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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Water Woes
8:37 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Mercer Island Water May Be Safe, But Run Your Faucets

Mercer Island, a tony Seattle suburb, shut down its restaurants and schools through Monday after E. coli was found in the city's water supply.
Credit Mercergov.org Photo

Mercer Island schools reopened Tuesday as officials said the city’s water supply was safe again after increased chlorination over the weekend. But they advised residents to first run cold water from every tap in their homes for five minutes, starting on the highest floor.

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Climate Change
3:05 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

A Journey To A Place Where There Used To Be Ice

Ice in the Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska.
Credit Flickr Photo/Dan Nguyen (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks to state climatologist Nick Bond about an upcoming research trip he and other scientists are making to Fairbanks, Alaska, where they will be utilizing a NOAA P-3 research aircraft to take direct measurements of the extra heat coming out of areas of open ocean to compare against areas that are frozen. 

Reynolds also speaks with Ursula Rakova from the group Tulele Peisa, a community group of Tulun and Carterets islanders who’s land is already affected by rising seas.

Seawall
2:47 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

Seattle Waves Tourists Goodbye, Returns To Building Seawall

Utilities must be rerouted before Seattle's current seawall comes down. But with no room on the crowded sidewalk to stage construction materials, the job shack for utility workers resides on a barge.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

As we bid the tourists adieu, we welcome back the cranes and construction.

Season 2 of Seattle’s waterfront development project starts Wednesday. It includes work from Colman Dock to the Aquarium, and holes in the ground already show the concrete face of the 1930s-era seawall, soon to be demolished. 

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EarthFix Reports
7:44 am
Mon September 29, 2014

Why The Northwest Is the New Frontier For Geothermal Energy

One of several geothermal exploration sites in Oregon is Newberry Crater, where a company has found a lot of underground heat but no geothermal fluid.
Bill Reynolds/Flickr

Originally published on Mon September 29, 2014 1:00 am

PORTLAND -- The Geothermal Energy Association chose to hold its annual meeting in Portland this year, and leaders say that's in part because they see the Pacific Northwest as a new frontier for the industry.

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EarthFix Reports
9:21 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Lakeview Biofuel Plant Proposal Raises Air Quality Concerns

A Colorado company wants to build a biofuel plant in Lakeview Oregon, where it would produce jet fuel and diesel for Southwest Airline and the U.S. Department of Defense. That would create jobs and produce more air pollution.
U.S. Forest Service

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 2:03 pm

A project proposed in Lakeview, Oregon, would turn woody biomass from logging into biofuels for Southwest Airlines, the U.S. Navy and Marines.

The biofuel would have fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional jet fuel and diesel, but some worry the project might add to existing air quality problems in southern Oregon.

Red Rock Biofuels of Fort Collins, Colorado, received a $4.1 million design and engineering grant from the U.S. Department of Defense earlier to help develop the project.

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EarthFix Reports
9:21 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Interior Secretary Jewell Tours Oregon Sage Grouse Country

The greater sage grouse has lost about 50 percent of its habitat in the West. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured sage grouse habitat in southern Oregon to see how ranchers and conservationists are working together to protect the birds' habitat.
Vince Patton, Oregon Field Guide

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 2:34 pm

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell toured southern Oregon’s high desert Thursday. The trip focused on efforts to conserve greater sage grouse.

The birds live in sagebrush country. But their habitat is shrinking in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and other states – because of people, wildfires, and invasive species. The birds don't like fragmented habitat and need wide-open spaces.

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EarthFix Reports
9:19 am
Fri September 26, 2014

Swinomish Tribe Prepares For A Changing Climate

EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran meeting with Swinomish Tribal Council Chairman Brian Cladoosby at the Swinomish Reservation to discuss a new $750,000 grant to help the tribe prepare for climate change.
Ashley Ahearn

Originally published on Thu September 25, 2014 10:01 pm

La Conner, Wash. -- The Swinomish people have lived near the mouth of the Skagit River north of Seattle for thousands of years. Now, climate change threatens their lands with rising seas and flooding.

The Obama administration recently awarded the tribe a large grant to help cope with climate change.

The entire Swinomish reservation is pretty much at sea level, on a spit of land tucked into Skagit Bay.

