Environment

KUOW's environment beat brings you stories on the ongoing cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, alternative energy, the health of the Puget Sound, coal transportation and more. We're also partnered with several stations across the Northwest to bring you environmental news via EarthFix.

The Obama Administration is expected to announce a new clean water rule in the next few days, which has some Northwest farm groups worried what new regulations could mean for their operations.

The rule has also drawn criticism from property rights groups and praise from environmentalists.

Kelly Welker knew Seattle’s Georgetown area was an industrial neighborhood when she moved here nine years ago. The air quality isn’t great. But lately, she says, it’s been getting worse.

“I had never experienced going outside of my house and having my eyes burn within a couple of minutes,” Welker said. “Having my sinuses burn within a couple of minutes.”

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

State officials said Friday that it's unconstitutional for Shell Oil to store its Arctic drilling rig at the Port of Seattle's Terminal 5.

How To Scare A Sea Lion: Bring In The (Fake) Orca

May 22, 2015

Astoria officials and locals have been scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to get rid of the ubiquitous barking sea lions that have arrived by the thousands this year on the city's docks. But now, the city may be bringing in the big guns, or should I say, whale.

The Daily Astorian reports that the Port of Astoria is looking into bringing a fake orca near the East End Mooring Basin to hopefully scare away pesky sea lions laying around.

Opponents of two liquefied natural gas export terminals proposed for Oregon will take their message to the state capitol Tuesday.

This summer is expected to be dry and hot, and that means increased wildfire risk. Communities near range or forest land are especially vulnerable.

In Oregon, it costs an average of $56,000 to protect a home from an encroaching wildfire. That's according to a study by the Headwaters Economics, a public policy think tank out of Bozeman, Montana.

“This exciting discovery shows that wolves are continuing to naturally regain their historic range in the Pacific Northwest,” said spokesman Chase Gunnell in a news release.

Unlike Oregon's famous wandering wolf, OR-7, this wolf doesn't have a radio collar.

In recent months, roaming wolves have also been spotted near Mount Hood, Klamath Falls, and Malheur County in Oregon.

As of 2014, there are 16 known wolf packs in Washington and 9 known packs in Oregon.

KUOW Photo/John Ryan

Protesters of Arctic drilling have run afoul of the ocean environment in their own small way.

In addition to assembling a flotilla of kayaks on Seattle's Elliott Bay last weekend, the activists brought in a construction barge. It's a solar-powered platform for protests against Shell Oil's plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean. But the protesters anchored their solar barge over one of Seattle's most popular sites for scuba diving. 

The Oregon Department of Energy announced $1.5 million in grants Thursday to developers across the state. Of the 17 projects the department funded, all but one involves solar power.

The one exception is a $110,000 hydroelectric project for the Sisters Irrigation District. The solar recipients include a school, two ranches, a theater, a visitors center, and two affordable housing projects.

The biggest awards were $250,000 each for proposals based in Klamath Falls, Sheridan and St. Paul.

Sturgeon Poachers Angle For Caviar On The Columbia

May 21, 2015
 The man in this photo has been charged with trying to sell an illegal sturgeon. Police say he used this cellphone photo of himself alongside the fish on the bank of the Columbia River to market the fish.
Courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The high value of caviar is driving poachers to an inventive way to cash in on giant sturgeon in the Columbia River:

They lash live fish with ropes to the riverbank for safe-keeping until black-market buyers can be located. Enforcement officials have also found sturgeon carcasses floating in the river with their bellies slit open to harvest their eggs.

The forensics lab in Ashland, Oregon, uses state-of-the-art technology to crack cases against endangered species and trafficked trees.
EarthFix/Katie Campbell

Laura Daugherty balances a small tray on one gloved hand, like a waiter at black-tie restaurant.

Today’s main course is ring-necked pheasant – freshly skinned and raw.

Her patrons are a teeming pile of flesh-eating beetles.

A federal judge in southern Oregon heard court arguments Wednesday in a challenge against a county's restriction on growing genetically engineered crops.

Two farms brought the case against Jackson County, arguing the ban violates Oregon’s Right to Farm Act. The farmers had genetically engineered-alfalfa planted before voters approved the ban.

Several dairies accused of polluting the groundwater in Washington’s Yakima Valley will now start handling their waste more carefully. That’s because a federal judge has approved an order between environmental groups and dairies. Environmental groups had sued the dairies because they worried about pollution leaking into water supplies.

The weed-whacker is a frequent companion to the sounds of chirping birds and rustling pines at Ross Frank's ranch in Chumstick, Wash. With forested land on all sides, he's clearing dense brush beneath a stand of by his house.

"So we're turning that around manually and mimicking what fire would have done naturally," he says.

Hundreds of Oregon industrial facilities are facing tough new restrictions on their stormwater pollution.

Robert Grott, executive director of the Northwest Environmental Business Council, says the restrictions are catching many businesses off-guard.

"Many of them are not in compliance with what they should be doing, so we're trying to bring people up to par," he said. "A lot of businesses aren't staffed to do this right. They might have just one person or a few people on a maintenance team that are supposed to comply with what can be a very complex, technical challenge."

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