they expect low returns of salmon in Washington state—and that could change the fishing outlook.



Jars filled with the garbage that Deb Seymour has accumulated over each month of 2017 are shown at her home on Wednesday, December 20, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Deb Seymour remembers the moment she realized we’re in big trouble.

It was 1970-something, and she was around six years old. Twice a week she would climb behind the couch in her San Francisco home and watch the garbage trucks pull up to collect everything her family had thrown in the trash.

UPDATE (Feb. 22, 2:31 p.m.

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.

Courtesy of 350 Seattle/Alexandra Blakely

Thirteen kids are suing the state of Washington and its governor to protect their generation from climate change.

The plaintiffs range in age from 7 to 17.


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.

EPA investigators bought samples of banned pesticides listed for sale on Amazon.
KUOW Photo/Amy Radil

In one of their first attempts to regulate the online marketplace, officials with the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle said they’ve reached a settlement with Amazon over distribution of illegal pesticides.

According to EPA officials, it was interns at the agency who first spotted banned and mislabeled pesticides being offered for sale on Amazon. 

KUOW PHOTO/MEGAN FARMER

The Washington House of Representatives has voted to phase out farming of non-native fish in state waters, drawing the end of Atlantic salmon farming in Puget Sound one step closer.

John Kerry Visits Olympia To Support Inslee's Carbon Tax Proposal

Feb 13, 2018

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has been pushing hard to pass a carbon tax proposal. Though it’s been unpopular with some businesses and Republicans, on Tuesday he brought out an important ally.

East of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, it’s been about five to 10 degrees warmer than normal for most of the winter. Those unusually warm conditions have buds on fruit trees and grapevines starting to “push,” or emerge early.

And that has farmers worried.

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 not clear how many trees on private property in Seattle have been cut down for development projects.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Tree advocates say if Seattle wants to do a better job counting and preserving trees, it should follow the lead of its suburbs.

A Japanese farm introduced a new crop this winter: an organic banana with a peel that's thin enough to eat. In a nod to this appealing outer covering, Setsuzo Tanaka, the banana's inventor, has named his creation the Mongee ("mon-gay") banana — which means "incredible banana" in Japanese.

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.

Last month, a Washington state resident was fined more than $8,000 for poaching three wolves in 2016. DNA evidence linked him to three separate kills, but other poaching cases remain unsolved. 

The emergency seems to be over for now at the slow-moving landslide at Rattlesnake Ridge near Yakima, Washington. The state has taken down the warning signs and lights on the highway below.

But for some, the drive is still nerve wracking. They’ve coined a phrase for driving quickly past the slide: “Shooting the Gap.”

In "The Burning Question," KUOW takes a close look at Seattle’s goal of carbon neutrality and what it would take to get there. It turns out a lot of those solutions are right around us.

So, what would it be like to wake up in a Seattle that’s really on track to be carbon neutral? Here are seven snapshots of what success might look like. 

Over the weekend, Washington state tightened the screws—again—on an Atlantic salmon farming operation. The state Department of Natural Resources Saturday terminated the lease for Cooke Aquaculture's Cypress Island fish farm near Anacortes.

Tony Largier grows apples, plums and nectarines at Little Oaks Farm, near Villiersdorp, in South Africa's Western Cape province. It's a beautiful piece of land in a valley between mountains. The closest peak gets snow in the winter.

We walk amid his nectarine trees.

"This variety is summer bright. It's sweet, crunchy. It's a good nectarine. It's one of the newer varieties," says Largier.

He and other farmers in the area pull water from the nearby Elandskloof Dam — part of a network of dams that farmers, villages and the City of Cape Town share.

kids drawings
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Compost-pooping robot dog! Smog-cleaning penguins! Treehouses! Wikes (wind + bikes)!!! 

Those are just a few of the fantastic and whimsical ideas submitted to our drawing contest that asked kids to imagine one way Seattle can save energy.

Pedestrians cross the street at Amazon headquarters in Seattle in September.
KUOW Photo / Megan Farmer

Carbon emissions by the tech giants that dominate cloud computing are surging, even as companies like Amazon and Microsoft take steps to tame their climate impact.

The Seattle-area competitors — two of the nation’s largest electricity consumers — take different approaches to their clouds' carbon problems. One favors sunshine; the other, secrecy. Internal documents obtained by KUOW break through that secrecy.

Seattle folk singer and restaurateur Ivar Haglund
Courtesy of Ivar’s

Kim Malcolm gets advice from KUOW reporter David Hyde on what seafood to order to lower your carbon footprint as a part of our series "The Burning Question: What would a climate friendly Seattle actually look like?" 

Poet Melinda Mueller
KUOW Photos / Gil Aegerter

What will it take for Seattle to become climate-friendly?  That's The Burning Question this month on KUOW.

In this interview, reporter David Hyde put the question to Melinda Mueller, a Seattle high school biology teacher and a poet, and the author of "The After," a book of poems that imagines the world after humans have gone extinct. 

The Environmental Protection Agency said in a surprise announcement Friday that it is putting on hold a plan to do away with Obama-era proposals to restrict mining at a southwest Alaska watershed. But the EPA also said it would continue to consider permit applications from those hoping to extract copper and other minerals from the proposed Pebble Mine.

The proposed Pebble Mine is located about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage and roughly 100 miles upstream from the Bristol Bay watershed, one of the world's most important sockeye salmon fisheries.

Pedestrians cross Pike Street in front of the Convention Center on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

You might think that before a massive project like the convention center expansion is approved, Seattle would decide how the city’s ambitious climate change goals might be affected.

You’d be wrong.


Mussels cling to netting of a collapsed Atlantic salmon farm off Cypress Island on Aug. 24, 2017.
April Bencze

Washington state officials are looking at some new suspects in the collapse of an Atlantic salmon farm: sea creatures clogging the floating structure’s nets.


There are around 12,000 paid on-street spaces in Seattle (that does not include private parking) .
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Make no mistake: The rising cost and declining amount of on-street parking downtown are part of a much bigger plan to reduce Seattle's carbon footprint.

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