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.

A stream of thousands of steelhead plop into Rock Lake. In this final leg of their journey they fall out of a tanker truck and into the lake. To get here the fish have traveled seven hours in tanker trucks from Puget Sound, over the Cascade Mountains, and into the Eastern Washington desert.

“This lake is real nice and deep, so it won’t take them long to find some lower depths and find some cooler water,” said Brian Russell, who is leading the team stocking Rock Lake.

More than 200 firefighters are working to contain the 4,600-acre Sugarloaf Fire in Central Oregon. The blaze is burning in grassland, juniper, and conifer forest, and was likely ignited by lightning. The wildfire is burning on both private and federal lands north of Dayville.

Part of the fire is within the John Day Fossil Beds. To protect the national monument, firefighters are working to hold the fire and let it burn out, rather than bringing in bulldozers or other heavy equipment.

About 100,000 acres of federal land in southwest Oregon would be off-limits to new mining claims under a proposal expected Monday.

The area is in Josephine and Curry counties near the Chetco River. Conservation groups have been trying to protect the area from nickel mining and other types of mineral extraction.

The Bureau of Land Management has the power to stop new mining development for up to 20 years through a process called “land withdrawal.”

It’s been a one-two punch of low snowpack last winter and not enough rain this spring for many Northwest rivers. Warm temperatures and low river flows are causing problems for salmon making the return migration.

In rivers and streams across the Northwest, waters are reaching a tipping point for salmon. Salmon like water temperatures to be 68 degrees. Officials say water temperatures in June are what is normally expected in late August.

Public Input To End On Timber Sale Near Oregon Gulch Fire

Jun 25, 2015

The public comment period for the New Hayden Fox vegetation treatment project in southern Oregon ends Friday. The Bureau of Land Management field office in Klamath Falls is proposing commercial timber thinning, brush mowing and reducing overall fire hazards.

The 1,450-acre area is located in the southwestern portion of the Klamath Falls Resource Area, just north of the California border.

Oregon Firefighter Trains For A Big Season

Jun 25, 2015

Across the West, wildland firefighters are preparing for a busy season and a hot, dry summer, which is becoming the new norm. As EarthFix reported, more than 1.3 million acres have burned in the Northwest each year for the past three years.

Teresa Brna, 24, is a new seasonal firefighter with the Ochoco National Forest based in Prineville. OPB will check in with her throughout the summer. Recently, reporter Amanda Peacher followed her for a day at "guard school."

David Whitmer from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife pumps rainbow trout into Seattle’s Green Lake on Friday, June 19, to the delight of a crowd of anglers and passersby.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Watched by an eager crowd, two trucks backed carefully toward Green Lake, their tanks awash in black water and something more. It’s time to plant trout.

It might not seem sporting, but the large rainbows that were pumped into Green Lake last Friday provide some city dwellers their only chance to fish – and it’s practically in their own back yards, said David Whitmer of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He and co-worker Scott Meechan had just driven their tanker trucks down from the state hatchery in Arlington.

The Northwest’s mild winter and warm spring has been good for blueberries. And now Washington and Oregon are on-track to harvest record crops this year.

Update: Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday called for the repeal of Oregon's clean fuels law and the passage of a transportation package to be considered separately. See below.

Hot weather is coming to the region this weekend, which concerns fire officials. As a precaution, fire managers say they're ramping up resources in anticipation for more blazes.

"I'm sure everyone is aware of the heat wave that is predicted over the next several days," Tom Fields, Oregon's Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator, said in a statement. "While we're all looking for ways to stay cool, now is not the time to be careless with activities that could lead to a wildfire."

Courtesy of Julie Busch

Jeannie Yandel talks with Mark Titus, director of a new documentary called "The Breach," about the inspiration for the film, Russ Busch.

This year’s drought is affecting Washington in all kinds of ways. It’s even threatening to make a potential government shutdown more painful. That would happen on July 1 unless a budget agreement is reached.

Jeff Marti, the Washington Department of Ecology’s drought coordinator, says the state won’t be able to grant emergency permits to access water if your well dries up or if river levels drop so low that your pipes no longer reach the water.

The longstanding legal battle over maintaining dams and salmon in the Columbia River is back in court this week. On Tuesday, a new judge will hear arguments on the Obama administration's latest salmon plan.

When you flip on a light switch, odds are, you're burning coal. But as the fracking boom continues to unleash huge quantities of natural gas, the nation's electric grid is changing. Power plants are increasingly turning to this low-cost, cleaner-burning fossil fuel.

Bill Pentak stands in the middle of a construction site, looking up at his company's latest project towering overhead — a new natural gas power plant.

Kim Malcolm speaks with Jessie Dye, outreach director for Earth Ministry, about what the Pope's message on climate change means to environmental activists of all faiths, including the "nones."

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