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.

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Ecological Puzzle
1:28 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

In Ranchers Vs. Weeds, Climate Change Gives Weeds An Edge

A tall, rubbery weed with golden flowers Dalmatian toadflax is encroaching on grasslands in 32 U.S. states.
pverdonk/Flickr

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 4:28 pm

Most climate models paint a bleak picture of the Great Plains a century from now as a hot region besieged by heavy rainstorms and flooding.

And new studies suggest that climate change may bring farmers another headache: more invasive plants.

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Mudslide Devastates Community
6:42 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Small Town Of Darrington Grieves For Slide Victims, Waits For News

Darrington residents gather outside town grocery store for word of missing.
KUOW Photo/Phyllis Fletcher

People in the town of Darrington struggled Monday to comprehend the scope of the disaster just a few miles from them. The people who lived in the homes destroyed by Saturday's devastating mudflow are friends, relatives and neighbors.

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EarthFix Reports
6:36 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Authorities Relieved As Flow Levels Return To Normal Post-Landslide

On Saturday, March 22, a massive mudslide blocked both directions of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, Wash.
Washington State Department of Transportation

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 3:25 pm

Authorities are breathing a small sigh of relief, amidst all the destruction from the fatal landslide on the Stillaguamish River.

They’re relieved because the river flow is getting back to normal.

When the landslide blocked the Stillaguamish River, water began to collect above all the muck and debris, causing flow rates down river from the landslide to plummet.

"It was a pretty quick drop, like turning off the faucet, not turning it off all the way but letting it drip a little bit," said Marijke van Heeswijk, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Wanapum Dam
5:36 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Irrigators Struggle To Secure Fish Screens And Water In Time

Many irrigation pipes don’t reach the lowered Columbia River behind the cracked Wanapum Dam
Anna King Northwest News Network

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 4:53 pm

Dozens of central Washington fruit farmers are still high-and-dry without water for their valuable fruit trees.

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EarthFix Reports
9:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

EarthFix Conversation: 25 Years Later, Scientists Remember The Exxon Valdez

Killer whales swimming in Prince William Sound alongside boats skimming oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Scientists report that orca populations there have not recovered and oil is still being found.
Credit Courtesy of State of Alaska/Dan Lawn

Twenty five years ago today the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif., ran aground in Prince William Sound.

Eleven million gallons of oil spilled out, polluting 1,300 miles of Alaska’s coastline.

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Nuclear Waste
4:14 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Washington State Orders Hanford Managers To Empty Leaking Tank

View inside the space between the two walls of Tank AY-102 at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
U.S. Department of Energy

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 8:37 am

The state of Washington has ordered the federal government to start pumping out a leaking double-shell tank of waste at Hanford by September 1.

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Exxon Valdez
2:07 am
Mon March 24, 2014

25 Years After Spill, Alaska Town Struggles Back From 'Dead Zone'

Orca Inlet, Cordova's fishing harbor, on a blustery day this month. Commercial fishing is the small Alaskan town's primary industry.
Marisa Peñaloza NPR

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 9:25 am

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.

It's a blustery, snowy March day when Michelle Hahn O'Leary offers a tour of Cordova, Alaska, situated on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound.

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Geology
8:06 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

Site Near Oso Had Previous Landslides, Potential For More

An image from Google Earth, taken before the current slide, shows the scars from a landslide that took place at the same spot in 2006.
Credit Google Earth

Satellite images show the area on the Stillaguamish River near Oso, Washington, experienced a landslide in 2006. According to the Sliding Thought Blog, the "Hazel Landslide" that year was caused by groundwater and erosion by the north fork of the river.

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Signs Of Spring
3:31 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Not Bad For A Septuagenarian: UW Cherry Trees Burst With Bloom

Cherry blossoms at the UW Quad.
KUOW Photo/Ross Reynolds

Ross Reynolds speaks with Sara Shores, arborist at the University of Washington, about the annual profusion of cherry blossoms on the UW campus and about how these trees, originally planted at the Washington Park Arboretum in 1939, ended up at The Quad.

The blossoms are expected to reach peak bloom this weekend, Shores said.

EarthFix Reports
7:29 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Puget Sound Tidal Energy Project Approved By Feds

A crew deploying a "sea spider" in 2011 to collect data from the floor of Puget Sound in Admiralty Inlet. That test was one of many steps that led the way to federal energy regulators' approval of a tidal energy project in that location.
Credit EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Puget Sound tides may soon be generating power. A proposal for the world’s first grid-connected tidal energy project received a federal license Thursday. The project has been almost eight years in the making.

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Agriculture
5:15 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Washington Fruit Farmers Scramble To Irrigate From Lowered Columbia River

Frosty Hansen, 74, of Wenatchee, Wash., says many of his neighbors can't reach the Columbia River with thier irrigation pipes. He plans to pump water for them until the Wanapum Dam can be repaired.
Anna King Northwest News Network

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 6:07 pm

Dam engineers are continuing to keep the pool behind the ailing structure drawn down to relieve pressure.

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Environment
5:08 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Fish Experts Plan A Salmon Water Slide On Cracked Wanapum Dam

File photo of the fish ladder at John Day Dam on the Columbia River. The fish ladders at the Wanapum and the Rock Island dams are dry.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 3:24 pm

The ongoing issue with the cracked Wanapum Dam in central Washington is now creating a problem for migrating salmon.

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Weather
5:05 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Spring Outlook Looks Warm For Coastal Northwest, 'Normal' Spring Inland

The National Weather Service's outlook calls for above-normal temperatures along the West Coast.
NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Originally published on Thu March 20, 2014 3:47 pm

The spring seasonal outlook from the National Weather Service calls for a warmer-than-average spring west of the Cascades and normal temperatures and rainfall across the inland Northwest.

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EarthFix Reports
8:35 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Wildlife Agency May Stop Tracking Wandering Wolf OR-7

A photo captured an image of the wolf, OR-7, during his time across the Oregon border in Northern California.
California Department of Game

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 5:01 pm

Oregon’s famous wandering wolf OR-7 may soon be dropping off the maps.

State wildlife officials announced that they don’t plan to recollar the wolf – meaning that his future travels across the West would no longer be tracked. And that means his path would no longer be mapped for the world to follow on the Internet.

OR-7 was born in 2009 into the Imnaha Pack in Northeastern Oregon. He was fitted with a GPS collar in 2011.

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EarthFix Reports
4:11 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Stopping A Stink Bug Invasion

Northwest researchers are teaming up to stop an invasion of stink bugs moving across the region. The bugs, which can smell like dirty gym socks, ruin tree fruit and grape vines.
Flickr Photo/Armed Forces Pest Management Board (CC BY-NC-ND)

You have to go through three airlocked doors to get to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s stink bug research lab.

The quarantined, closet-sized room has its own ventilation system. The brown marmorated stink bug colony is kept inside an even smaller room within the lab.

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