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.

ASHLAND, Ore. -- Ashland has joined in the nationwide movement to divest from fossil fuel. Tuesday night, the city council became the second in Oregon to pass a divestment resolution.

“We’re not going to invest, but we’re going to still use fossil fuels?” he asked.

Oregon Divers Find Hope In Thousands Of Baby Sea Stars

Oct 22, 2014

Divers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium say they have new hope that sea stars will recover from the widespread wasting syndrome that's wiping them out all along the Pacific coast.

This month they found thousands of thumbnail-sized juvenile sea stars, commonly called starfish, on the North Jetty in Florence.

Diver Jenna Walker said her team didn't recognize them as sea stars at first because there were so many, and they were so small.

Baby Orca Missing In Puget Sound And Presumed Dead

Oct 22, 2014

Orca enthusiasts rejoiced when a newborn calf was spotted 7 weeks ago.

But as of Tuesday morning, the endangered killer whale calf has not been seen.

L120 was the first calf born in the past 2 years. The calf's mother was spotted three times since Friday. Her baby was nowhere to be seen.

Orca experts believe the calf is dead, though no carcass has been found and it's unclear how it died.

The long-range weather outlook from the Climate Prediction Center gives high probabilities for a warmer and drier than average winter across the Northwest.

Imagine flushing the toilet and watching sand come up. That's what happened to Pam Vieira, who lives south of Modesto, Calif. Her water well has slowed to a trickle, and you can see the sand in the tank of her toilet.

"Sometimes we have brown water," Vieira says. "Sometimes we have no water."

Vieira is one of as many as 2 million rural California residents who rely on private domestic wells for drinking water.

Some of those people are among the hardest hit by the state's severe drought, as wells across the state's Central Valley farm belt start to go dry.

Construction begins this week on a state project in the Methow Valley that will give fish a boost of cold, clean water in rivers near Twisp, Washington.

Oregon On Track To Begin Wolf Delisting Process

Oct 17, 2014

Oregon's wolf population is on track to reach a key milestone. If current trends in Eastern Oregon continue, the state can relax protections and consider removing wolves from its endangered species list next year.

Russ Morgan, wolf coordinator for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said state rules call for launching a delisting process for wolves when Eastern Oregon has four breeding pairs for three consecutive years. A breeding pair is an adult male, adult female and at least two pups surviving to the end of the calendar year.

The dustiest portion of my home library includes the 1980s books — about how Japan's economy would dominate the world.

And then there are the 1990s books — about how the Y2K computer glitch would end the modern era.

Go up one more shelf for the late 2000s books — about oil "peaking." The authors claimed global oil production was reaching a peak and would soon decline, causing economic chaos.

The titles include Peak Oil and the Second Great Depression, Peak Oil Survival and When Oil Peaked.

The old saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." That was the reaction of a U.S. Forest Service researcher when he rediscovered a trove of landscape panoramas called the Osborne Panoramas.

SEATTLE -- If you can’t take the heat… head to the poles. That’s what fish are doing anyway.

A new study published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science looked at historical data for more than 800 commercial fisheries around the world and found that fish are heading to deeper waters and higher latitudes as the world's oceans warm.

Conservationists Sue For Wolverine Protections

Oct 14, 2014

Wolverines need deep snowpack to build their nests and rear their young. But climate models project a rise in temperatures across the wolverine’s current habitat in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon.

More dams are being removed from rivers as they get older and no longer produce hydropower. Researchers have found after these dams come down, rivers return to their natural state surprisingly fast.

Over the years lots of sediment backs up behind dams. Ecologists have worried the release of that sediment would harm habitat and cause flooding.

Is Alaska Safe For Sea Stars?

Oct 9, 2014

SITKA, AK -- It’s early morning in southeast Alaska. Stars have yet to fade from the night sky. A group of scientists sets out in search of a different kind of star.

Sea stars, commonly known as starfish, have been vanishing from North America’s Pacific shoreline.

“Almost everywhere we’ve looked in the last year, we’ve seen catastrophic losses of sea stars,” says Pete Raimondi, a biology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been studying an alarming epidemic that’s been killing starfish by the millions.

Tracey Williams/Lego Lost At Sea

Marcie Sillman speaks with retired oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, publisher of the newsletter Beachcombers' Alert!, about the afterlife of nearly 5 million maritime-themed Lego pieces.

The Legos fell off the container ship Tokio Express off the coast of England in 1997 and have been hunted by beachcombers, such as Tracey Williams and Jo Atherton, ever since.

Washington To Remove Sick Bighorn Sheep

Oct 8, 2014

More of Washington’s bighorn sheep have been infected with bacteria that cause pneumonia. The disease can sometimes wipe out entire herds. Wildlife managers are planning to remove several animals from one herd so that they don’t infect other sheep.

This type of bacterial pneumonia is highly contagious and often fatal to bighorn sheep. Adults that survive can pass the disease on to lambs.

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