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.

Maybe you learned about it in high school, heard it on OPB, saw it in newspapers or maybe you have a subscription to The New Yorker. Or maybe all this earthquake talk is new to you.

Seismologists predict that the Northwest has a 37 percent chance of experiencing a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake happening in the next 50 years. It will be so disruptive, it will change the Pacific Northwest forever.

Does this orange peel belong in the trash, recycling or compost?
KUOW Photo/Isolde Raftery

It probably comes as little surprise that Seattle gets an A for recycling.

Seventy percent of all our trash ends up in compost or recycling; just 30 percent goes to the landfill.

Warm Waters Cause Central Oregon Salmon Die-Off

Jul 16, 2015

Record heat that has warmed rivers in the Northwest has caused another fish die-off. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reported 109 wild spring chinook salmon died last week in Central Oregon.

Water temperatures in the the Middle Fork John Day River reached the mid-70s. Biologists say those high temperatures combined with low stream flows are what likely caused the die off.

Biologists say they expect more salmon die-offs this summer, until spawning begins in September. Overall the John Day Basin has seen strong salmon returns this year.

An earthquake in 1949 collapsed ancillary structure to commercial building in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/King County, WA (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Kim Malcolm talks to Seattle Times reporter Sandi Doughton about what to expect and how to prepare for when a big earthquake shakes the Northwest.

Cooler temperatures around the region have slowed the number of wildfires burning in the Pacific Northwest.

"This is a nice reprieve in the middle of July," said Robin DeMario, a spokesperson with the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland.

Right now, fire crews are making gains on seven large-scale fires that are burning about 60,000 acres in Oregon and Washington.

The cool and at times even wet weather during the past week has given the 1,300 firefighters scattered around the Pacific Northwest the upper hand, at least for now, DeMario said.

The death of his prized horse has a Washington state lawmaker warning about a noxious weed that’s spreading in the Northwest. That weed is toxic to horses and can have a gruesome effect on their hooves.

David Hyde speaks with Vaughn Palmer, columnist for the Vancouver Sun, about seismic upgrading in British Columbia and how the province would fare if the region were hit by a big earthquake.

Unusually warm waters in the Columbia River Basin have prompted federal officials to invoke measures to help migrating fish survive the hostile conditions.

A federal plan to protect endangered salmon and steelhead, known as the BiOp (or biological opinion), has contingencies for drier, warmer years. That includes the release of cooler water from upstream reservoirs.

So far, extra water has been released from reservoirs in Canada, Montana, and Lake Roosevelt in Washington.

This U.S. Geological survey map shows the hot zones for potential earthquakes in the U.S.
U.S. Geological Survey

KUOW's Deborah Wang produced this story as part of her 2010 series “On Shaky Ground.”

The rocks and mud of the Pacific Northwest tell the story of much larger earthquakes that have hit this region in the past – and that could hit us again in the future.

A scene from a simulation by the Washington State Department of Transportation of what could happen if a massive earthquake hits the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
YouTube/WSDOT

Most of us in Seattle aren't ready for The Big One.

Eric Holdeman, former director of the King County Office of Emergency Management, said we shouldn’t expect outsiders to swoop in and save us when a long-anticipated massive earthquake hits (and it will hit, we just don’t know when).

A remote mountain village on the Northwest end of Lake Chelan in Washington state, was braced for an evacuation order because of wildfire Monday night.

A damaged icebreaker that's essential to Shell Oil Company's controversial plans to drill in the Arctic this summer is heading to Portland's Vigor Industrial shipyard for repairs.

The company says the vessel was damaged on its way from Alaska's Port of Dutch Harbor to the drill site in the Chukchi Sea, about 70 miles off the coast of Alaska. Shell plans to drill two exploratory oil wells in the area this summer.

The region known as the wettest place in the lower 48 states is on fire. Washington State’s Olympic National Park, characterized by lush foliage, massive hanging ferns and spongy lichens, is experiencing the worst wildfire in the park’s history — a blaze that has consumed 1,600 acres and is not expected to be under control for another two and a half months.

Fire crews said Monday afternoon that the Douglas County Complex fire burning near Wenatchee, Washington, is at least 55 percent contained.

The hottest June on record for Oregon and Washington came on the heels an unusually warm winter and spring. Now, Northwest rivers are running at or near all-time lows and cities with water reserves are drawing them down.

Some towns have already issued water advisories and asked residents to cut back voluntarily. Even the cities with lots of water, like Portland and Seattle, are finding they have less to work with.

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