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
8:17 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Underwater Video: Starfish Die-offs Hit Hood Canal

Sunflower star in Hood Canal losing its arms, a symptom of sea star wasting syndrome.
Laura James

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 5:00 pm

Waypoints-blog-logo-FINAL-for-posts

SEATTLE -- In the last few months, Laura James has seen more dead and dying starfish than she can count. But the diver and videographer was shocked by what she saw in Hood Canal this weekend.

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Environment
6:18 am
Wed June 18, 2014

U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Area Would Nearly Double Under New Plan

The Department of the Interior is proposing a large expansion of U.S. efforts to make energy from offshore winds, with a plan centered off the Massachusetts coast. Here, a 2010 photo shows a sunrise over Nantucket Sound.
Julia Cumes AP

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 8:55 am

A large swath of the Atlantic Ocean could soon be used to generate electricity, as a U.S. agency proposes opening more than 1,000 square miles of ocean to wind energy projects. The area is off the coast of Massachusetts, which has been working on the proposal with federal officials.

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Local Wonder
7:49 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Why Are There So Few Mosquitos In Seattle?

Sharon Collman, an entomologist at Washington State University, hunts for mosquitos.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ashley Ahearn

KUOW listener Nancy Beaudet had a question: Why are there so few mosquitos in Seattle?

As part of our Local Wonder series, we sent our environmental reporter, Ashley Ahearn, onto the muddy trails of the Washington Park Arboretum to find out why skeeters don’t plague Seattle summers.

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Environment
3:31 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

Plastics Don't Disappear, But They Do End Up In Seabirds' Bellies

Plastic floats ashore in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Bay Ismoyo AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 5:33 pm

The vast majority of debris in the ocean — about 75 percent of it — is made of plastic. It can consist of anything from plastic bottles to packaging materials, but whatever form it takes, it doesn't go away easily.

While plastic may break down into smaller and smaller pieces, some as small as grains of sand, these pieces are never truly biodegradable. The plastic bits, some small enough that they're called microplastics, threaten marine life like fish and birds, explains Richard Thompson, a professor of marine biology at Plymouth University in the U.K.

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Seafood
10:41 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Red Fish, Blue Fish: Where The Fish Flesh Rainbow Comes From

Yellowfin tuna; Chinook salmon; lingcod; Pacific halibut.
Chang/iStockphoto; Debbi Smirnoff/iStockphoto; via TeachAGirlToFish; Andrea Pokrzywinski/Flickr

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 1:36 pm

From red to white to orange to blue, fish flesh can land almost anywhere on the color spectrum.

What's behind this huge variation? A lot of things — from genetics to bile pigments. And parsing the rainbow can tell us something about where a fish came from, its swimming routine and what it ate.

Red yellowfin tuna: A classic of the sashimi counter, the yellowfin tuna is also the Michael Phelps of the fish world. And its athletic prowess has a lot to do with its ruby red flesh.

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Nuclear Waste
7:31 am
Tue June 17, 2014

Washington State, Energy Department Continue Talks Over Hanford Tank Cleanup

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 7:46 am

  Washington state and the U.S. Department of Energy just gave themselves a 40-day deadline. They need a clear cleanup plan for leaking tanks of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

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EarthFix Reports
7:39 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Scientists Close In On What’s Killing Sea Stars

An ochre star's arm dangles by a thread, one of the signs of sea star wasting syndrome.
Katie Campbell

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 1:00 am

ORCAS ISLAND, Wash. -- Drew Harvell peers into the nooks and crannies along the rocky shoreline of Eastsound on Orcas Island. Purple and orange starfish clutch the rocks, as if hanging on for dear life.

Watch the video:

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Environment
7:38 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Redwood Burl Poaching Spreads To Oregon

A redwood with poached burl in the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest.
Wendell Wood Oregon Wild

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 4:07 pm

Redwood burl poaching has long been an issue in the Redwood National Park in California. But now a conservation group says it's spotted evidence of this type of tree damage in a national forest in Oregon.

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400 Miles Deep
12:27 pm
Sun June 15, 2014

Deep Underground, Oceans Of Water May Be Trapped In A Crystal 'Sponge'

Originally published on Sun June 15, 2014 3:58 pm

Science teachers may have to add a whole new layer to the water cycle.

