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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Remembering The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
3:02 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Brings 'Bad Juju' And Pain 25 Years Later

Scott Pegau, a scientist at the Prince William Sound Science Center, studies the effects of spilled oil on the environment in Cordova, Alaska.
Debbie Elliott NPR

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 6:54 pm

At Ross Mullins' home in Cordova, Alaska, you have to slam the front door extra hard to make it close. The former commercial fisherman lives in a small wood-frame house that's in need of repair. Some of the windows are cracked and he leaves the water faucets dripping to protect uninsulated pipes from the harsh Alaskan winter.

When the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground and started leaking oil 25 years ago, the disaster drastically changed the fishing industry in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Mullins has never recovered from that blow.

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Homes On Coastal Bluffs
11:26 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Perkins Lane: Seattle's Poster Child For Landslide Risk

Ruth Trail, a resident of the Magnolia area of Seattle, surveys where a landslide took out homes on Perkins Lane in 1996.
Credit KUOW Photo/Deb Wang

It’s no secret that Western Washington is prone to landslides. The combination of glacial soils, steep slopes and water creates a risk that’s greater than in other parts of the U.S.

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Oso Mudflow
8:55 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Rain Makes Slippery Search At Deadly Landslide More Complicated

Rain on Tuesday is complicating the search for victims of the landlside in Snohomish County.
Al Maguire Washington Dept. of Natural Resources

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 9:34 am

Light rain is falling on the valley north of Seattle Tuesday where hundreds of rescuers are still combing through debris from Saturday’s catastrophic landslide.

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Oso Mudflow
8:53 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Why It's So Hard To Pin Down The Number Of Missing People After A Disaster

An aerial View of the landslide over SR 530 near Oso, Wash.
WSDOT Flickr

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 9:34 am

More than 100 people are considered missing after last weekend's devastating landslide near Oso, Washington. That number continues to fluctuate.

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Oso Mudflow
6:45 am
Wed March 26, 2014

High Tech Tools And Tricks Aid Search For Landslide Victims

A view of mud-covered SR 530 after Saturday's landslide that struck near Oso, Wash.
WSDOT Flickr

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 9:35 am

Rescuers are employing high technology tools and tricks to help locate victims buried deep under the muck and debris of Saturday’s landslide in Northwest Washington.

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Drought Migration
12:21 am
Wed March 26, 2014

What A Long, Strange Trip: Salmon Are Trucking To The Pacific Ocean

Pacific Or Bust: Fingerling Chinook salmon are dumped into a holding pen as they are transferred from a truck into the Sacramento River Tuesday in Rio Vista, Calif. From here, they'll be towed downstream for a bit, then make their own way out to the Pacific Ocean.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

In California, severe drought has imperiled millions of juvenile salmon who now face waters too dry to let them make their usual spawning trip to the ocean. So state and federal officials have embarked on a drastic plan to save them – by letting them hitch a ride on tanker trucks.

Over the next two and a half months, some 30 million Chinook salmon will be trucked from five hatcheries in the state's Central Valley to waters where they can make their way to the ocean.

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Oso Disaster
3:28 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

1999 Report Warned Of Potential Catastrophe In Oso

The massive mudslide that killed at least eight people and left dozens missing is shown in this aerial photo, Monday, March 24, 2014, near Arlington, Wash.
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

David Hyde talks with geomorphologist Dan Miller about how Snohomish County officials should have been aware of the potential hazards for a mudflow occurring in Oso. Back in 1999, Miller and his wife Lynne filed a report for the Army Corps of Engineers warning about the possibility for a "large catastrophic failure" at the site of the recent mudflow.

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Ecological Puzzle
1:28 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

In Ranchers Vs. Weeds, Climate Change Gives Weeds An Edge

A tall, rubbery weed with golden flowers Dalmatian toadflax is encroaching on grasslands in 32 U.S. states.
pverdonk/Flickr

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 4:28 pm

Most climate models paint a bleak picture of the Great Plains a century from now as a hot region besieged by heavy rainstorms and flooding.

And new studies suggest that climate change may bring farmers another headache: more invasive plants.

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Mudslide Devastates Community
6:42 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Small Town Of Darrington Grieves For Slide Victims, Waits For News

Darrington residents gather outside town grocery store for word of missing.
KUOW Photo/Phyllis Fletcher

People in the town of Darrington struggled Monday to comprehend the scope of the disaster just a few miles from them. The people who lived in the homes destroyed by Saturday's devastating mudflow are friends, relatives and neighbors.

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EarthFix Reports
6:36 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Authorities Relieved As Flow Levels Return To Normal Post-Landslide

On Saturday, March 22, a massive mudslide blocked both directions of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, Wash.
Washington State Department of Transportation

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

Authorities are breathing a small sigh of relief, amidst all the destruction from the fatal landslide on the Stillaguamish River.

They’re relieved because the river flow is getting back to normal.

When the landslide blocked the Stillaguamish River, water began to collect above all the muck and debris, causing flow rates down river from the landslide to plummet.

"It was a pretty quick drop, like turning off the faucet, not turning it off all the way but letting it drip a little bit," said Marijke van Heeswijk, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Wanapum Dam
5:36 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Irrigators Struggle To Secure Fish Screens And Water In Time

Many irrigation pipes don’t reach the lowered Columbia River behind the cracked Wanapum Dam
Anna King Northwest News Network

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 4:53 pm

Dozens of central Washington fruit farmers are still high-and-dry without water for their valuable fruit trees.

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EarthFix Reports
9:00 am
Mon March 24, 2014

EarthFix Conversation: 25 Years Later, Scientists Remember The Exxon Valdez

Killer whales swimming in Prince William Sound alongside boats skimming oil from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Scientists report that orca populations there have not recovered and oil is still being found.
Credit Courtesy of State of Alaska/Dan Lawn

Twenty five years ago today the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif., ran aground in Prince William Sound.

Eleven million gallons of oil spilled out, polluting 1,300 miles of Alaska’s coastline.

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Nuclear Waste
4:14 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Washington State Orders Hanford Managers To Empty Leaking Tank

View inside the space between the two walls of Tank AY-102 at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
U.S. Department of Energy

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 8:37 am

The state of Washington has ordered the federal government to start pumping out a leaking double-shell tank of waste at Hanford by September 1.

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Exxon Valdez
2:07 am
Mon March 24, 2014

25 Years After Spill, Alaska Town Struggles Back From 'Dead Zone'

Orca Inlet, Cordova's fishing harbor, on a blustery day this month. Commercial fishing is the small Alaskan town's primary industry.
Marisa Peñaloza NPR

Originally published on Mon March 24, 2014 9:25 am

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.

It's a blustery, snowy March day when Michelle Hahn O'Leary offers a tour of Cordova, Alaska, situated on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound.

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Geology
8:06 pm
Sun March 23, 2014

Site Near Oso Had Previous Landslides, Potential For More

An image from Google Earth, taken before the current slide, shows the scars from a landslide that took place at the same spot in 2006.
Credit Google Earth

Satellite images show the area on the Stillaguamish River near Oso, Washington, experienced a landslide in 2006. According to the Sliding Thought Blog, the "Hazel Landslide" that year was caused by groundwater and erosion by the north fork of the river.

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