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.

With Warming Rivers, Salmon Released Early

Jul 2, 2015

Federal hatchery managers are keeping an eye on warming river water as temperatures continue to rise throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week released 6 million fish from the Little White Salmon and Willard National Fish hatcheries about one week ahead of schedule. Both hatcheries feed into the Columbia River near White Salmon, Washington.

Former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr. speaks during the U.S. Naval War College 2015 Current Strategy Forum in Newport, Rhode Island on June 17.
Flickr Photo/U.S. Naval War College (CC BY 2.0)

People tend to have strong opinions about Henry “Hank” Paulson. Depending on your point of view, he either saved the U.S. economy as we know it or allowed it to be brought to its knees in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Burned cedars and salal at a property in Woodway, Washington, which has had a ban on fireworks for years.
KUOW Photo/Carolyn Adolph

The governor’s office says there will be no state ban on fireworks. And local governments won’t be given authority to issue their own bans.

That’s because state law doesn’t permit it. But state law never imagined a heat wave like this to start the summer.

Fire fighting resources are stretched between two wildfires burning in Central Oregon.

Firefighters made good progress on the 4,802-acre Sugarloaf Fire, near the John Day Fossil Beds. The lightning-caused fire is now 40 percent contained, but the Corner Creek Fire south of Dayville continues to spread. The blaze grew to more than 6,000 acres in two days.

A few minutes past the last minute, the Washington Legislature renewed an expiring tax incentive to promote non-polluting plug-in cars.

Cities in drought-plagued California took water conservation seriously in May. Residential water use went down by 28.9 percent in May, according to a press release from the State Water Resources Control Board.

Wildfire season in the Northwest has started early this year. Crews are battling the Buckskin Fire right now.

Scientists refer to the Buckskin as a “reburn” because it’s on land that was scorched by wildfire in the recent past. These reburns are a positive indication that the forests are recovering from decades of fire suppression.

Monday's Supreme Court decision to reject the Environmental Protection Agency's air pollution rules won't have any immediate effect on Northwest power plants, and its long-term effects are still unclear.

The court ruled the EPA should have considered the cost of mercury and toxic air pollution limits earlier in the regulatory process. With that, the judges sent the rule back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for review.

Smoke from several warehouses on fire, thought to have been sparked by embers from a wildfire that hit homes on a nearby hillside, fills the sky Monday, June 29, 2015, in Wenatchee, Wash.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Fire came floating out of the sky into Wenatchee.

“Some of the embers we gathered and posted on social media, I mean, they're the size of a loaf of bread or bigger,” Wenatchee World editor Cal FitzSimmons told KUOW’s Marcie Sillman, describing the scene this week as a wildfire roared down from the northwest.

Crabber Tom Petersen would rather have his crab pots on the floor of the Pacific, but a toxic algae bloom has prompted health officials to close the south Washington coast to commercial and recreational crabbing.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

TOKELAND, Wash. – Tom Petersen’s 50-foot crab boat sits idly in the Port of Willapa Harbor, a tiny coastal inlet 40 or so miles north of the mouth of the Columbia River.

On a normal day in early summer, Petersen would be selling Dungeness crab to canneries, big-city buyers and even fresh off the back of his boat to locals and tourists.

Thousands Of Hatchery Fish Die After Valve Clogs

Jun 29, 2015

About 400,000 baby fish died Sunday at a hatchery near Roseburg.

The entire run of pre-smolt spring Chinook that the Rock Creek Hatchery planned to release next year died when a clogged intake valve cut off their access to fresh water, said Greg Huchko with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Water flow was only interrupted for about an hour, but river temperatures are so high that the fish could not survive.

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.

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