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.

The Washington drought report for Aug. 26, 2015.
U.S. Drought Monitor

Washington is seeing fire and rain this weekend, as huge wildfires burn in Chelan and Okanogan counties and a major storm bears down on the western part of the state.

“There is a potent, juicy system headed our way,” state climatologist Nick Bond told KUOW's Marcie Sillman.

Experts testify before a U.S. Senate hearing on wildfires. The hearing was held at Seattle University.
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Senator Maria Cantwell is trying to build bipartisan support for what she’s calling the Wildfire Management Act of 2015. The bill would change the way we fight fires and secure more dependable funds for fire prevention. At a public hearing this week, she heard testimony from fire experts. 

What's The Deal With Dam Removals?

Aug 27, 2015

In the past decade, several high-profile dam removals have happened in the Northwest. The Marmot Dam on the Sandy River in Oregon was demolished in 2007. Three dams along the main stem of Oregon’s Rogue River came down between 2008 and 2010.

The battle continues to contain dozens of large wildfires burning across the Northwest. Firefighters are hoping for a break in the weather this weekend -- and perhaps even some rain.

The Soda Fire in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon has burned more than 400 square miles -- most of it federally-managed grazing land. Extreme temperatures fueled the Soda Fire. But farmers and ranchers are also blaming federal policy.

Kayakers protesting the arrival of Shell's Polar Pioneer rig in Port Angeles in April
KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

Environment groups have another opportunity to stop a Shell Oil rig from returning to Seattle.

They are appealing a Superior Court decision from earlier this summer that the Port of Seattle could host Shell's Arctic drilling fleet without conducting an environmental review.

Steve Surgeon surveys the ruins after he lost outbuildings and vehicles in a wildfire on the outskirts of Okanogan, Wash., Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. His home was saved , though.
AP Photo/Brian Skoloff

Ross Reynolds speaks with EarthFix reporter Jes Burns about the role of climate change in this year's wildfire season. You can read more of her reporting here.

Q&A: The Wildfire-Climate-Change Connection

Aug 26, 2015

Wildfire season is in full swing, with more acres burned so far than in an average year.

Here in the Northwest, we’ve been hearing daily about all the wildfires burning. Many more communities are dealing with the smoke blowing in from those fires.

Scientists are studying the connections between climate change, drought and wildfire. And policymakers and fire managers are trying to keep pace with new demands on resources as firefighting costs continue to rise. Here are some of the big questions — and answers — about the connection between climate change and wildfires.

Killing Seabirds To Save Salmon On The Columbia

Aug 26, 2015

It's after 10 p.m. and I'm on a boat at the mouth of the Columbia River.

We're circling around East Sand Island, where thousands of seabirds are nesting in total darkness. I'm pretty sure the captain, Rob Gudgell, thinks I'm nuts.

"Why did you want to come out at night?" he asks.

Unhealthy smoke continued to blanket large parts of central and eastern Washington state and north Idaho Wednesday. Some workers in north central Washington were sent home because the dense smoke was rated downright “hazardous.”

Smoke from an approaching wildfire looms over a home near Twisp, Wash., Aug. 19, 2015.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Marcie Sillman talks to Don Ashford, host at 97.5 FM  KTRT The Root about how he is using the airwaves to bring the latest wildfire information to residents of the Methow Valley.

Ross Reynolds speaks with Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer about wildfires in British Columbia and the impact there of fires across the border in Washington. 

Wildfires send up plumes of smoke across Washington on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015, in this photo produced using NASA's Worldview tool.
NASA Worldview

We experience the eerie, smoky sunsets. We hear the fire names like Wolverine and North Star.

These are just small glimpses into the huge picture of the West’s wildfires in 2015. Randy Eardly sees that long view at the National Interagency Fire Center. He told KUOW's David Hyde that nearly 1.3 million acres have burned so far in Washington and Oregon.

Firefighters line up to get gear out of the back of a fire truck as they get ready to head out onto a line Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015, in Twisp, Wash.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The state of Washington is taking an extraordinary step to battle the wildfires ravaging the region: seeking volunteers to join the fight. And the response so far is overwhelming.

Firewise is the name of a long-running campaign to get homeowners in wildfire country to take steps to reduce risk. Outside Omak, Wash., John Belles didn't just do the simple things. He built a futuristic, thin-shelled concrete dome house. It's now an unscathed beacon amid acres of hillside blackened by the Okanogan fire, the largest in state history.

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