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.

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.

Oregon says it is in line to receive $85 million from Volkswagen as part of the German automaker's emissions fraud settlement. With more than 13,000 affected residents, the state has the highest per capita ownership of the affected VW cars in the nation.

Neighboring Washington state announced it will receive $129 million from VW as part of the car manufacture’s settlement over deceptive marketing of its diesel cars. More than 22,000 Washingtonians are affected by the settlement.

President Obama and his counterparts from Canada and Mexico are preparing to unveil an ambitious new goal for generating carbon-free power when they meet this week in Ottawa.

The three leaders are expected to set a target for North America to get 50 percent of its electricity from nonpolluting sources by 2025. That's up from about 37 percent last year.

Aides acknowledge that's a "stretch goal," requiring commitments over and above what the three countries agreed to as part of the Paris climate agreement.

A federal appeals court panel sided with 21 Native American tribes Monday, ruling the state of Washington must continue to repair culverts that prevent salmon from freely moving along waterways.

Culverts are structures that allow water to move under roadways. But when they’re too small, too high or blocked with debris, they can prevent salmon from passing.

Tribes argued successfully more than a decade ago in the case's first hearing that the state’s culverts hurt salmon populations, violating their fishing rights.

Washington state begins its public review Monday of what would be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country, slated to be built at the Port of Vancouver.

The hearings are one of the final steps in determining whether the project gets built.

The state will use five weeks of hearings to determine how to move forward with the Vancouver Energy Project, a joint venture backed by companies Tesoro and Savage.

Portland Bans Demolition Of Old Homes

Jun 25, 2016

Portland is the first city in the country to ban the demolition of its oldest homes.

The city will require that homes built in 1916 or before are deconstructed, so the materials inside can be salvaged.

The city council passed a resolution in favor of the demolition ban this winter. They’re set to review changes to the city code next Wednesday, with a vote likely following in early July.

About 20 percent of the waste in landfills comes from building construction and demolition, according to the mayor's office.

Just as the U.S. is battling diet-related diseases, obesity and climate change, so, too, is China.

And among the proposed strategies to combat these problems is this: Eat less meat.

Seven companies have filed a legal dispute with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the plans to clean up the Portland Harbor Superfund site.

The companies, including Chevron, Gunderson, NW Natural, Union Pacific Railroad, Evraz Inc., Arkema and TOC Holdings Co., are all members of the Lower Willamette Group. The group has agreed to accept responsibility for some of the pollution in the highly contaminated 10-mile stretch of the Willamette River and work with the EPA on the cleanup.

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