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.

Greg McMillan peered into the Metolius River on a chilly May morning. As he does three times a month, the president of the Deschutes River Alliance dropped a water collection device off the side of his powerboat.

“The water clarity here is just amazing,” McMillan said as he retrieved a sample.

He measured temperature, pH and turbidity of the river water. Meanwhile, an osprey flew overhead, clutching a small fish in its talons. Every few minutes, a silvery kokanee flung itself above the surface of the river.

A group of climate activists is fasting on the steps of the Washington state Capitol this week as part of a protest against Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed cap on carbon emissions. The activists say the cap doesn’t go far enough.

Court documents show the timber industry is footing the bill for Linn County’s $1.4 billion lawsuit over logging in Oregon state forests.

The county is suing the state on the grounds it has failed to maximize revenue from state-owned forestland.

The lawsuit claims the state is contractually required to allow more logging on state forestland to ensure funding for counties that deeded the land over to the state more than 70 years ago.

A pavement park at the corner of University and Boylston offers a colorful area, but not green space.
Flickr Photo/SDOT Photos (CC BY NC 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/F7VBT2

Bill Radke speaks with Adiel Kaplan about her article for Investigate West about green space in the city and the future of public parks in Seattle. 

On April 27, Steve Holm and three other inspectors drove right over a set of broken railroad bolts that later would cause a massive oil train explosion.

Holm rode shotgun as Union Pacific Railroad’s specially equipped pickup rolled along at 10 mph over its tracks through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

He stared out the front windshield at the steel rails, the wood ties beneath and the plates and bolts that held them together.

A federal agency has approved the continued killing of California sea lions that are eating salmon and steelhead near the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam.

NOAA Fisheries announced Wednesday it is allowing Oregon, Washington and Idaho to continue what the agency is calling the "lethal removal" of those sea lions until the middle of 2021.

Several Portland factories are in the public eye this month as Oregon regulators take public comment on new rules for making art glass.

Their process involves some heavy metals. Untill now, those emissions have gone mostly unfiltered.

While the state Department of Environmental Quality is working out a permanent system of rules, there’s still a long list of people with unanswered questions about the art glass business and human health.

One of the names at the top of that list is Jess Beebe. She got some unwelcome news from the lab this spring.

Engineers at Oregon State have created a free, open-source computer program that can determine a stream or river’s potential as an energy source. They released the program last Thursday.

OSU’s new software compiles a network of global climate data and calibrates it with local data collected by users to assess a region’s hydropower potential.

Kendra Sharp, a professor of humanitarian engineering at OSU, said giving previously off-the-grid areas power was the main goal of the program.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act in response to the Wassen Pond Fire in Wasco County.

The fire has burned about 300 acres and is threatening nearby homes and structures.

A level-2 pre-evacuation notice was issued Monday to some residents.

The emergency declaration will allow additional resources to support the effort to contain the fire.

The condition of watersheds in Washington state continues to decline. That’s according to the the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The organization delivered the news to the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday.

The environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper is suing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation over oil spills from Grand Coulee Dam.

The group already sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over water pollution coming from eight other dams in the Columbia River Basin.

NOAA: Don't touch the seal pups

Jun 29, 2016
Harbor seal pup
Flickr Photo/Tambako the Jaguar (CC BY ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/hkwU5y

Bill Radke speaks with Michael Milstein, spokesperson for NOAA Fisheries, about why people should not interfere with seal pups even if they look to be abandoned. 

More than a dozen organizations are calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to stop renewing air pollution permits until a new set of rules are in place.

The state is in the process of setting new limits on air pollution to protect human health after testing revealed numerous toxic hot spots around Portland – including unhealthy levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead near the Bullseye Glass facility.

Water loving willows hug the edges of the shore. Lost Lake, at its peak, is around 79 acres. Right now, it is draining away.

About half way around from the lake entrance, a sharp eye might spot a footpath leading out onto the grassy, muddy lake bed. Follow that and soon the sound of rushing water is audible.

Then, there it is. The hole.

Dave Kretzing has a pretty good grasp on the mystery of Lost Lake. He's a retired hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service and he's spent years thinking about what happens here and why.

Every place has its own sound. A small group of scientists is hard at work recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. — more than 70 soundscapes so far.

For our series on the centennial of the national parks, we traveled to Colorado, to find out how they create these portraits of sound.

First Lesson: It's Very Hard To Escape The Sound Of Humans.

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