Environment & Planning

Recorded on Friday, January 30th, 2015

Air Date: Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015 from 12:05 to 1:20 p.m.
Downtown Athletic Club, 3rd Floor Ballroom

Lou Sennick / The World

Construction is wrapping up on a new marine museum and aquarium on the Southern Oregon Coast.

After seven years of planning, the Charleston Marine Life Center expects to open its doors to the public this spring. The 6,000 square foot museum overlooks the Charleston Harbor. It’s a part of the University Of Oregon Institute Of Marine Biology.

Director Craig Young explains how the design of the building incorporates the landscape:

Jes Burns / Earthfix

If you’ve hiked anywhere in the Northwest, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an illegal trail. Often they’re quick shortcuts or paths to off-trail viewpoints. But in extreme cases, they’re longer, surreptitiously constructed trails that wind through public and private land.

The unauthorized trails can cause a range of problems in wild areas. As more and more people spend time in the woods, closing down these illegal trails has become increasingly difficult.

There's one case where wildlife officials and trail users are trying to solve the problem together.


In preparation for heavy snow on the East Coast, airlines have canceled flights and officials have declared states of emergency. At the same time, Oregon ski resorts are facing a winter with little snow.

Willamette Pass resort’s homepage says simply: “Keep praying for snow.” Both it and Hoodoo opened for a handful of days early this season, but have been closed since. Still, there are some bright spots in Oregon:

:Berg: “We’re so lucky to have Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline where they have three, four, five feet of snow. It really makes a difference.”

Oregon State University

19 environmental groups have signed a letter urging Oregon legislators to tightens the rules for aerial spraying of weed killer.

The Eugene-based Beyond Toxics has been pushing for stricter rules since a group of Southern Oregon residents claimed such spraying poisoned them in 2013.

Director Lisa Arkin says the letter gives the effort more diverse support.

Neighbors Hope To Derail Vancouver Oil Terminal

Jan 26, 2015
Conrad Wilson / OPB

An oil company wants to build the largest oil-by-rail terminal in the country on the banks of the Columbia River. The Vancouver Energy Project would ship oil daily from the Port of Vancouver, Washington to refineries along the West coast. The companies backing the project promise jobs. But, neighbors are worried.

Linda Garcia drives along the streets of the Fruit Valley neighborhood in Vancouver, Washington. For almost the last 20 years, it’s the place she’s called home.

“My neighborhood is my family.”

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Cente

2014 was the hottest year on record. That’s according to data released Friday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the Northwest, temperatures also rose above normal.

After a warm summer and winter, last year was the second hottest on record for Oregon and the fifth hottest on record for Washington.

The hottest year for both states is still 1934, when the Dust Bowl plagued the West.

Karin Bumbaco is the assistant state climatologist in Washington.


Over the past five years Oregonians have reported pesticide misuse, now there is a clear path to address their concerns. The State has created a document describing how information is exchanged and which state agency will be assigned to a person's case. Oregon's Pesticide Analytical and Response Center, or

PARC, serves as the liaison between state agencies and citizens. Dale Mitchell is with the Department of Agriculture. He says people need to know who to contact and what to do if they are exposed to pesticides.

Predator Defense

Hunters in Eastern Oregon are having another Coyote Derby this weekend. Predator advocates say these contests highlight an outdated approach to wildlife management in Oregon.

The Harney County Coyote Classic offers prizes of guns and cash for teams of hunters who kill the most coyotes.
Brooks Fahy heads Predator Defense of Eugene.

Cascadia Wildlands

Two environmental groups are challenging a timber sale outside of Springfield that they say is the largest clear-cut on federal land in 20 years. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Eugene.

The project, called The Second Show Timber Sale, is on nearly 260 acres of Bureau of Land Management Land near Shotgun Creek outside Springfield. Nick Cady is with Cascadia Wildlands, one of the conservation groups which filed the lawsuit. He says the BLM neglected to analyze the effects of the project in relation to other private logging projects in the area.

Bend has made it to the semifinals in a national competition to save energy. The two year challenge is called the Georgetown University Energy Prize. A launch party to kick off the Bend Energy Challenge is Wednesday.

