Ashley Ahearn

Environment Reporter

Ashley Ahearn is the environment reporter at KUOW and part of the award-winning regional multimedia collaborative project EarthFix. Before joining KUOW Ashley was a producer and reporter for Living on Earth, a nationally aired environment program from Public Radio International.

She has a master's degree in science journalism from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and has completed reporting fellowships with Vermont Law School, the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island and the Institutes for Journalism and Natural Resources. She also serves on the board of the Society of Environmental Journalists. In her spare time Ashley enjoys riding vintage motorcycles, snowboarding and hiking in the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges of the Northwest.

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EarthFix Reports
9:11 am
Fri December 13, 2013

China Imposes First-Ever West Coast Shellfish Ban

Blake Severns inspects a wild geoduck just plucked from the bottom of Puget Sound. Severn is a diver with the the Washington Department of Natural Resources Aquatics Resource Division.

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 5:58 pm

China has suspended imports of shellfish from the west coast of the United States -- an unprecedented move that cuts off a $270 million Northwest industry from its biggest export market.

China said it decided to impose the ban after recent shipments of geoduck clams from Northwest waters were found by its own government inspectors to have high levels of arsenic and a toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning.

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EarthFix Reports
1:05 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Plan To End Hatchery Fish Release Would Give Wild Fish Refuge

A hatchery fish is found among wild fish returning to the Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula this past spring. Wild fish advocates around the region have filed several lawsuits calling for restrictions on the use of hatcheries.
Credit EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Fish and wildlife departments in Oregon, Washington and Idaho release millions of hatchery-raised salmon and steelhead into the rivers of the Northwest every year.

But a growing body of research suggests that hatchery fish are semi-domesticated and weaker than wild fish. Hatchery fish have also been shown to interbreed with the wild fish and compete for food.

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EarthFix Reports
11:20 am
Wed December 4, 2013

Northwest Tribe Opposes Coal Terminal, But How Hard Will They Fight It?

Tribal treaty fishing rights give Washington tribes the opportunity to weigh in on, and even block, projects that could impact their fishing grounds.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Dozens of crab pot buoys dot the waters around Lummi tribal member Jay Julius’ fishing boat as he points the bow towards Cherry Point – a spit of land that juts into northern Puget Sound near Bellingham, Wash.

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Environment
8:58 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Coal Exporter Disturbed Native American Burial Site Near Bellingham

Jay Julius is a Lummi tribal council member and fisherman. He cites the Pacific International Terminals' non-permitted actions at Cherry Point as a source of tribal opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal.
EarthFix/KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Three summers ago, the company that hopes to build the largest coal terminal in North America failed to obtain the permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres. 

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Not Fish Food
9:52 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Study: Eating Plastic Causes Tumors, Liver Problems In Fish

The unaltered stomach contents of a dead albatross chick photographed in September 2009 include plastic marine debris fed to the chick by its parents.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Photo/Chris Jordan

The majority of the plastic pollution in the ocean, by volume, comes in the form of tiny confetti-sized particles, which, as anyone who's ever kept a pet fish can attest, resemble fish food.

And fish are fooled as well.

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Coal In The Northwest
12:08 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Coal Dust From Trains Adds To Pollution, New Research Finds

Dan Jaffe, UW-Bothell professor, used crowdfunding to raise money to study how passing coal trains impact air quality. He issued conclusions from his research on Nov. 4, 2013.
Credit EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

New research results suggest coal trains are contributing to the Northwest’s air pollution.

That’s according to the preliminary results of a University of Washington atmospheric and environmental scientist’s crowdfunded study.

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Environment
1:46 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Orca Population Declines As Puget Sound ‘Remains In Crisis’

Courtesy of NOAA/Candice Emmons

Citing worsening marine water quality and the declining orca population, Chinook salmon and herring, the state agency Puget Sound Partnership referred to the Puget Sound as a patient in “critical condition.”

“Puget Sound remains in crisis,” says a report released last week by the agency. “It is increasingly likely that we will not reach our legislatively established targets by 2020.”

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Environment
11:09 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Under Plan, Inslee Agrees To Higher Clean Fuel Standards For Washington

California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia will will announce a plan Monday to align carbon reduction efforts. Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee has long been a champion for clean energy.
EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

UPDATE: 10/29/2013, 12 p.m. PT: 

The leaders of three West Coast states – including Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee – and the premier of British Columbia agreed on Monday in San Francisco to adopt and maintain low carbon fuel standards. Under the plan, Washington and Oregon commit to mirroring California and British Columbia’s existing clean fuel standards. 

