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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EarthFix Reports
8:46 am
Wed February 26, 2014

2014 Fall Chinook Returns Could Be Biggest On Record

A chinook salmon photographed in the Snake River in 2013. That year's run set records, but 2014 returns are on track to outnumber last year's in the Columbia and Snake rivers.
Aaron Kunz

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 6:00 pm

The future is looking bright for fall chinook salmon in the Columbia and Snake rivers. Predictions are in that this could be another record-breaking year for the fish.

Officials are predicting the largest return on record since 1938. That’s 1.6 million Columbia River fall chinook. Nearly 1 million of those fish will come from salmon near Hanford Reach. These are known as upriver brights, said Stuart Ellis, fisheries biologist with the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission.

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EarthFix Reports
8:52 am
Tue February 25, 2014

How One Dam Increased Fish Survival By Managing Its Water

Ryan Harnish led a study showing the effects of Central Washington's Priest Rapid Dam operations on young salmon downstream. In the background is Locke Island, one of the best spawning habitats for salmon in the Columbia River.
Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 12:02 am

RICHLAND, Wash. -- For better salmon survival: be sure to keep salmon eggs and newly hatched fish under the water. Those are the key findings of a new study that says large numbers of fish survived when a Central Washington dam carefully controlled its water releases.

The study looked at an area of the Columbia River known as Hanford Reach, a 50-mile stretch in Central Washington along the Hanford site. It's one of the longest free-flowing areas of the river.

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EarthFix Reports
8:45 am
Tue February 25, 2014

2013: A Good Year For West Coast Lumber and Log Exports

West Coast log and lumber exports rose sharply in 2013
Amelia Templeton

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

West Coast log and lumber exports rose sharply in 2013 as Asian demand for American logs increased, according to new research from the U.S. Forest Service.

The region's lumber and log exports rose about 20 percent last year, with demand peaking in the fourth quarter.

Most of the West Coast logs shipped overseas are going to China -- although Japan has upped its demand, as well. With limited forestlands of their own, these countries rely on the United States’ timber supply.

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EarthFix Reports
9:33 am
Mon February 24, 2014

What Does Climate Change Mean For Ice Climbing?

Whitman College freshman Laura Rey makes her way up the Weeping Wall, outside Dayton, Wash. This was Rey's first ice climbing trip.
EarthFix Photo/Courtney Flatt

High up in Washington’s Blue Mountains, behind trees and across the Touchet River, is what locals call the Weeping Wall.

Water seeps through the permeable basalt and can freeze on the cliff’s moss-covered face. When the conditions are right, that creates a curtain of ice that is irresistible for ice climbers.

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EarthFix Reports
4:50 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Navy Looks To Renew Permits For Bombing And Sonar Exercises In The Northwest

The U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis transits the Pacific Ocean alongside the oiler USNS Yukon.
Official U.S. Navy Imagery/Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Abbate

The Navy is pursuing permits to continue conducting sonar and explosives exercises in a large area of the Pacific Ocean — and that’s putting marine mammal advocates on high alert.

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Utilities
3:09 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Garbage Collection Advice From Oregon: 'Go For It'

Tacoma, Olympia and Portland, Ore., have all moved to garbage collection every other week.
Flickr Photo/Kevin Harber (CC BY-NC-ND)

David Hyde talks with Michael Armstrong, senior sustainability manager for the City of Portland, about Portland's biweekly trash program. Seattle is currently considering a proposal to reduce garbage collection to every other week.

Snow Dump
7:52 am
Thu February 20, 2014

Washington Snowpack Building Toward Normal

Lake Mowich with Mount Rainier in the background had little snow in the beginning of the winter season. February is helping the Cascade Mountain range catch up with its snowpack.
Credit KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

On a clear day in Seattle, Nick Bond can size up the mountain snowpack on his bike ride to work at the University of Washington. However, in his role as the state’s climatologist, Bond crunches the data to get a much more precise picture. That’s because a lot of people care about snowpack.

