environment | KUOW News and Information

environment

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.

Right now, a big chunk of Antarctic ice is hanging on by a frozen thread.

British researchers monitoring the crack in the Larsen C ice shelf say that only about 12 miles now connect the chunk of ice to the rest of the continent.

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.

Louisiana is losing its coast at a rapid rate because of rising sea levels, development and sinking marshland. Officials are trying to rebuild those marshes and the wetlands, but much of the coast can't be saved. This makes Louisiana's history an unwitting victim. As land disappears and the water creeps inland, ancient archaeology sites are washing away, too.

Richie Blink was born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, La. — way down south of New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Now he works for the National Wildlife Federation.

Even though most of the protesters fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota have left, hundreds still remain here atop what is essentially a sheet of ice.

One group of campers say there's a change taking hold at camp, which was once overrun by thousands who felt a sense of excitement about the gathering.

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.

Low temperatures, snow drifts, and northeasterly winds east of the Cascades are making things difficult for Northwest ranchers and dairy owners. They are struggling to keep their animals hydrated, fed and warm.

There's more methane gas in the atmosphere than there used to be, by every scientific measure. The Obama administration has been trying to stem the increase of this powerful greenhouse gas, but the incoming Trump administration appears bent on keeping the government's hands off methane.

I
Carolyn Beeler

A main road through the district of Sedahan Jaya in western Borneo is just a ribbon of brown dirt. But that’s better than the muddy mess it used to turn into after heavy rains.

"The road was so bad when kids went to school, they came back with their legs covered in mud,” says a resident named Hamisah. “This was really sad to me.”

Hamisah, 43, has two sons and lives in one of the small houses nestled along that dirt road. From her yard, you can see some of the hills of the roughly 400-square-mile Gunung Palung national park rising in the distance.

Annual Bird Count Opens A Window Into Climate Change

Dec 30, 2016

Scott Atkinson and Diana Antunes are tramping around a flooded field in an abandoned farm just north of Everett. They pick their way through blackberry brambles and wade through water halfway up to their knees. Antunes stops short when she spots something in the distance.

“What do you got?” Atkinson asks her.

Antunes points to a peregrine falcon perched on a tree, eating a bird.

“Oh! Nicely done!” Atkinson says.

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.

A cell phone tower at Paradise could bring coverage to much-visited parts of Mount Rainier National Park.
KUOW PHOTO/GIL AEGERTER

Along with the sound of birds and falling water, you might hear ringing cell phones during a future hike on Mount Rainier.

The National Park Service is considering applications to install a cell transmitter at the Paradise visitor center.


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.

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Neal Mitchell

The National Guard has closed facilities across the country to the public because of lead contamination, following an investigation by The Oregonian newspaper.

Normally, the Guard rents out the buildings where it trains and practices, called armories, for community events, from weddings to Cub Scout sleepovers.

Earlier in 2016, the Washington National Guard closed at least nine armories to the public after years of efforts failed to get the lead out.

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.

Shell Oil's Polar Pioneer sits at anchor aboard the Blue Marlin in Port Angeles.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Jeannie Yandel speaks with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about a move by President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make oil and gas development off limits in Arctic waters.

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.

This winter brings the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise, full of familiar costumes, familiar villains, and the familiar "pew pew pew" of space guns. But you can skip the movie theatre and still hear those iconic blaster sounds if you visit a frozen lake.

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.

Governor Jay Inslee.
Flickr Photo/GovInslee (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Gov. Jay Inslee has proposed a carbon tax within weeks of Washington voters' rejecting what would have been the nation's first such tax. Inslee's proposal is a big part of his plan to raise $4 billion in new revenue, with $3 billion of it going to improve education.

Spokane Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the current Republican health care bill is only part of a larger plan.
Flickr Photo/Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/e4kQ16

Patricia Murphy talks with Wall Street Journal reporter Amy Harder about the role of Donald Trump Jr. in deciding the president elect's pick for Interior secretary. Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers was initially a front runner for the position. On Thursday, Trump picked Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke.

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.

Backers of a liquefied natural gas project in southwest Oregon say they will try again to get federal approval now that the fossil fuel-friendly Trump administration is about to take power.

Last week, regulators effectively denied the Jordan Cove LNG terminal and pipeline application. But the incomingadministration has supporters hoping for a different outcome this time around.

The Canadian-owned Jordan Cove LNG project would transport natural gas to Coos Bay from sources in the Mountain West. It would then liquefy the gas and load it on ships bound for Asia.

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.

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and others in North Dakota mounted a massive protest against the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, in part over concerns that any leak could contaminate their drinking water.

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