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Elections 2013
9:04 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Interest Groups Pour Money Into Whatcom Races Ahead Of Coal Terminal Decision

Predictions are for an even race in the Whatcom County Council races, despite the outspending of environmental groups to coal supporters.
Credit Flickr Photo/Ryan Sitzman

UPDATE: 10/18/13, 2:30 p.m. PT.

This story does not reflect recent donations of approximately $150,000 made to a political action committee that supports Whatcom County Council candidates believed to be sympathetic to the proposed coal terminal in Bellingham, Wash. Donations were made to Save Whatcom, a conservative PAC.

Original Post:

A relatively small county council election in Washington state’s far northwest corner could play a major role in the future of the US coal industry.

The Whatcom County council could end up casting the deciding votes to permit the controversial dock for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would transfer coal from trains onto ships bound for Asia. It would be the largest coal export terminal on the West Coast.

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Shellfish Poisoning
7:50 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Algal Blooms Becoming More Toxic With Warming Waters

The Williford family is all smiles today. But they weren't so happy when Jessica (far right) was the first person in the US with a documented case of diarrhetic shellfish poisoning. Climate change could make such illnesses more common.
Katie Campbell Earthfix

SAMMAMISH, Wash. — A photograph displayed in Jacki and John Williford’s home commemorates a camping trip that would go down in family history.

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Job Training And Creation
9:30 am
Tue September 24, 2013

"Green Jobs" A Loosely Defined Category In Job Creation Grants

Mike Mitzel, maintenance mechanic for UW's consolidated laundry facility.
KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

In 2009 President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law. It provided $500 million for research and green-jobs training. Here in Washington, $16 million in federal funds went to green jobs training.

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Coal Train Impact
8:44 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Documents Reveal Army Corps’ Earlier Concerns About Coal Trains And Wetlands

The TransAlta Centralia Generation Plant has been burning coal since 1971. The coal burned there was mined on-site until 2006 when the Centralia mine closed and the power plant began bringing in Powder River Basin coal by train.
Pamela Gerber

Proposals to make the Northwest a major coal exporting region have made for a familiar debate over the potential impacts on people and the environment. Will it help the economy? What will coal dust do to the air we breathe? Will our rivers and marine waters be threatened?

Here’s another question: Will coal trains harm the wetlands of the Pacific Northwest?

So far, wetlands have not been a central part of the public debate over coal exports. But concern over these ecologically sensitive areas are familiar to the federal regulators who will decide whether to permit coal export terminals.

In fact, according to government documents obtained by EarthFix, the Army Corps of Engineers has already studied the issue. And in at least one instance, it’s reached a conclusion:

Coal trains are bad for wetlands.

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Salmon Spawning
10:30 am
Fri August 30, 2013

Washington Tribes Grow Impatient With Fish-Killing Dam

The pink salmon run is strong this year. That's presented a challenge to the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for moving returning salmon in the White River around the Buckley and Mud Mountain dams.
Credit EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Right now there are tens of thousands of salmon dying at the base of an outdated dam on the White River east of Tacoma in Buckley, Wash.

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Oil Transportation
11:14 am
Thu August 29, 2013

Shell Moving Ahead On Oil Train Project For Puget Sound Refinery

The oil refinery in Anacortes, Wash., with Mt. Baker in the background.
Flickr Photo/RVWithTito

On Thursday morning Shell Oil will be meeting with officials from a county in Washington state to talk about plans to build a rail extension to deliver oil from North Dakota to its refinery near Puget Sound.

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Salmon Recovery
10:39 am
Thu August 22, 2013

Can-Am Leaders Launch Salmon Recovery Effort

Salmon leaders from Washington and British Columbia gathered in Seattle for the launch of a new $20 million research and recovery project.
EarthFix Photo/Ashley Ahearn

Leaders on salmon research and recovery from the United States and Canada came together in Seattle Wednesday to announce a new project.

It’s called the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project, and it’s meant to address a major question: Why aren’t salmon and steelhead in Washington and Canadian waters recovering, despite the millions of dollars that have been spent on research and habitat restoration?

“We have a fairly clear idea of what salmon need and what they’re doing in the freshwater environment. We know considerably less about the marine systems,” said Jacques White, executive director of Long Live The Kings. The Seattle-based nonprofit is coordinating the effort along with the Pacific Salmon Foundation in B.C.

White says the project will focus on answering questions about what’s happening to salmon and steelhead when they leave the freshwater rivers and enter Washington’s Puget Sound and British Columbia’s Georgia Strait.

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