environment

'The Blog' is indicated by dark orange on the West Coast of the U.S. The Blob is a patch of warm water that was detected by a University of Washington climatologist in 2013.
Courtesy of Nick Bond

Call it “The Blob.”

It’s an unusually warm patch of water off the West Coast that has flummoxed climatologists.

“It’s still rearing its ugly head,” said Nick Bond, Washington state climatologist and regular contributor to KUOW. He first detected The Blob in 2013. 

Groundwater levels in Oregon’s Klamath Basin have dropped as much as 25 feet in the past 15 years. A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey shows there is a relationship between the declines and pumping by farmers in the region.

Drought is a double-whammy for groundwater. Not only do farmers rely more on wells when rivers run low, there’s not much water available to seep back into, or recharge, the aquifer.

Last month, the Oregon Health Authority released a health advisory for the Ross Island Lagoon in the Willamette River, due to an algae bloom that has produced low but detectible levels of toxins.

sprinkler lawn water
Flickr Photo/Amanda Graham (CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Residents of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett are being asked to cut back on their use of water by 10 percent.

That’s because the summer’s historic high temperatures and lack of precipitation have worsened the region’s water supply outlook. In addition, water supply managers are worried about forecasts for drier than normal conditions this fall.

A huge swath of wilderness in Idaho will now be protected from development, thanks to legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Friday.

The signing ceremony concluded a 40-year effort that was supported by environmentalists, ranchers, recreation groups and Idaho's Congregational delegation.

Idaho Public Television/EarthFix producer Aaron Kunz and Idaho Statesman writer Rocky Barker have been following the process. They teamed up to produce this video report.

In an event that has led to health warnings and turned a river orange, the Environmental Protection Agency says one of its safety teams accidentally released contaminated water from a mine into the Animas River in southwest Colorado.

The spill, which sent heavy metals, arsenic and other contaminants into a waterway that flows into the San Juan National Forest, occurred Wednesday. The EPA initially said 1 million gallons of wastewater had been released, but that figure has risen sharply.

From member station KUNC, Stephanie Paige Ogburn reports for our Newscast unit:

The tsunami that struck Japan four years ago sent about 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean.

On Friday, workers began unloading one million pounds of that debris from a barge in south Seattle.

Much of the debris washed up on a remote stretch of Alaskan coastline. After three years of planning, state and environmental groups — financed by a $5 million gift from Japan — spent the past month collecting things like buoys, fishing nets and personal items from victims of the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

Mt. Hood’s Timberline Resort is the only place offering a full summer ski season in North America. But not this year. The resort closed to the public on August 2 -- five weeks earlier than normal. And that’s after a dismal winter ski season.

Fire crews are starting back burns from helicopters and are digging hand lines to try and slow the Wolverine wildfire in north-central Washington state.

In southwestern Idaho, biologists are purposefully making a racket this summer to study the value of natural quiet. A Boise State University research team is testing how wildlife and humans respond to noise pollution.

A largely unredacted lease between the Port of Vancouver, Washington and companies looking to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country has been released as the result of a legal settlement.

The proposal, called the Vancouver Energy Project, is a joint-venture backed by oil company Tesoro and logistics company Savage Industries.

The lease, turned over Wednesday, contains only three redactions, which cover proprietary information about pricing between the Port of Vancouver and Tesoro-Savage.

Northwest forests are extremely dry, but so far the wildfires haven't been as bad as in 2014. Fire officials count 79 large fires at this point a year ago. This season, there have been 65 fires of at least 100 acres.

"Even more telling, last year at this date, we'd burned 758,000 acres in Oregon and Washington," said Tom Knappenberger, spokesperson for the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. "And this year, we're at 237,000, even though the conditions are a lot more volatile out there."

Vacationers are cancelling their trips and residents are preparing for wildfire in a remote northeast Washington tourist village that is accessible only by hiking trail, seaplane and ferry.

One of the most prominent guitar makers in the country unknowingly purchased poached bigleaf maple taken from a national forest in southwest Washington state. That’s according to a federal indictment unsealed in Seattle this week.

Crews Aim To Make Gains On Gorge Fire

Aug 6, 2015

With winds dying down, crews are hoping to make significant gains Thursday on a 24,000-acre wildfire burning on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.

Active fires are burning in grass and sagebrush in several steep canyons, said Ron Fryer, a fire information officer with the Southeast Washington Incident Management Team.

About 275 firefighters braved strong winds as the Highway 8 fire near Roosevelt, Washington grew Wednesday. As of Thursday morning, officials estimated it was 50 percent contained. Four helicopters and three airplanes are aiding ground crews.

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