Bend is one of 50 communities around the country still in the running for a $5 million prize based on the city's reduced energy use.

The Environmental Center in Bend first learned of the competition in fall 2013. Since then, the city has been filing paperwork and constructing a plan on how to save energy.

Jes Burns / Earthfix

The West Coast of the United States and Canada is like a superhighway for migratory birds. Dozens of species travel from summer nesting grounds in Alaska down into Washington, Oregon and California. The cackling Canada goose is one of them.

In the 1980s there were only about 25-thousand left, but now the population is averaging more than a quarter million.

It’s farmers in Oregon and Washington that are paying the price for the recovery.

Marie and Joe Gadotti are sick of the geese.

Marie Gadotti: “I have my own pet name for them; they’re flying rats.”

What Illegal Four-Wheeling Does To Public Lands

Jan 5, 2015
Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

This time of year, back roads are getting muddy. This is when enforcement officers start to worry about people driving their cars illegally on public lands – through the mud. Spinning tires and heavy rigs can destroy habitat. It’s also costly to repair the damage.

“Drivers, are you ready?”

They call it mudding. Mud is everywhere. Liquid brown splashes up for feet high. Jeep, after truck, after four-wheeler plunges into a mud bog in Ethel, Washington. The vehicles race through the mud to see how far they can go.


The Eugene Water and Electric Board is hoping to get one of two malfunctioning roll gates on the Leaburg Dam repaired by mid-January.

One of three roll-gates broke down on the 85-year old dam on the McKenzie River in 2012. EWEB has been working on repairs and hopes to have it back in operation in a couple of weeks. Late last month, a 2nd roll-gate malfunctioned. EWEB spokesman Lance Robertson says the utility hasn’t yet determined why.  He says the dam is basically out of commission- with only one gate working.

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Beginning January 1, Oregon hunters will be able to kill more cougars. The changes come as conflicts between humans and the big cats are on the rise.

In many parts of Oregon, cougars have begun pushing into populated areas. There has been an uptick in what wildlife officials call “non-hunting mortalities” - situations where cougars are killed because of danger to humans or livestock, or unfortunate run-ins with car fenders.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy:

Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

Willamette Valley anglers will be delighted to find an early bonanza of hatchery trout in local waterways.  A dam malfunction turns out to be good news for folks who want to go fishing for New Years.

Willamette Riverkeepers

Rising water and colder temperatures have driven many illegal campers from the banks of the Willamette River. Behind, they leave a remarkable amount of trash. Recently, 50 volunteers got together to clean up a one-mile stretch of river in Eugene. 

Volunteers are walking the riverbank along the railroad tracks off Franklin Blvd., and removing anything that doesn't belong. It's no easy task. The nearly 2 tons of trash collected by volunteers includes soiled mattresses and broken television sets. And that's just the debris they could touch.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

It may be pretty wet this time of year in the Northwest, but that hasn’t stopped an ongoing battle over water in Washington’s Skagit river valley.

Richard and Marnie Fox want to build a new house on their land, but they can’t get a building permit. The state says there’s not enough water in the area to support any more new residences without endangering salmon - especially during the drier parts of the year.

The Foxes are taking legal action. Their case will go before a judge on Tuesday.

Wind Warning Surges Along Oregon Coast

Dec 11, 2014
Amanda Butt

A high wind warning is in effect along the Oregon coast today. Winds are expected to reach up to 85 miles per hour in the higher coastal elevations. This extreme weather threat caused Siuslaw school district to shut down for the day and public officials prepared for emergencies.

The National Weather Service has forecast high winds all along the Oregon Coast. Siuslaw Fire and Rescue Chief Jim Langborg began warning the Florence community on social media and preparing his responders when he heard the storm was on its way.

Oregon Department of Forestry

The Oregon State Land Board is meeting in Salem Tuesday [Dec. 9] to discuss how to increase revenues from the Elliott State Forest. Earlier this year, after the forest began losing money, the Board decided to sell off parcels to timber companies.