Scientists have discovered evidence of a vast reservoir of water hiding up to 400 miles beneath the surface.

The discovery could transform our understanding of how the planet was formed, suggesting that Earth's water may have come from within, rather than from collisions with large, icy comets.

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EarthFix Reports
9:32 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Oregon Completes Controversial Sales Of State-Owned Coastal Forestlands

The controversy over the sales of forestlands to private timber companies centers on the marbled murrelet.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 1:59 pm

The state of Oregon has completed the sales of three parcels of public forestland to private timber companies.

The finalized sales of 1,453 acres from a coastal state forest were announced Thursday by the Oregon Department of State Lands. The agency says it netted and about $4.2 million through the transaction.

A lack of revenues from the Elliott State Forest were cited as the main reason for the sale. The state's Common School Fund relies on revenues generated from state-owned lands.

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EarthFix Reports
9:32 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Corps Plans To Kill Nearly 16,000 Cormorants Nesting In Columbia River

Nearly 30,000 cormorants are nesting on East Sand Island in the Columbia River and eating millions of protected salmon and steelhead.
Cassandra Profita

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 12:02 pm

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to kill nearly 16,000 cormorants nesting in the Columbia River estuary in an effort to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead.

The corps issued its proposed management plan Thursday. It would wipe out about half the cormorants currently nesting on an island at the mouth of the Columbia River by 2018. Officials say it's the best way to reduce the colony to the number of birds required under an agreement that allows the Corps to operate dams on the Columbia River.

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'Coyote On Steroids'
9:32 am
Fri June 13, 2014

The Wolf At The Door: California Wrestles With A Predator’s Return

A new wolf pack forming in Southern Oregon has some California ranchers worried the animals could return to the state within the next decade.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Originally published on Sun June 15, 2014 12:11 am

It’s been 90 years since the last native California wolf was trapped and killed. This month, Oregon wildlife officials announced that OR-7, the wolf they’ve tracked wandering in and out of northern California, had found a mate and fathered a new litter in southern Oregon.

That news contributes to the growing sense that it’s only a matter of time until wolves re-inhabit the Golden State. Against this backdrop, California wildlife officials extended endangered species status to the gray wolf.

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EarthFix Reports
7:06 am
Thu June 12, 2014

How Crowdfunding May Help Build Solar Roadways

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand on a 12x12-foot parking lot, the first installation of their Solar Roadways project. The Brusaws hope to oneday pave over the nation's roadways with solar panels. They have raised more than $2 million on a crowdfunding site.
Courtesy of Solar Roadways

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 5:21 pm

You’re moving slowly through rush hour traffic. Instead of asphalt, your car is driving on top of specially designed solar panels. That’s the vision of one Northern Idaho couple. It’s a vision that’s coming closer to reality thanks to their successful crowdfunding campaign.

For nearly 10 years, engineer Scott Brusaw has been chipping away at his idea to change the nation’s roadways.

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EarthFix Reports
7:04 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Under New EPA Rules, Washington To Face Deepest Mandatory Cuts In CO2 Emissions

Washington has one of the lowest CO2 emissions levels from electricity generation in the country, since it's home to only one coal-burning power plant. Under new EPA rules, Washington is on the hook to cut those emissions by more than any other state.
Michael Werner

Originally published on Wed June 11, 2014 3:02 pm

SEATTLE -- Under the new rules released by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, each state has a specific percentage by which it has to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

The average of all the individual state-level cuts will be CO2 emissions from power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels.

"It’s a goal that we can, should and will meet, in part because we’ve already taken early action in our state," Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told EarthFix.

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EarthFix Report
1:43 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Northwest States Tread Lightly With Oil Train Route Disclosures

Railroads are being required by the federal government to share some information with states about their shipments of oil from North Dakota's Bakken fields. But they don't want the states to disclose that information to the public.
Flickr Photo/Russ Allison Loar

The Northwest’s two main freight rail operators are complying with a federal requirement to inform states about the North Dakota crude oil they’re hauling, but they want the states to keep the public from finding out by signing non-disclosure agreements.

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