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UN Climate Summit
2:48 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

Good News On Climate Change? Not So Much

Dr. Koko Warner.
Credit Flickr Photo/UN University in Bonn (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds speaks with Dr. Koko Warner, lead author of the adaptation section in the latest UN report on Climate Change, about a new University of Washington study this week that found no evidence that weather patterns in the Northwest so far have been influenced by human greenhouse gas emissions.

They also discuss a New York Times story which suggested the Pacific Northwest would be a good place to be when climate change hits because there will be less extreme heat and plentiful water.

According to Warner, if you feel relief with these reports, you are mistaken. Reynolds spoke to her at the UN Climate summit this week.

News
3:20 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Concern About Oil Spills In Inland Northwest Rises With Rail Traffic

File photo of an oil train

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 8:26 am

The coast has generally been considered the area of the Northwest most at risk for a catastrophic oil spill. But the rise in oil moving through the region by rail has raised the stakes for some inland areas.

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Wildfires
3:20 pm
Wed September 24, 2014

Washington State's Largest Wildfire Not Big Enough To Merit More Federal Assistance

A rancher surveys the fire damage in the Methow Valley near Twisp, Washington.

Originally published on Wed September 24, 2014 8:30 am

People of the Methow Valley and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation were hoping for more money to rebuild hundreds of lost homes and livelihoods.

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Election Season
7:42 am
Wed September 24, 2014

California Climate Activist Dumps $1M Into Washington State

File photo of California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 7:26 am

California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer has dumped $1 million into Washington state.

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EarthFix Reports
7:37 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Portland Wins International Climate Leadership Award

Portland won an international urban sustainability award for a plan to improve walkability in neighborhoods citywide.
Jeff Gunn/Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffgunn/8238712112/in/photolist-dy2y5y-ir51Mb-op34Qi-f2Z3SG-f2Y65A-f2JKMK-f2YYVA-f2JJn2-g83KzW-krPTH6-dv2NaN-o7PF8S-aj5yd1-5X3BGH-8U4LMC-dy2tSq-g83ARU-nRyHxd-GSoLY-8RwWj

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 1:00 pm

The city of Portland is one of nine cities worldwide to receive an international City Climate Leadership Award.

The awards honor cities for urban sustainability and leadership on climate change on behalf of the climate leadership group C40 and the Berlin-based engineering firm Siemens. Winners were selected from a pool of 87 applications.

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EarthFix Reports
7:37 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Going For Launch With The Salmon Cannon

Washington Deparment of Fish and Wildlife crews load 30-pound fall chinook salmon into the salmon cannon. The cannon sucks the fish up to a truck at 22 miles per hour. The fish will then be driven to a nearby hatchery.
Courtney Flatt

Originally published on Tue September 23, 2014 10:35 pm

WASHOUGAL, Wash. -- Salmon may soon have a faster way to make it around dams. There’s a new technology that’s helping to transport hatchery fish in Washington. It’s called the salmon cannon -- yes, you read that right.

First, let's set the record straight: there’s not really an explosion. But the salmon cannon does propel fish from one spot to another.

That was demonstrated Tuesday, when the salmon cannon transported fish from southwest Washington’s Washougal River to a nearby hatchery. The goal is to make the move easier on the fish, in three steps.

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Climate Change
2:38 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Appealing To A Higher Authority In Climate Effort

Demonstrators at the People's Climate March in Seattle on September 21.
Credit Earth Ministry's Facebook page

Marcie Sillman speaks with Jessie Dye, outreach director for Earth Ministry, about the 2014 UN Climate Summit and the involvement of religious groups in environmental work.

EarthFix Reports
7:34 am
Tue September 23, 2014

Biologists Try To Figure Out Large Fall Chinook Runs

A chinook salmon photographed in the Snake River in 2013. That year's run set records. Biologist aren't sure exactly why fall chinook runs have been so high in recent years.
Aaron Kunz

Originally published on Mon September 22, 2014 4:03 pm

Thousands of fall chinook salmon are swimming up the Columbia River every day right now. This year’s migration is expected to be one of the largest in recent years. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why fall chinook have made such a big comeback.

Salmon and steelhead restoration has been a big push throughout the Northwest -- from Puget Sound to coastal streams to the Columbia-Snake River Basin -- where fall chinook were nearly extinct by the 1960s.

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