But now the state is moving away from private auctions and focusing on public management.

Anna King

As Congress prepares to adjourn next week, still unresolved is a pair of bills with wide-reaching implications for southern and western Oregon. Over the past year, Senator Ron Wyden has pushed hard for compromise measures that would address long-standing conflicts over logging and water. But now those bills are in limbo.


Oregon is looking to protect farmland by the use of conservation easements. The voluntary agreement between a land owner and a land trust or government agency limits the use of land for conservation purposes.

Conservation easements are popular in other states to protect farming and could give Oregon a strong tool to keep farms from disappearing. Tom Salazer is General Manager of the Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District. He says the state should look at easements to protect farm land on a permanent basis.

Tony Schick / Earthfix

Forest owners in the Northwest use helicopters to spray weed killer after logging.
It’s an effective way to kill plants like blackberry and alder that compete with the next crop of tree seedlings. But it’s controversial. Last year people near the coastal Oregon city of Gold Beach claimed they were poisoned. State officials and timber lobbyists blamed that incident on mistakes by the pilot. But sometimes, communities report drift even when timber companies appear to be following the rules.

Climate Change And Indigenous Peoples Conference

Dec 2, 2014

Tuesday evening, the third annual Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples Conference begins at the University of Oregon. 63 undergraduate students conducted research and will be presenting their findings.

Rising temperatures and ocean water levels are threatening Native American traditions in the Northwest. The conference will look at how indigenous sovereignty and culture are affected by climate change.  


New camping rules for parts of the Umpqua National Forest near Cottage Grove go into effect today (Monday). Officials say long-term, homeless campers have created unsanitary conditions.

Camping along portions of Brice Creek and Sharps Creek will be limited to 14 days in a 45-day period. Melissa Swain is with the Cottage Grove Ranger District. She says the rule is changing because some campers have not kept clean sites:

Courtney Flatt / Earthfix

This summer, the Carlton Complex wildfire swept through north-central Washington. The fire consumed more acres than any other fire in the state’s history. Now, ecologists are trying to make forests more sustainable to help prevent these large-scale fires.

Fire ecologist Susan Prichard was driving from Seattle to her home in Winthrop just as the Carlton Complex fire picked up.

Prichard: “I saw the plume of smoke, and I felt the wind. At that moment, I hadn’t even possibly considered that the fire could race all the way down to the Columbia River.”

Be Noble Foundation

A 26-acre property in South Eugene will be preserved thanks to a private / public partnership between the City of Eugene and the Be Noble Foundation.

The property includes the headwaters of Amazon Creek and is habitat for wildlife and a favorite hiking place for locals. The city and Be Noble Foundation purchased three lots for a total of $1.75 million.

Ashley Ahearn / Earthfix

Seattle’s dirty river is gearing up for a major overhaul. The Environmental Protection Agency is about to release its final decision on the Duwamish River Superfund cleanup. The river has been polluted by industry for decades. The question now is how much cleanup will be required, and at what cost?

You might say Ken Workman is an old school Duwamish River celebrity.

His people have lived along the banks of this waterway and others in the region for thousands of years. He’s the great great great great grandson of Chief Seattle.

Jes Burns / Earthfix

As universities around the country try to meet carbon reduction goals, a growing number are opting to burn wood to produce power on campus. Southern Oregon University is vying to be the first campus in the Northwest to adopt this biomass technology, as it’s called.

Tucked away on the backside of Southern Oregon University’s Ashland campus is a modest 1950s era warehouse. Puffs of cloud-white steam emerge from its smokestack, the result of burning natural gas to produce heat for the campus.

City of San Diego

A pile of food waste can make rich compost for the garden. But some Northwest companies are going beyond composting. This week we’ve been bringing you stories on the challenges of wasted food. We discovered three companies that are using it to power homes, race cars and city buses.

Remember that last scene in Back to the Future?

Doc: “Marty you’ve got to come with me.”
Marty: “Where?”
Doc: “Back to the Future.”

Doc tears into Marty’s driveway in the DeLorean time machine and raids the trash can.

Doc: “I need fuel”