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Winter Weather
9:09 am
Wed February 19, 2014

Avalanche Deaths Highlight Unstable Backcountry Conditions

A deep slab avalanche, seen from above.
Janet Kellam/Sawtooth Avalanche Center

The avalanche center in Idaho's Sun Valley area is urging people to consider cancelling their plans in the backcountry.

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EarthFix Reports
8:38 am
Wed February 19, 2014

How Northwest's Natural Resource Policy-Making Could Change

The Northwest is in for a shakeup when it comes to natural resources policy. That's because the region is losing Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Doc Hastings, two key chairman of congressional committees that set policy on forests, rivers, mining and energy.

Originally published on Wed February 19, 2014 2:36 pm

The natural resource arena is losing two influential policymakers from the Northwest.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., recently announced he would not seek reelection after representing central Washington for 20 years. Hastings has served on the House Committee on Natural Resources since 1995 and as its chair since 2011.

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EarthFix Reports
10:41 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Volcanic Eruptions Could Be More Rare Than You Think

Researchers may soon be able to better predict when a volcano will erupt because of findings that show magma under the surface may not be as hot as previously thought.
Eric Klemetti, Denison University

Originally published on Tue February 18, 2014 1:00 am

Right before a volcano erupts, molten rock, known as magma, is moving around underneath the surface. New research suggests this liquid magma is very rare. That’s an important finding for researchers trying to predict when a volcano may erupt.

Geologists from University of Califonia, Davis, and Oregon State University studied Mount Hood and have found that magma is often too cold to move around so much. And cold, here, is a relative term.

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EarthFix Reports
8:35 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Is Fukushima Radiation Causing Pacific Starfish Die-Offs?

Scientists in Washington state are conducting lab-based infectiousnesss experiments to understand how the epidemic is spreading.
Credit EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

Scientists seeking the answer to why starfish are dying off along parts of the west coast are almost certain that they can cross radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster off the list of causes.

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EarthFix Reports
8:32 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Crude Oil Terminal Planned In NW Portland

A Google Earth image of the Paramount Petroleum asphalt plant, recently sold to a an investment firm and leased to Arc Logistics Partners LP for use as a crude oil terminal.
Google Earth http://google.com/

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 4:15 pm

PORTLAND -- A national fuel storage company has plans to turn an asphalt plant near the Willamette River into a rail and marine terminal for crude oil.

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Paleontology
10:56 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Make It A Grande: Mammoth Tusk Find Likely Seattle's Largest

Plumber apprentice Joe Wells touching what Burke Museum officials believe is the largest, most intact mammoth tusk, ever found in the region.
Uncredited AP

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 10:11 am

The tusk from a mammoth that lived 16,000 years ago in the Seattle area unearthed earlier this week appears to be the largest, most intact ever found in the region.

It's thought to be from a Columbian mammoth, a subgroup of woolly mammoths, and is considered to be a pretty rare find. Construction workers stumbled on it as they were digging the foundation for an apartment complex in the city's South Lake Union neighborhood.

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Winter Weather
9:14 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Next Chapter In Northwest Weather Expected To Be Flooding, Landslides

A landslide carried boulders onto I-84 near Hood River, Ore., on Wednesday.
Oregon State Police

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 5:57 pm

The National Weather Service says the recent snowfall combined with rain over the next few days has set the stage for flooding in parts of the Northwest.

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Evacuation Of Java
7:32 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Massive Volcanic Eruption In Indonesia Blankets Region In Ash

A residential area is covered with ash from the Mount Kelud volcano, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, on Friday.
Bimo Satrio EPA/Landov

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 11:06 am

The second major volcanic eruption in as many weeks in Indonesia has killed at least three people and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands on the island of Java, as Mount Kelud spewed ash and debris 12 miles into the sky.

Thursday night's eruption of the volcano, located 50 miles southwest of the country's second-largest city of Surabaya, could be heard up to 125 miles away, Indonesia's disaster agency says, according to The Associated Press.

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