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.

Fishermen's Terminal, Seattle, Washington.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Bill Radke speaks with UW Fisheries professor Ray Hillborn about a plan he says would create more fish in the ocean, more catch for fishermen and more profitable fisheries. It might make some fishermen very rich and others very angry.

Sardines, herring and other small fish species are the foundation of the marine food web — they're essential food for birds, marine mammals and other fish. But globally, demand for these so-called forage species has exploded, with many going to feed the livestock and fish farming industries.

The Port of Vancouver recommended that port commissioners vote against a lease extension with the companies backing a proposed oil terminal. The recommendation comes ahead of two port commission meetings next week.

On Tuesday, backers of the Vancouver Energy Project asked the port to extend a portion of its lease until Aug. 1, 2018.

Port officials said the recommendation is only about the amendment proposed by the company and does not affect the current lease.

It’s not every day that the governors of both Oregon and California, the U.S. Interior secretary and the head of a major power company -- as well as representatives of multiple tribes all gather at the mouth of a river. But then, Wednesday was an historic day for the Klamath River.

Two agreements signed near the river's mouth in Northern California mean four privately-owned dams are now on track to be removed from the Klamath. It’s described as the largest river restoration project in the country.

Let's break it down.

Backers of a proposed oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver have asked for an amendment to their lease with the port. Port commissioners plan to discuss the request in a series of public meetings next week.

Officials with the Vancouver Energy Project said Tuesday they need more time to complete Washington’s permitting process.

Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon is an increasingly popular destination. In the past five years, visitation increased from 450,000 to about 700,000 day use visitors.

Scott Brown, the park manager, said he's glad to see so many people enjoying the high desert attraction. But all those additional visitors, hikers and rock climbers tax the resources and infrastructure at the park.

“Many days of the year now, particularly in the spring and the fall, there’s no parking available," Brown said. "The restrooms, there’s long lines. There’s more trail maintenance.”

"Limited" commercial advertising is coming to Washington State Parks. The state park system will begin placing ads in parks as early as this summer to make itself more self-sustaining.

Supporters of a resolution to one of the West's most protracted water wars made their way to a remote location on the Northern California coast to witness the signing of two major agreements Wednesday that could make history.

The new deals move the region a big step closer to the removal of four dams on the Klamath River, which runs through Southern Oregon and Northern California. It also ensures that farmers will not be financially responsible for restoration of salmon runs once the dams are gone.

The Northwest is in for an early taste of summer Thursday and Friday. Highs could top 80 degrees in parts of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. That would set records for the date in a lot of places.

Federal and state officials will announce two agreements Wednesday designed to pick up where the failed Klamath River Basin pact left off. It's the latest development in the long-standing fight over water in this region that straddles the state line between Southern Oregon and Northern California.

After Congress failed to act last year, the hard negotiated deal fell apart. It would have removed four dams on the Klamath River for salmon, while providing water certainty for farmers.

Taylor Shellfish crews haul up oysters from Samish Bay, Washington. The Northwest's shellfish industry is one of the first to feel the impacts of ocean acidification.
Katie Campbell, KCTS9/EarthFix

A panel of ocean scientists from Washington, Oregon and California said Monday that local action on the West Coast — one of the regions of the world hardest hit by ocean acidification — could soften the blow of this rapidly worsening global problem.

Americans throw away about a third of our available food.

But what some see as trash, others are seeing as a business opportunity. A new facility known as the Heartland Biogas Project is taking wasted food from Colorado's most populous areas and turning it into electricity. Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, old pet food and vats of grease combine with helpful bacteria in massive tanks to generate gas.

Counties across Oregon are turning toward a little-known federal policy as a means to have more say in how federal lands in their backyards are managed.

These counties are using “coordination,” an obscure provision in two federal environmental policy laws that require agencies to coordinate with local governments in land use planning.

Baker County Chair Bill Harvey describes coordination as putting local and federal governments on “equal footing.”

Renewable energy like solar and wind is booming across the country as the costs of production have come down. But the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't blow when we need it to.

This challenge has sparked a technology race to store energy — one that goes beyond your typical battery.

Heat Storage: Molten Salt And A Giant Solar Farm

Batteries are often used to store solar power, but it can be a costly endeavor.

Last summer, Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden visited the seven natural wonders of Oregon, which include Crater Lake and Mount Hood.

What he heard again and again, he said, were stories of people trying to get outdoors but being stymied by government bureaucracy.

“We heard that people were getting up at 6 a.m. to wait in line in effect to wait again for the prospect of getting a permit,” Wyden said.

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